I recently read the short story “Blow-up” by Julio Cortazar. At least I think I did. I think I read it several times. After reading it several times, I realized what was really going on.
So I read it again--for the first time, really.
This vignette seems really dreamlike, with the narrators intense imagery from the littlest details, “...there's wind in Paris, and even less seldom a wind like this that swirled round corners and rose up to whip at old wooden venetian blinds behind which astonished ladies commented variously on how unreliable the weather has been these last three years” so that only in this chaotic environment Cortazar could create a new story to arise within the narrator’s mind.
The narrator’s total obsession over the photograph is comparable to a soldier’s obsession over a faceless woman in Anton Chekov’s “The Kiss” in that each character is obsession over something that they had no control over to begin with, only to find themselves in an orbit of pain and confusion.
This story is reminiscent of the 1979 film The Conversation, where an unknowing bystander is suddenly absorbed into a conflict that eventually destroys his life. Each is interesting--if not frustrating--because only in the end do we realize the damage of their decision to interfere in others’ business.
Totally unique to “Blow-up” is the perspective of the narrator, or what he believes his perspective is. We can never really know what or where the narrator is at the beginning and at the ending of the vignette, all the audience gets is the picture of a blue sky with the occasional pigeon flying past. Such utter loss of reality is the element that makes this story worthy of reading, because one can never really know what happened to the narrator and what photograph was really caught that day.