Cortázar, Julio (Short Story Criticism)
Julio Cortázar 1914-1984
(Also wrote under the pseudonym Julio Denís) Argentine novelist, short-story writer, poet, essayist, critic, translator, and dramatist.
The following entry presents criticism on Cortázar's short fiction from 1991 through 2003. See also Julio Cortazar Literary Criticism (Introduction), and Volumes 2, 3, 5, 10, 13.
Cortázar is one of the seminal figures of the “Boom,” a surge of excellence and innovation in Latin American letters during the 1950s and 1960s. Influenced by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, Cortázar is considered to have enlarged literary tradition with a consistent inventiveness of style, language, and theme. Like Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, and other contemporary Latin American writers, Cortázar combined fantastic and often bizarre plots with commonplace events and characters. Much of Cortázar's fiction is a reaction to the Western tradition of rationalism to represent reality. To this end, he experimented with narrative identity, language, time, space, and form in his short stories.
Cortázar was born in Brussels, Belgium, in 1914. At the age of four, he moved with his parents to their native Argentina, where they settled in a suburb of Buenos Aires. An excellent student and reader, Cortázar began writing at a young age and completed a novel by the time he was nine years old. After earning a teaching degree, Cortázar taught high school from 1937 to 1944. During this time Cortázar began writing short stories. He taught French literature at the University of Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina; however, by 1946 he had resigned from his post after participating in demonstrations against Argentine president Juan Péron and moved to Buenos Aires, where he began working for a publishing company. Also in 1946 Cortázar published his first short story, “Casa tomada” (“House Taken Over”), in Los anales de Buenos Aires, an influential literary magazine edited by Jorge Luis Borges. Between 1946 and 1948 Cortázar studied law and languages to earn a degree as a public translator. In 1951 Cortázar published Bestiario, his first collection of short stories, and also received a scholarship to study in Paris, where he became a translator for UNESCO. In 1953, collaborating with his wife, Cortázar completed translations of Edgar Allan Poe's prose works into Spanish. Later that year he adopted France as his permanent residence. Throughout his life Cortázar traveled extensively—primarily between Argentina, Cuba, Nicaragua, and the United States—often lecturing for social reform in Latin America. He continued to publish writings in several genres and to work as a freelance translator from the 1950s until his death in 1984.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Many of Cortázar's short stories are representations of a surreal, metaphysical, horror-filled world that prevailed upon his imagination. In these works, he often expressed a conflict between unreal and real events by allowing the fantastic to take control of the mundane in the lives of his characters. Significant in this transformation from the ordinary to the bizarre is the compliant acceptance of extraordinary events by Cortázar's characters. His fascination with the double, a character's other, or alter ego, and his related concept of “figures,” or human constellations, is evident in numerous short stories. For example, in “Lejana” (“The Distances”), Alina Reyes, a wealthy South American woman, becomes obsessed with visions of a beggar woman living in Budapest whom Alina believes is her true self. She travels to Budapest, believing she will relieve the woman's suffering and her own by assuming her real identity as a beggar. After the women embrace on a bridge, Alina is left standing in the bitter cold as the beggar woman walks away in Alina's body. Cortázar often employs motifs in his fiction based on games, children's play, and music as representations of humanity's search for an existence that surpasses limits imposed by logic and reason. With “El perseguidor” (“The Pursuer”), he not only incorporates the syncopated rhythms of jazz music to illustrate this search, but also begins to explore existential questions and focus on the inner lives of characters. Modeled upon jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, the eponymous pursuer of the story is protagonist Johnny Carter, a character whose inability to articulate what he seeks is a source of anguish, while his talent for intuitive expression through music allows him to approach reality beyond ordinary existence that has been closed to most of humanity. In contrast, the narrator, a jazz critic and biographer, is entrenched in the analytical delineation of Johnny as he writes his biography—a book that is incapable of authentically portraying the artist's life.
