18 November 2011

"There was a time when I thought a great deal about the axolotls."

There was a time when I thought a great deal about the axolotls. I went to see them in the aquarium at the Jardin des Plantes and stayed for hours watching them, observing their immobility, their faint movements. Now I am an axolotl.

I got to them by chance one spring morning when Paris was spreading its peacock tail after a wintry Lent. I was heading down the boulevard Port Royal, then I took Saint-Marcel and L’Hôpital and saw green among all that grey and remembered the lions. I was friend of the lions and panthers, but had never gone into the dark, humid building that was the aquarium. I left my bike against the gratings and went to look at the tulips. The lions were sad and ugly and my panther was asleep. I decided on the aquarium, looked obliquely at banal fish until, unexpectedly, I hit it off with the axolotls. I stayed watching them for an hour and left, unable to think of anything else.

– Julio Cortázar, from "Axolotl", trans. Paul Blackburn


  1. This is probably very good, but I can't get past the Axolotl without laughing, as in one of my daughter's favourite programmes featured an axolotl called aristotle & there was a whole sequence based around the play of words.

  2. "There was a time when I thought a great deal about aristotle."

    Ha! I loved the wordplay.