Bestiary: a collection of descriptions or representations of real or imaginary animals.
Last week in my creative writing lecture, my peers and I were assigned, “Bestiary” by Julio Cortazar– A short-fiction that begins with our protagonist, Isabel, being sent by her sister, Inés, and their Mother to the Funes, in order to keep the youngest Fune, Nino, company. Though we are never told how old Isabel is, we know she is old enough to relay what she sees clearly, but also naive enough to believe should she give into Aunt Rema’s demands, she can escape interacting with The Kid. Throughout the piece, we are given a variety of beasts who parallel the subjects in the Funes’ home. Who exactly parallels who, we can never be sure, as Cortazar embeds just enough ambiguity that one can never render their conclusion absolute. However, it’s fun to try.
The Kid, as he is called throughout the piece, appears to parallel a Tiger who roams freely throughout the house, dictating the whereabouts of the other characters. Like the Tiger, The Kid preys on those more vulnerable than he is — as is noted in his malicious attack on the young Nino. The other Funes ‘ brother, who lives in the home is Luis — a philosopher who is ironically oblivious to the assaults happening within his home. Aunt Rema, who we are told is the youngest of the Funes, is the one who concerns herself with the children by tending to the children and noting their locations within the house. However, despite their relationship, due to her trauma, Aunt Rema subjects young Isabel to the attacks she has experienced. It’s a wrenching moment in the piece, in which we realize Aunt Rema like the others, is flawed.
Of the beast mentioned within the short fiction, the praying mantis is the animal I was most interested in. I’ve recently learned from my son that the female praying mantis is known for eating the head of its male counterpart after they have mated. This is of importance because it appears Isabel is the female mantis in this metaphor. Isabel mentions while holding the animal that she would like to, “cut the mantis’ head off, and see what would happen” ( Cortazar 91). In charging Isabel with the possession of the animal, it appears Isabel represents the female mantis and the mantis she holds represents one of the other members in the house. As we mentioned above, however, who’s head Isabel wants to cut off is unclear due to the ambiguity of the piece.
The Bestiary style was one I had yet to encounter before last week, however upon engaging with the form, I immediately grasped the appeal. The way the characters fall in and out of the animal motifs are flawless and thus leaves you discovering new symbols upon each read. The piece takes less than an hour to digest and is one of those reads that will have you pondering long after you’ve set it down. So, take a read and play in the land of the beast for a while.
— Andrea Rodriguez, Blogger.
Andrea Rodriguez’s Bio
Andrea Rodriguez is a senior at Lewis University. Prior to attending Lewis, she completed her associates at the College of DuPage. Rodriguez is studying English Literature in order to pursue a career as an academic librarian. As for her interests, Andrea loves spending time with her family, being in nature, taking care of her plants, writing, cooking, and traveling when she can. Andrea also enjoys exploring unique writing styles. Some of her favorite pieces include The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson and “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid. In addition to being a fiction/poetry editor for Jet Fuel Review, Rodriguez is the editor-in-chief of Lewis Voices, and the administrative director for Sigma Tau Delta, of which she is also a member.