Cortázar addresses complexities in the relationship between art and life in several works, and his short stories also reflect his concern for political and human rights while upholding his belief in open-ended art, in which he states it is the writer's responsibility “never to recede, for whatever reasons, along the path of creativity.” Cortázar evidences his political convictions in several works, including his early short story “Reunión” (“Meeting”), a fictional account of the Cuban revolution as told by Latin American revolutionary leader Che Guevara, and “Segund vez” (“Second Time Around”), in which Cortázar utilizes the repressive political situation in Argentina during the 1970s, when citizens often disappeared under false arrests, as a backdrop for his delineation of a woman's experiences surrounding an official summons. According to critics, the narrative voice, which changes from the first-person perspective of a bureaucrat to the third-person limited perspective of the woman, and then back to the bureaucrat's point of view in the last sentence, emphasizes the mysterious and omniscient nature of the summons, creating an Orwellian sense of institutionalized paranoia that extends that work beyond the Argentine government to encompass other Latin American totalitarian regimes.
In Cortázar's short fiction, contrasting elements such as the fantastic and commonplace; past, present, and future; reality and dream; and the self and the other, blend to suggest multiple layers of meaning that invite varied interpretations. Critics have suggested that Cortázar strove for this ambiguity as a means to express what may exist beyond humanity's rational perceptions. His stories are often characterized by humor despite their generally serious themes, and they are noted for his technical innovations in point of view, language, and form. Moreover, there have been psychoanalytical and feminist interpretations of his stories. Along with his novel Rayuela (1963; Hopscotch), Cortázar's short stories have established him as a leading voice in modern literature. Critics regard his contribution to Latin American literature as profound.
Final del juego 1956
Las armas secretas 1959
Historias de cronopios y de famas [Cronopios and Famas] (short stories and other writings) 1962
Todos los fuegos el fuego [All Fires the Fire, and Other Stories] 1966
El perseguidor y otros cuentos 1967
End of the Game, and Other Stories [also published as Blow-Up, and Other Stories] 1967
La vuelta al día en ochenta mundos. 2 vols. [Around the Day in Eighty Worlds] (short stories and other writings) 1967
Ultimo round (short stories and other writings) 1969
La isla a mediodía y otros relatos 1971
La casilla de los Morelli (short stories and other writings) 1973
Vampiros multinacionales: una utopia realizable 1975
Los relatos. 4 vols. 1976-85
Alguien que anda por ahí y otros relatos 1977
Un tal Lucas [A Certain Lucas] 1979
A Change of Light, and Other...
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SOURCE: Young, Richard A. “Prefabrication in Julio Cortázar's ‘Lugar Llamado Kindberg’.” Studies in Short Fiction 28, no. 4 (fall 1991): 521-34.
[In the following essay, Young provides a stylistic analysis of “A Place Named Kindberg.”]
“Lugar llamado Kindberg” (“A Place Named Kindberg”), a short story by Julio Cortázar, first published in 1974 in a volume titled Octaedro, has a narrative economy that is one of the author's trademarks and consists of very few elements: two characters, a restricted space, and a simple chain of events that unfolds in a short period of time. One rainy day, while driving through Central Europe, a traveling salesman of prefabricated materials, an Argentine named Marcelo, gives a ride to a young female hitchhiker named Lina. They arrive after nightfall at a hotel in a place called Kindberg, a town to the southwest of Vienna. They share a meal and, as Marcelo anticipated, spend the night together. On the following day, they renew their journey and, some distance beyond Kindberg, stop for coffee. There Marcelo leaves Lina to find another ride and continues alone. A few kilometers along the road, driving at excessive speed, he runs into a tree and is killed.
Through the narration of this simple sequence of events, two fairly conventional and well known themes are combined: a man's encounter with a “femme fatale” and the longing...
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SOURCE: Harvey, Sally. “Dominator-Dominatrix: Sexual Role-play in Julio Cortázar's ‘La señorita Cora’.” In Love, Sex & Eroticism in Contemporary Latin American Literature, edited by Alun Kenwood, pp. 99-106. Melbourne: Voz Hispánica, 1992.
