One of the most moving anecdotes I’ve encountered on my research into the greatest love story ever told from a French highway, is the one about Cortazar’s cat – and the eery, beautiful connection it had with the couple at the end of their lives.

Meet Flanelle – an opinionated and resentful creature, with tiger stripes and a cute chin. A creature who, so says Luis Tomasello, had a heart that would change masters with only the slightest agitation.

She was the cat who lived with Cortazar and his wife, Carol, at the end. Tomasello – an Argentine who was also living in France, and was the best man at Cortazar’s wedding – reveals to us in an interview just how entwined our pets become in our relationships and love lives. When one domino falls, so go the others. 

Below are two versions of his story. One in English (translated by me), and the other as he spoke it, in Spanish.

English version:

When Julio and Carol decided to make the timeless trip from Paris to Marseille that lasted more than a month without leaving the motorway, writing an article in each rest stop, from a caravan named Fafner (which I helped them organize the interior of for the trip), Julio asked me if I could take care of Flanelle. And, of course, I said yes and I brought her to my house in Paris.

At the start, we did not understand each other and she behaved very badly on the train from Avignon to Paris, complaining the whole  time.

After that, we became close friends. When they returned to Paris, Julio and Carol, came to have dinner at my house. The cat was on the first floor of my house and she heard the voice of Carol, so she came up to check them out.  When they went up to her, Flanelle had this look on her face like: “You left me, now I have another love.” Julio and Carol did not say anything but after half an hour, Flanelle approached them but not with much enthusiasm.

Then when they took a trip to Nicaragua (immediately after their Marseille trip), Carol got sick really bad. And I was still taking care of the cat. Unfortunately, Flanelle fell very ill, too, from indigestion. I took her to the vet twice but she died in my house.

Carol was in the hospital. I contacted Julio to say Flanelle had died and with great sadness I asked if I could bury her in my garden. Julio said “Yes, Luis”.

It was a triangle, the three of them, so it’s good that you ask about the cat. Shortly after Carol died, Julio said, “When the cat died I knew Carol would die, too.” And a year later, Julio died. The triangle broken.

Spanish version

Cuando Julio y Carol decidieron hacer el viaje atemporal París-Marsella que duró más de un mes sin salir del autopista que escribían un artículo en cada parking en una caravana que se llamaba Fafner. (Yo les ayudé a organizar el interior de su caravana para ese viaje).

Julio me preguntó si yo me podía ocuparme de Flanelle y bienentendio, yo me ocupé y lo traje a mi casa, de París. Flanelle al principio por unos días no nos entendimos y además se portó muy mal en el viaje en el tren de Avignon a París. Protestaba todo el tiempo. Después fuimos intimos. A la vuelta del viaje a París de Julio y Carol, poco días de llegar, vinieron a cenar en mi casa. El gato estaba en el primer piso de mi casa y oyó la voz de Carol y se asomó a verlos. Cuando ellos subieron, Flanelle los miró y se fue como diciendo : “Ustedes me dejaron, ahora tengo otro amor”. Julio y Carol no dijeron nada pero después de una media hora, Flanelle se acercó a ellos pero no con mucho entusiasmo.

Después de un viaje que hicieron los dos a Nicaragua y Carol se enfermó muy mal, siempre yo cuidando del gato, desgraciadamente Flanelle se enfermó de una indigestión. Lo llevé dos veces al veterinario pero se murió en mi casa. Carol en el hospital. Le comuniqué a Julio que Flanelle se había muerto y con mucha tristeza yo le dije si podía enterrarlo en mi jardín, y me dijo “Sí, Luis”. Eran un triángulo, los tres, así que está bien que pregunta usted por el gato. Poco tiempo después murió Carol. Y Julio me dijo : “Cuando se murió el gato yo sabía que también se iba a morir Carol”.Y un año después, también Julio. El triángulo se deshizo.


Photo: Luis Tomasello and Carol Dunlop, on her wedding day to Julio Cortazar in Provence, France.

(Special thanks to Patricia Newcomer for providing this story)