1. Julio Cortázar’s perpetual exile
1 These are far from being the only characters who have trouble breathing in Cortázar’s
stories. As Antonio Planells reminds us, Nico in ‘‘Cartas de mamá,’’ Claudio Romero
in ‘‘Los pasos en las huellas,’’ and Torito in the eponymous story die of tuberculosis
(Cortázar, 92–93); in ‘‘Bestiario’’ Isabel is sent to the country because she su√ers from
‘‘delicate lungs’’ (20), and the narrator of ‘‘Reunión’’ has a condition described as ‘‘a
hellish asthma,’’ and is persistently troubled by ‘‘coughing and a wheezing sound in
his chest’’ (470, 475). Many of Cortázar’s characters su√er from lung ailments like
Cortázar himself, who, as a child, spent long periods in bed plagued with asthma and
pleurisy (Prego, La fascinación de las palabras, 25). However, suggesting—as does
Planells—that Cortázar was obsessed with breathing disorders simply because he
su√ered from asthma as a child does not get to the bottom of the problem (92–93).
2 Freud assures us that all anxiety ‘‘has . . . separation from a highly valued object as its
content’’ and is directly related to the trauma of birth (The Problem of Anxiety, 76).
3 As Gregorio Kohon observes, ‘‘what makes sexuality in human beings specifically human
is repression, that is to say, sexuality owes its existence to our unconscious incestuous
fantasies. Desire, in human sexuality, is always transgression; and being something
that is never completely fulfilled, its object cannot ever o√er full satisfaction.’’ ‘‘Re-
flections on Dora,’’ 371 (Kohon’s emphasis).
4 In the subway scene with which the story opens, Dina, the black protagonist, wears
the fur-trimmed coat alluded to in the title, ‘‘Cuello de gatito negro.’’ When the
story was translated, the word cuello was changed to ‘‘throat.’’ A literal translation of
‘‘Cuello de gatito negro’’ (‘‘black kitten collar’’) would have been misleading; however,
by changing collar or neck to throat, the translator unwittingly removed the ambigu-
ity of Cortázar’s original title (Dina—wrapped in a coat with a mangy fur collar—is
black herself and, like a cat, she scratches. In short, she behaves like a gatito negro).
5 According to Otto Rank and pertinent to our understanding of ‘‘Axolotl,’’ the widely
dispersed legends of the water of life correspond to the birth waters (The Incest Theme
in Literature and Legend, 252).