[In the following essay, Harvey delineates the sexual power dynamic in “La señorita Cora.”]
As critics have pointed out on various occasions,1 Cortázar's short stories have lacked in general the attention they deserve. “La señorita Cora,”2 which is the focus of our study here, is no exception. In spite of its literary merit, it has warranted only scant mention in broader studies on Cortázar's work. On such occasions, critics have tended to view it as an outstanding example of Cortázar's art of narration, both in terms of the “múltiple punto de vista,” or multiple perspective, achieved by juxtaposing interior monologues and conversations, and his move towards deeper psychological studies of his characters.3 What throws even more light on this short story, however, is a study based on the interplay of the different characters and their relationships. In this article I hope to show how, on a closer reading of “La señorita Cora,” it becomes obvious that what we are involved with here is sexuality, and the struggle for dominance, principally between Pablo and the young nurse Cora, but also between Pablo...
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SOURCE: King, Sarah E. “Julio Cortázar: The Fantastic Child.” In Critical Essays on Julio Cortázar, edited by Jaime Alazraki, pp. 115-32. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1999.
[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1992, King regards the examination of childhood as a central theme in Cortázar's short fiction.]
“What—is—this?” he said at last.
“This is a child!” Haigha replied eagerly, coming in front of Alice to introduce her …
“We only found it today. It's as large as life, and twice as natural!”
“I always thought they were fabulous monsters!” said the Unicorn.
—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
“It is perhaps childhood which comes closest to ‘true life.’”1 This statement, made by André Bretón in his First Manifesto of Surrealism, is echoed by Medrano, the fatally adventuresome protagonist of Julio Cortázar's first novel, The Winners, when he confesses that childhood remains for him “the most profound part” of his life.2 Given Cortázar's consistent quest to gain access to some “truer life,” one which he glimpsed, or intuited lay beyond the realm of...
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SOURCE: Levinson, Brett. “The Other Origin: Cortázar and Identity Politics.” The Latin American Literary Review 22, no. 44 (July-December 1994): 5-19.
[In the following essay, Levinson considers the “return to origins” theme in “Azolotl” and discusses the link between origins, identity, authenticity, and Otherness in Latin American thought.]
The “return to origins” is one of the recurring themes of Latin American cultural criticism and literature. The discussion has assumed many forms, but a more or less “dominant school of thought” has established itself, one that associates the return to origins with the recovery of a former authenticity and/or an “Other” (once held, now lost) subject position.1 The following study will not challenge this association of origins, authenticity and Otherness but reevaluate it by creating an intersection of Julio Cortázar's 1956 tale “Axolotl” and a hermeneutics that could perhaps best be labeled “radical” since its purpose is to get to the roots of the “return to origins” topos. My goal is to demonstrate how this hermeneutics can help reconfigure certain aspects of contemporary Latin Americanist debates concerning post-colonialism and identity.
THE OTHER SIDE
“Axolotl” narrates the tale of a nameless man (and perhaps a homeless, family-less and jobless one, given that...
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SOURCE: Sanjinés, José. “‘Blow-Up’: A House with Many Stories.” Point of Contact 4, no. 1 (fall-winter 1994): 46-55.
[In the following essay, Sanjinés analyzes the narrative framework of “Blow-Up,” asserting that the story “is constructed on the principle of Chinese boxes.”]
I. ALL THE FRAMES OF THE FRAME
One of Cortázar's best-known short stories, “Blow-Up,” is constructed on the principle of Chinese boxes. The text consists of a series of stories interpolated one within the other; each new story in the syntagmatic disposition signals a new hierarchical level and opens a new internal frame. Although the agile narrative transitions veil many of these borders and generate in the reader a sometimes disorienting illusion of continuity, the main internal frames of the story can be described with relative precision.
