Who's in the House: A Look at "House Taken Over" by Julio Cortazar
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Now that I have fixed the issue of not having much horror on the blog, I’ve decided to fix the issue of not having a lot of classics on the blog. But instead of writing about another Edgar Allan Poe tale, I think we should talk about what I view as a horror adjacent story by Julio Cortazar: “House Taken Over.” And more specifically, what it is that has taken over this house.
What is this story, you may ask? Let me tell you. “House Taken Over” is basically what it sounds like. Cortazar tells the tale of two siblings, Irene and the unnamed brother, who live a mundane life in their large family home until something begins overtaking parts of the house.
Not surprisingly, readers never find out what or who it is overtaking the house. All that is known is that the pair fear what is happening, and that these intruders make noise as they advance into new areas. The brother and sister duo will be awoken or disturbed by thumping, scuttling, and banging noises that occur in the unoccupied areas of the home; thus forcing them to block more and more areas off as the story continues.
The majority of the story is mainly the mundane day to day life; which can get rather boring. There is only so much you can take of reading about a woman knitting and a man looking through stamps. But I keep rereading this story for hints in this mundane existence as to what exactly these invaders are.
Now, “House Taken Over” was originally published in 1946 in a literary magazine in Buenos Aires, Argentina; closely after not only WWII but the Argentina Revolution as well. And since this story is post war literature, the common belief of what or who these creatures could be are military men of the revolution.
While that’s the popular opinion, and I do agree with it to some extent, I can’t help but dislike it. I love the unknown in this story, and I like allowing my mind to wander in creative fields as to what these creatures could be.
Sure, this story could be straight realism if you want it to, but I like the idea of magic realism more. With that said, what if these creatures were giant bugs?
Yes, you heard me. What if these creatures this pair fears are actually giant bugs a la Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis?” Yes, what if human sized bugs are slowly taking over this ancestral home? Just think about it for a minute. Like, wouldn’t that be insane, and also a super creepy story to read?
As to why I like to believe these intruders are giant, human sized bugs is solely based on the noises that the narrator hears. Earlier in this post I said that the brother and sister could hear thumping and banging noises emanating from parts of the house the pair are not using. Now, I know that people can easily make these sounds, but if the intruders were people, and they were some form of military personnel, I feel that would happen one of two ways.
In my mind, they would either silently take over the house like an assassin in the night. Or, they would come in guns blazing and the siblings would never know what hit them. Humanoid bugs on the other hand…
Yeah, I could see humanoid bugs banging into furniture and making other loud sounds.
Honestly, my conclusion sounds like some fever dream, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. If you’ve read this story, then let me know what you think about it. Along with who or what you think is over taking this house.