Science in Writing: “The Night Face Up” by Julio Cortazar

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On “The Night Face Up” by Julio Cortazar 

I will come back to the Singularity idea soon enough. but not yet. I still want to read up on the subject more and have time for the thought to settle and for my opinions to form.

In my current writing class we were asked to read a piece by Julio Cortazar entitled, “The Night Face Up”. There will be spoilers so please feel free to read this short story first if you have not already.

“The Night Face Up”, is an interesting story that is more of a psychological piece than a science fiction piece, but by the end of the story some traditionally sci-fi elements are explored through a different lens. This story is told from the perspective of what we assume is a man. He gets into a motorcycle accident and phases in and out of a dream world where he’s running though a jungle being chased. The rest of the story then proceeds to switch between this jungle world and a world where the narrator is recovering from the accident in a hospital.

Things are a little strange from the get go, in my opinion. Seeing as I am the daughter of two bikers, I’ve seen the aftermath of an accident, and it’s not often that your friends haul you off laughing from an accident. Then there was the instance in the pharmacy; who takes their damaged friend to a pharmacy instead of waiting for an ambulance? Accident 101: don’t move the body of the individual in an accident because the risk of spinal damage increases. Later in the story the narrator talks about how wonderful the hospital food is and how great his stay at the hospital was. Access to food and medical care is something that we clearly take for granted but, in general, hospital food is often quite tasteless and unappetizing. Little details like this help tip off the reader that there is something strange going on in the story.

The short story reaches an end and then reality sets in; the dream the man was having of running through the jungle was in fact the reality and the motorcycle accident was a dream. When this story is stripped down to its core, it is about a man from the past dreaming about a strange place that we recognize as our present time. The main character is having premonitions, seeing the future. The function of this story is not to serve as sci-fi, but it is certainly a very interesting aspect to consider, that outlandish places in people’s strange, reoccurring dreams could be the future. This is also a very creative way to handle perspective, which is an element of Cortazar’s writing that really pulls his reader’s into his stories.

— Deirdre McCormick, Editor

Editor’s Note: Deirdre McCormick is a third year Biology Major with a minor in Creative Writing.  She is deeply passionate for both topics and that is evident in much of her writing endeavors.  She was also recently published in Lewis University’s own Windows magazine.

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5 thoughts on “Science in Writing: “The Night Face Up” by Julio Cortazar

  1. Lucas Sifuentes (@Lucas_Sifuentes) April 29, 2012 / 5:10 pm

    I’ve been interested in Julio Cortázar for awhile now but’ve never made the commitment to actually persue his books. This post was the final straw. I’m really excited to read the story for myself and see what about the “future” reality pokes out at me as suspicious. I’m also really excited to read Blow-Up as it’s the inspiration for two of my favorite movies. Have you read that story yet?

    • Deirdre May 8, 2012 / 10:28 am

      I’m so happy to have piqued your interest, Lucas! Julio Cortázar really is an excellent writer and I hope you enjoy whatever you decide to read by him. I really enjoyed “Letter to a Young Lady in Paris” as well; not really much of a sci-fi element, at all, but still very good and I would recommend it.
      I have not read “Blow-Up”, I will certainly have to make time after finals to check it out.

  2. Simone Muench May 5, 2012 / 4:22 pm

    Nice post, Deirdre. Glad to see one of my favorite authors receiving some coverage.

    • Deirdre May 8, 2012 / 10:29 am

      Thank you Dr. Muench for the compliment and for introducing me to his work.

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