All us booky types talk and blog about traveling by book all the time. We’d like to read around the world, see faraway islands, climb Mount Everest, dive to the bottom of the sea and fight giant squids. But I’ve never once said, “Gee, I wonder what it would be like to live on the freeway for a month?” Not until I heard about Autonauts of the Cosmoroute. When I learned that once upon a 1982, a favorite writer of mine, Cortazar, and his wife, Dulop, set sail for the Paris Marseilles freeway, I had to read it.
Let me tell you a little about me and Cortazar. Although Julio passed away in 1984, I didn’t meet him until the late ’90s. My husband brought me the novel Hopscotch, Cortazar’s first book back when he was a young Argentinian with a strange sense of humor. (The strange sense of humor stuck around, by the way.) I wasn’t sure I was up to reading this book. You start out on page one okay, but then you’re bouncing all over. Page 82, page 12, back to 83. But I loved it. And I got hooked onYerba Mate tea, the drink of Argentinians everywhere. I still can’t get up in the morning without one.
Cut to present. Autonauts of the Cosmoroute is an unusual and playful experiment by Cortazar and Dunlop, whereas they hop into their red VW van named Fafner and drive from rest area to rest area along the stretch of expressway between Paris and Marseilles. Two stops a day, staying overnight in the second, about 10 – 20 minutes of driving daily. Turns out they had a lot to discover about the freeway and themselves, in the process making their readers laugh a whole lot. Loaded with snapshots of their travels and their beloved Fafner the VW , the book is wonderfully entertaining. Much of the book is written as if they are embarking on a great adventure to find a new world, even listing their meals and which direction Fafner faces. And speaking of Fafner, he is a major character of the book. I loved that van so much I considered naming my own red car Fafner, but I think it would upset him. He’s been Fenry Honda for too many years now.
So if you’re looking for a unique and humorous book to read that flies faster than a Fafner, Autonauts of the Cosmoroute is well worth the time. You may just start getting the urge to hit the open freeway yourself; visit a few rest areas, eat goat cheese and pommes frites, and sit under a tree in a gaudy French lawn chair watching the traffic go by.
It’s published by Archipelago Books who is responsible for bringing it to us in English.