Cortázar, Julio (1914–1984)

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Cortázar, Julio (1914–1984)

Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, a major figure in twentiethcentury Latin American literature, is best known for his masterful short stories and his novel Rayuela (1963; Hopscotch, 1966).

Cortázar was born to Argentine parents in Belgium on August 26, 1914. In 1918 the family returned to Argentina, and Cortázar's father abandoned them soon thereafter. Cortázar cut short his university studies to support his mother and sister, working as a teacher in the provinces and later as a translator in Buenos Aires. Motivated in part by his disaffection with Peronist politics, in 1951 he left Argentina for France, where he would reside until his death. Cortázar was married twice, to Aurora Bernárdez in 1953 and to Carol Dunlop in 1980.

Politics and polemics were central to Cortázar's later life. The target of frequent criticism from fellow Argentines who accused him of abandoning his homeland, he contended that, paradoxically, his move to Paris helped him recover his Latin American identity. Cortázar's involvement in politics and human rights included his support of the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions and his denunciation of the military dictatorship in Argentina. He died in Paris on February 12, 1984.

Cortázar's literary career was launched in 1951 with the publication of Bestiario (Bestiary: Selected Stories, 1998), his first collection of short stories. Typical of Cortázar's use of the fantastic to express psychological states, the beasts in these stories are manifestations of a repressed realm of censored desire. One of Cortázar's influences was Poe, whose complete prose works he translated. Subsequent story collections include Las armas secretas (Secret weapons, 1959) and Final del juego (1956; End of the Game and Other Stories, 1967). Frequent themes are the double, the writing process, obsession with the mother, frustrated love relationships, and the world of childhood and games. Reflecting Cortázar's personal circumstances, the opposition between Buenos Aires and Paris is often present, along with interstitial spaces such as bridges and passageways. Later stories employ the fantastic to explore political issues. Another side to Cortázar is his sense of whimsy and playfulness, as evidenced in the short pieces of Historias de cronopios y famas (1962; Cronopios and Famas, 1969).

Rayuela follows the wanderings of Horacio Oliviera, an Argentine intellectual living in Paris. An experimental novel that incorporates linguistic innovation and offers an alternative reading by changing the order of the chapters, Rayuela has been considered the quintessential novel of the "Boom" in Latin American literature. Recent criticism, however, points out that "the text is profoundly derisive of its own experimentality" and that Cortázar's "shifting and questioning of the ground on which … identity rests align him more closely with … post-Boom literary production" (Alonso, 11, 13-14). A creative and imaginative writer who challenged the conventional idea of genre, Cortázar published other innovative novels as well as several volumes of miscellany, poetry, and theater.

See alsoBorges, Jorge Luis; Cabrera Infante, Guillermo; Donoso, José; Fuentes, Carlos; García Márquez, Gabriel; Literature: Spanish America; Vargas Llosa, Mario.


Alazraki, Jaime. Hacia Cortázar: Aproximaciones a su obra. Barcelona: Anthropos, 1994.

Alonso, Carlos J., ed. Julio Cortázar: New Readings. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Boldy, Steven. The Novels of Julio Cortázar. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

González Bermejo, Ernesto. Conversaciones con Cortázar. México, D. F.: Hermes, 1978.

Schmidt-Cruz, Cynthia. Mothers, Lovers, and Others: The Short Stories of Julio Cortázar Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

Standish, Peter. Understanding Julio Cortázar. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

Yovanovich, Gordana. Julio Cortázar's Character Mosaic: Reading the Longer Fiction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

Yurkievich, Saúl. Julio Cortázar: Mundos y modos. Madrid: Anaya y Mario Muchnik, 1994.

Works by Cortázar

Bestiario. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1951. Translated by Alberto Manguel, Paul Blackburn, Gregory and Clementine Rabassa, and Suzanne Jill Levine as Bestiary: Selected Stories. London: Harvill Press 1998.

Final del juego. Buenos Aires, Editorial Sudamericana 1956. Translated by Paul Blackburn as End of the Game and Other Stories. New York, Pantheon Books, 1967.

Las Armas Secretas [Secret Weapons]. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1959.

Historias de cronopios y famas. Madrid: Ediciones Alfaguara, 1962. Translated by Paul Blackburn as Cronopios and Famas. New York: Pantheon Books, 1969.

Rayuela. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1963. Translated by Gregory Rabassa as Hopscotch. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966.

62: Modelo para armar. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1968. Translated by Gregory Rabassa as 62: A Model Kit. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.

Blow-Up and Other Stories. New York: Collier Books, 1968.

Cuentos completos [Complete Stories]. 2 vols. Madrid: Alfaguara, 1994.

La autopista del sur y otros cuentos [The Southern Highway and Other Stories]. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

Obras Completas [Complete works]. Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg: Círculo de Lectores, 2004–. Titles published to date are Teatro Novelas I, 2004; Novelas II, 2006; Cuentos 2006; Poesia y Poetica, 2006; and Obra Critica 2007.

                             Cynthia Schmidt-Cruz

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