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Truth or Lie

Spanish Language Resources

Nada es verdad ni es mentira, todo depende del color del cristal con que se mira.
Ramón de Campoamor
"Nothing is either truth or lie; everything depends on the color of the crystal that one looks through."

The magic of language or how we can turn something common, as if we had a magic wand, into something extraordinary. This is something that no one has been able to achieve in Spanish like Julio Cortázar (August 26, 1914 – February 12, 1984). This Argentine writer offers us in his work Historias de cronopios y de famas some examples of how changing ones point of view along with a dose of surrealism can open up a new universe that has always been there, but we couldn't (or didn't) know how to see it.

The following text comes from the chapter Material plástico of the previously mentioned work. So as not to alter the original work, we will leave as it is (in Spanish) and include our notes afterwards.

El diario a diario

Un señor toma el tranvía después de comprar el diario y ponérselo bajo el brazo. Media hora más tarde desciende con el mismo diario bajo el mismo brazo. (1)
Pero ya no es el mismo diario, ahora es un montón de hojas impresas (2) que el señor abandona en un banco de plaza.
(3) Apenas queda sólo en el banco, el montón de hojas impresas se convierte otra vez en un diario, hasta que un muchacho lo ve, lo lee, y lo deja convertido en un montón de hojas impresas.
Luego se lo lleva a su casa y en el camino lo usa para empaquetar medio kilo de acelgas, que es para lo que sirven los diarios después de estas inquietantes metamorfosis. (4)

(1) The game begins with the use of the indeterminate article "Un Señor…" which shows us what little importance the character of the man has. However, the use of the determinate article makes the word diario, which can be also be interpreted in this case as a newspaper, is a creative way for Cortázar to create the repetition he was looking for in the title. By playing with the adverbial expression a diario he is preparing us to witness an extraordinary transformation of a object we see and use daily by simply changing the light we see it under.

(2) In the next line, he begins the sentence with the adversative conjunction Pero, which suggests a change of direction in the meaning of the phrase. By doing so, we are presented with a new reality: that everyday object has transformed into something new—it becomes a piece of trash, which in this case is a pile of printed paper. A diario (Newspaper) is something attractive, something that informs us of what is happening in our world. However, a pile of paper is practically trash without any kind of meaning.

(3) The Metamorphosis is set. As if this weren't enough, we can consider the futility of everyday objects that we use. If one thinks about it, these objects make no sense to us if they are not used for what they are intended. This brings us to the conjunction Apenas and the immediacy of the monumental transformation of the papers which, to someone who has not read the newspaper, become a diario once again.

(4) Now the cycle begins anew. The changes happen once again and the young person that takes the newspaper (se lo lleva or he takes it), which has now been transformed once again into practical object that will serve to wrap the vegetables he has just purchased. Once this person returns home, it is possible that this newspaper may experience another metamorphosis, albeit less attractive but just as practical.