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Julio Cortazar

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Julio Cortazar

Julio Florencio Cortázar
Cortázar photographed by Sara Facio, in 1967.
Born August 26, 1914
Brussels, Belgium
Died 12 February 1984(1984-02-12) (aged 69)
Paris, France
Pen name Julio Denis (in his first two books)
Occupation Writer, Translator, Novelist
Nationality Argentine
Genres Novel, story, poetry, prose poem, short story
Literary movement Latin American Boom, Postmodern literature
Notable work(s) Hopscotch
Blow-up and Other Stories


Julio Cortázar, born Jules Florencio Cortázar[1] (American Spanish: [ˈxuljo korˈtasar]; August 26, 1914 – February 12, 1984), was an Argentine novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Known as one of the founders of the Latin American Boom, Cortázar influenced an entire generation of Spanish-speaking readers and writers in the Americas and Europe. He has been called a "modern master of the short story."

Early life

Cortázar's parents, Julio José Cortázar and María Herminia Descotte, moved from Argentina in 1913 to Brussels, Belgium, where Cortázar was born on August 26, 1914 in the suburb of Ixelles.[2] At the time of his birth Belgium was occupied by the German troops of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Shortly thereafter the family moved to Zürich where María Herminia's parents, Victoria Gabel and Louis Descotte (a French National) were waiting in neutral territory. The family group spent the next two years in Switzerland, first in Zurich, then in Geneva, before moving for a short period to Barcelona. The Cortázars settled in Buenos Aires by the end of 1919.[3]

Cortázar's parents divorced a few years after their return to Argentina.[2] Cortázar spent most of his childhood in Banfield, a suburb south of Buenos Aires, with his mother and younger sister. The home in Banfield, with its back yard, was a source of inspiration for some of his stories.[4] Despite this, in a letter to Graciela M. de Solá on December 4, 1963 he described this period of his life as "full of servitude, excessive touchiness, terrible and frequent sadness." He was a sickly child and spent much of his childhood in bed reading.[5] His mother introducing her son most notably to the works of Jules Verne, whom Cortázar admired for the rest of his life. In the magazine Plural (issue 44, Mexico City, May 1975) he wrote: "I spent my childhood in a haze full of goblins and elves, with a sense of space and time that was different from everybody else's."

Education and teaching career

Cortázar obtained a qualification as an elementary school teacher at the age of 18. He would later pursue higher education in philosophy and languages, although he never graduated from University of Buenos Aires. According to biographer Montes-Bradley, Cortázar taught in at least two high schools in Buenos Aires Province, one in the city of Chivilcoy, the other in Bolivar. In 1938 he self-published a volume of sonnets under the pseudonym Julio Denis.[6] He later repudiated this volume. In a 1977 interview for Spanish television he stated that publishing that book was his only transgression to the principle of not publishing any books until he was convinced that what was written in them was what he meant to say.[7] In 1944 he became professor of French literature at the National University of Cuyo. In 1949 he published a play, Los Reyes (The Kings), based on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.

Years in France

In 1951, Cortázar, who was opposed to the government of Juan Domingo Perón,[2] emigrated to France, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. From 1952 onwards, he worked for UNESCO as a translator. The projects he worked on included Spanish renderings of Robinson Crusoe, Marguerite Yourcenar's novel Mémoires d'Hadrien, and stories by Edgar Allan Poe. He also came under the influence of the works of Alfred Jarry and the Comte de Lautréamont, and wrote most of his major works in Paris. In later years he became actively engaged in opposing abuses of human rights in Latin America, and was a supporter of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua as well as Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution and Salvador Allende's socialist government in Chile.[8]

Cortázar had three major relationships. First to Aurora Bernárdez, an Argentine translator, in 1953; they separated in 1967 when he became involved with the Lithuanian Ugnė Karvelis, whom he never formally married and who stimulated a great interest in politics in Cortázar.[9] He finally married the Canadian Carol Dunlop. After her death in 1982 Aurora Bernárdez accompanied him in his final illness and inherited the rights to all his works.[10]

He died in Paris in 1984 and is interred in the Cimetière de Montparnasse. The cause of his death was reported to be leukemia though rumors reported that he had died from AIDS as a result of receiving a blood transfusion.[11][12]

Work and legacy

Cortázar wrote numerous short stories, collected in such volumes as Bestiario (1951), Final del juego (1956), and Las armas secretas (1959). In 1967, English translations by Paul Blackburn of stories selected from these volumes were published by Pantheon Books as End of the Game and Other Stories. For the paperback edition, the collection was retitled as Blow-up and Other Stories to tie in with Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blowup (1966), which was inspired by Cortázar's story "Las Babas del Diablo" (literally, "The Droolings of the Devil", an Argentine expression for the long threads some spiders and insects leave hanging between the trees), which was in turn based on a photograph taken by Chilean photographer Sergio Larraín during a shoot outside of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.[13] Puerto Rican novelist Giannina Braschi used Cortázar's story as a springboard for the chapter called "Blow-up" in her bilingual novel Yo-Yo Boing! (1998), which features scenes with Cortázar's characters La Maga and Rocamadour.[14] Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño claimed Cortázar as a key influence on his novel The Savage Detectives: "To say that I'm permanently indebted to the work of Borges and Cortázar is obvious."[15] Cortázar's story "La Autopista del Sur" ("The Southern Thruway") influenced another film of the 1960s, Jean-Luc Godard's Week End (1967).[16]

Cortázar also published several novels, including Los premios (The Winners, 1960), Hopscotch (Rayuela, 1963), 62: A Model Kit (62 Modelo para Armar, 1968), and Libro de Manuel (A Manual for Manuel, 1973). Except for Los premios, which was translated by Elaine Kerrigan, the novels have been translated into English by Gregory Rabassa. The open-ended structure of Hopscotch, which invites the reader to choose between a linear and a non-linear mode of reading, has been praised by other Latin American writers, including José Lezama Lima, Giannina Braschi, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa. Cortázar's use of interior monologue and stream of consciousness owes much to James Joyce[17] and other modernists, but his main influences were Surrealism, the French Nouveau roman and the improvisatory aesthetic of jazz. This last interest is reflected in the notable story "El perseguidor" ("The Pursuer"), which Cortázar based on the life of the bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker.[18] Cortázar also mentions Lawrence Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet several times in Hopscotch.[19] Cortázar's first wife, Aurora Bernárdez, translated Durrell into Spanish while Cortázar was writing the novel.