The first frame occupies more or less the first two pages. The narrator, who is also a writer, deliberates about the ways to tell a story. He would like to be able to choose, simultaneously, all the options of compositional point of view, to write all the story's stories:
It'll never be known how this has to be told, in the first person or in the second, using the third person plural or continually inventing modes that will serve for nothing. If one might say: I will see the moon rose, or: we...
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SOURCE: Bittini, Patrizia. “Film is Stranger than Fiction: From Cortázar's ‘Las Babas Del Diablo’ to Antonioni's Blow-Up.” RLA: Romance Languages Annual (1995): 199-203.
[In the following essay, Bittini compares “Las babas del Diablo,” which was published in English as “Blow-Up,” to the film adaptation of the story.]
In the opening credits of Blow-Up, the Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni acknowledges that his film is based on “Las babas del diablo,” a short story by the Argentinian Julio Cortázar. In my paper, I will compare aspects of both the story and the film, focusing on Blow-Up's postmodern agenda. The several changes that Antonioni makes in the transition from Cortázar's short story to his film play a fundamental role. The changes that I will discuss are the transformation of the protagonist's profession, the shift of the story's setting from Paris to London, and finally the shift in the nature of the action spied by the protagonist in each work. These changes, I will argue, offer significant insights into Antonioni's recreating of Cortázar's story.
In Cortázar's “Las babas del diablo” (published in 1959), Michel Roberto is a translator and an amateur photographer living in Paris. One day he photographs a young boy and an older blond woman in the square on an island in the Seine. After the picture is taken, the boy flees....
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SOURCE: Roemer, Danielle M. “Graffiti as Story and Act.” In Folklore, Literature, and Cultural Theory: Collected Essays, edited by Cathy Lynn Preston, pp. 22-8. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995.
[In the following essay, Roemer perceives the idea of graffiti as folk practice to be a key theme of “Graffiti.”]
My focus here is both literary and folkloristic. I draw on the premises of graffiti as folk practice in considering a short story, “Graffiti,” by Julio Cortázar (1983).1 At the same time, I look to the shape and voicing of that story in an attempt to contribute to our understanding of the folk practice.
At the level of the story's plot, this intertextual tension is centered in issues of access. Living in a repressive police state, one in which personal expression is deemed a threat to those in power, a young man and woman begin a conversation whose utterances are the marks of graffiti. Drawing sketches at night and in alternative and clandestine spurts, they try to avoid the police patrols. They never meet, although the man does catch a glimpse of the woman on the night she is arrested, beaten, and shoved into a police wagon. At some later time, she returns to the site and draws a sketch of her battered face next to a recent drawing of the man's:
you saw the orange oval and the violet splotches where a swollen face...
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SOURCE: Schwartz, Marcy E. “Cortázar's Plural Parole: Multilingual Shifts in the Short Fiction.” Romance Notes 36, no. 2 (winter 1996): 131-37.
[In the following essay, Schwartz argues that “Lejana,” “El otro cielo” and “La autopista del sur” “exemplify Cortázar's manipulation of multiple language registers to underscore ontological displacement.”]
Geography and national languages in Cortázar's fiction operate as semiotic cultural codes from which the characters struggle to break free. Although much of his writing takes place in French-speaking surroundings, Cortázar's multilingual and interterritorial movements are not limited to his Argentine-French biographical axes. His writing reveals that beyond a Latin American-European cosmopolitanism lies a continuing exploration of alternative realms and the avenues of accessing them. “Lejana,” “El otro cielo” and “La autopista del sur” exemplify Cortázar's manipulation of multiple language registers to underscore ontological displacement.
The stories incorporate other languages as narrative vehicles for traversing seemingly separated domains. Cortázar's plots tell of characters' leaps across subtle borders that land them on foreign territory. The characters are often lone travelers who inhabit transitional or split spaces to which they alone have double access. Their isolation heightens the impact of...
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SOURCE: Borland, Isabel Alvarez. “Cortázar: On Critics and Interpretation.” INTI, nos. 43-44 (spring-fall 1996): 157-66.
[In the following essay, Borland explores the role of protagonist/critic in several of Cortázar's short stories and essays.]
