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Continuity of Parks

Julio Cortázar


Reality and Fantasy

On first reading, “Continuity of Parks” seems to present a puzzle that readers must solve, as reality and fantasy intersect. In fact, however, no solution is possible, and Cortázar is not interested in puzzles in the first place. On a basic level, the short story seems to cry out for a tidy analysis and explanation. If we mistake Cortázar’s story for an O. Henry tale with a pat twist ending or a detective story in which all becomes clear in the final moments, “Continuity of Parks” may tempt us into looking for one correct interpretation. We wonder how it is possible that the man reading the novel turns up in the summary of the novel’s plot, and we may fall into the trap of trying out different theories that would explain this conundrum and trying to pin down the correct one. Perhaps the man is a character in a book about a man reading a book. Perhaps he is the husband the adulterous couple is setting out to kill. Perhaps he is so absorbed in the novel that he is vividly imagining its events encroaching on his life. A number of explanations seem possible.

Rather than a mystery, the story is actually a metaphor for the experience of reading: Cortázar’s reader gets so lost in a fictional world that he literally becomes a participant in it. It is also a metaphor for our reading experience: we get so swept up in literature—literature including his own story, Cortázar hopes—that, like the reader in “Continuity of Parks,” we can no longer distinguish between fiction and reality. It is also a metaphor for the writing experience: to create convincing fictional worlds, the writer must lose himself in his creations, just as Cortázar’s reader loses himself in his book. We cannot identify one correct explanation for the puzzling ending because no single explanation exists. Instead, the story is an investigation of what it means to write and to read stories.

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