Approaching “Casa Tomada” (House Taken Over) by Julio Cortázar: Summary and Analysis of the Story

Julio Cortázar, born in Brussels in 1914 and passed away in Paris in 1984, stands as one of the fundamental pillars of 20th-century Latin American literature. His work, spanning both short narratives and novels, is distinguished by its ability to merge the real with the fantastical, crafting unique and challenging literary universes. As a short story writer, Cortázar revolutionized the genre, introducing non-linear structures, linguistic plays, and a deep exploration of human psychology.

“Casa Tomada” (House Taken Over)

First published in 1947 in the magazine “Los Anales de Buenos Aires,” edited by Jorge Luis Borges, “Casa Tomada” (House Taken Over) was later included in the book “Bestiario” (1951), Cortázar’s first short story collection. This work marked the beginning of a literary career that would establish Cortázar as one of the most prominent short story writers in the Spanish language.

Summary of “Casa Tomada” (House Taken Over)

The story “Casa Tomada” (House Taken Over) tells the tale of two siblings, Irene and the narrator, who live together in a large, old family home inherited from their ancestors. Their life unfolds in daily routine, with Irene dedicated to knitting and the narrator handling household chores and buying wool for his sister.

As the story progresses, a mysterious and undefined presence begins to “take over” parts of the house. This entity, never described or identified, forces the siblings to close off and abandon the sections of the house it has occupied, gradually reducing the space they can live in. Each time the presence expands, the siblings are compelled to confine themselves to smaller areas, taking with them only the essentials.

Ultimately, the mysterious presence takes over the entire house, forcing Irene and the narrator to leave their home. The story concludes with the siblings departing the house, and the narrator throwing the key into a sewer to prevent anyone else from entering and encountering the enigmatic entity that has claimed the residence.

Brief Analysis of “Casa Tomada” (House Taken Over):

“Casa Tomada” (House Taken Over) is an enigmatic tale, rich in symbolism and ambiguities, which has sparked multiple interpretations over the years. The “taking” of the house can be seen as a metaphor for the passage of time, advancing relentlessly, leaving us with less space and life. It can also be interpreted as a representation of the socio-political tensions of the time, with the house symbolizing Argentina and the mysterious entity representing the oppressive forces “invading” it; or even as a critique of the Argentine aristocracy, watching as their old mansions were “taken over” by increasing urbanization and social change.

Irene’s constant act of knitting can be viewed as a form of resistance to change, a way to cling to routine and the known amidst uncertainty. However, it can also be interpreted as a critique of inertia and stagnation, an inability to confront and adapt to new realities.

The relationship between the siblings is another central element of the story. Their shared life, marked by routine and isolation, reflects resistance to transformation and the outside world. This symbiotic relationship can be interpreted as a critique of endogamy and social stagnation.

In conclusion, “Casa Tomada” (House Taken Over) is a masterpiece that invites multiple readings and interpretations. Cortázar, with his characteristic narrative mastery, presents a story that transcends its context and becomes a profound reflection on time, memory, change, and identity. It’s a testament to the power of the short story to capture the essence of the human condition in just a few pages.