Cortázar also published poetry, drama, and various works of non-fiction. He also translated Edgar Allan Poe's 1838 novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket into Spanish as Narracion de Arthur Gordon Pym. One of his last works was a collaboration with his third wife, Carol Dunlop, The Autonauts of the Cosmoroute, which relates, partly in mock-heroic style, the couple's extended expedition along the autoroute from Paris to Marseille in a Volkswagen camper nicknamed Fafner.

In Buenos Aires, a school, a public library, and a square in the neighbourhood of Palermo carry Cortázar's name. The square is particularly well known as the centre of a trendy and bohemian area with an important nightlife (sometimes referred to as "Plaza Serrano" or "Palermo Soho").

Duke University Press published a literary journal called Hopscotch: A Cultural Review, named after Cortázar's novel.

Cortázar is mentioned and spoken highly of in Rabih Alameddine's novel, Koolaids: The Art of War, which was published in 1998. Cortázar was also mentioned in Daniel Levin Becker's novel, Many Subtle Channels as one of the few people to have declined an invitation to the Oulipo.[20]

He is very popular in Poland, after translation of many of his books (but especially "Rayuela") into Polish by a Polish writer Zofia Chądzyńska.


Further reading


  • Julio Cortázar (Modern Critical Views). Bloom, Harold, 2005
  • Julio Cortázar (Bloom's Major Short Story Writers). Bloom, Harold, 2004
  • Questions of the Liminal in the Fiction of Julio Cortázar. Moran, Dominic, 2000
  • Critical Essays on Julio Cortázar. Alazraki, Jaime, 1999
  • The Politics of Style in the Fiction of Balzac, Beckett, and Cortázar. Axelrod, Mark, 1992
  • Writing at Risk: Interviews in Paris With Uncommon Writers. Weiss, Jason, 1991


  • Discurso del Oso. children's book illustrated by Emilio Urberuaga, Libros del Zorro Rojo, 2008
  • Imagen de Julio Cortázar. Claudio Eduardo Martyniuk, 2004
  • Julio Cortázar desde tres perspectivas. Luisa Valenzuela, 2002
  • Otra flor amarilla: antología: homenaje a Julio Cortázar. Universidad de Guadalajara, 2002
  • Yo y Cortázar. Christina Perri Rossi, 2001
  • Julio Cortázar. Cristina Peri Rossi, 2001
  • Julio Cortázar. Alberto Cousté, 2001
  • La mirada recíproca: estudios sobre los últimos cuentos de Julio Cortázar. Peter Fröhlicher, 1995
  • Hacia Cortázar: aproximaciones a su obra. Jaime Alazraki, 1994
  • Julio Cortázar: mundos y modos. Saúl Yurkiévich, 1994
  • Tiempo sagrado y tiempo profano en Borges y Cortázar. Zheyla Henriksen, 1992
  • Cortázar: el romántico en su observatorio. Rosario Ferré, 1991
  • Lo neofantástico en Julio Cortázar. Julia G Cruz, 1988
  • Los Ochenta mundos de Cortázar: ensayos. Fernando Burgos, 1987
  • En busca del unicornio: los cuentos de Julio Cortázar. Jaime Alazraki, 1983
  • Teoría y práctica del cuento en los relatos de Cortázar. Carmen de Mora Valcárcel, 1982
  • Julio Cortázar. Pedro Lastra, 1981
  • Cortázar: metafísica y erotismo. Antonio Planells, 1979
  • Es Julio Cortázar un surrealista?. Evelyn Picon Garfield, 1975
  • Estudios sobre los cuentos de Julio Cortázar. David Lagmanovich, 1975
  • Cortázar y Carpentier. Mercedes Rein, 1974
  • Los mundos de Julio Cortázar. Malva E Filer, 1970


  • Cortázar, 1994. Documentary directed by Tristán Bauer.
  • Cortázar, apuntes para un documental, documentary. Eduardo Montes-Bradley (Director), Soledad Liendo (Producer). Theatrical release 2002. DVD Release 2007.[21][22]
  • Graffiti, 2005. Short movie based on Julio Cortázar´s short story "Graffiti". Directed by Pako González.[2]
  • "Graffiti", 2006, Short movie based on Julio Cortázar´s short story "Graffiti". Directed by Vano Burduli [4]

See also

  • Etat second
  • Sophie Bohdan
  • Zofia Chądzyńska


External links

  • Works by Julio Cortázar on Open Library at the Internet Archive
  • WorldCat catalog)
  • Julio Cortázar [5]
  • Julio Cortázar Collection (Finding Aid) - Princeton University Library Manuscripts Division [6]
  • Julio Cortázar: An Argentinean Master of Anti-novel and Experimental Literature
  • Julio Cortázar interview 1979
  • Julio Cortázar Artist bio and exhibitions on ArtDiscover

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