En algún lugar debe haber un basural donde están amontonadas las explicaciones. Una sola cosa inquieta en este justo panorama: lo que pueda ocurrir el día en que alguien consiga explicar también el basural.
—Julio Cortázar, Un tal Lucas 66
Cortázar's writing overtly challenges and invites the reader to participate in the act of creation, engaging him/her to consider the creative act from multiple perspectives. He has explicitly dealt with his poetics in “Apuntes para una poética” (1945), and with a theory of the short story in Ultimo Round (1969). Starting with Rayuela (1963), a great portion of his fiction has been self-consciously dedicated to exploring the aesthetics of the creative act. Given his interest in the subject, a question is raised by the fact that while his essays and fiction on the creative process defend and praise the craft and role of the artist, his portrait of literary critics as characters or as subjects of his essays has displayed an intense suspicion regarding the critic's role vis-a-vis the work of art.
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SOURCE: McNab, Pamela. “Julio Cortázar's Axolotl: Literary Archaeology of the Unreal.” The International Fiction Review 24, nos. 1-2 (1997): 12-22.
[In the following essay, McNab asserts that Cortázar's depiction of the unreal in “Axolotl” was “inspired by a variety of literary sources, both classical and modern.”]
“Axolotl” (Final del juego, “end of the game”), one of Julio Cortázar's masterpieces, chronicles one man's discovery of the axolotls, rather unusual-looking amphibians, his growing obsession with them and, ultimately, his supposed transformation into an axolotl. One of the better known and most frequently analyzed of all Cortázar's stories, “Axolotl” quickly establishes and perpetuates an aura of ambiguity surrounding the narrator and the axolotls which causes the reader to question the nature of reality.1 Consequently, the text's openness has fueled interpretive speculation with regard to a wide variety of topics, ranging from religion and Aztec mythology to philosophy and psychology. Some readers view “Axolotl” as a commentary on the creative process itself, among them Alfred MacAdam, who writes that: “The philosophical problem of interpretation … seems reduced in importance, displaced by the purely aesthetic problem of the representation of the unreal.”2 MacAdam's comment prompts the important question: How does...
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SOURCE: Schmidt-Cruz, Cynthia. “Writing/Fantasizing/Desiring the Maternal Body in ‘Deshoras’ and ‘Historias que me Cuento’ by Julio Cortázar.” Latin American Literary Review 25, no. 49 (January-June 1997): 7-23.
[In the following essay, Schmidt-Cruz elucidates the role of Oedipal desires in “Deshoras” and “Historias que me cuento.”]
I suspect that one of the reasons why Cortázar's stories hold such a strong grip over many readers is because they often portray seemingly unnatural or “perverse” instinctual urges which threaten to unravel the very fabric of our civilized society, but which are ultimately kept in check by their status as literary fantasies which call attention to their fictional nature. Many of Cortázar's stories unfold through a dynamic tension between the characters' routine quotidian lives and an underlying world of intense and frustrated desires. The characters view this submerged realm with a mixture of fear and longing. On one hand, they may feel compelled to explore, understand, and even participate in it; on the other hand, there is sense of horror when it erupts into “este lado,” the mundane, bureaucratic routine which is governed by reason and logic and cannot tolerate the disruptive nature of intense passions.
The incestuous desire to seduce or be seduced by the mother, which may be considered the anti-civilized urge par...
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SOURCE: Schmidt-Cruz, Cynthia. “What Does Luciana Want? Reclaiming the Female Consciousness in Cortázar's ‘Cambio de Luces’.” Hispanic Review 65, no. 4 (autumn 1997): 415-30.
[In the following essay, Schmidt-Cruz examines the treatment of sexual difference in “Cambio de luces.”]
Any reference to the female characters in the short stories of Julio Cortázar is bound to set up a characteristic expectation in the mind of the reader. After all, what type of depiction of women can we expect from the writer who gained notoriety by coining the phrase “lector hembra” to denote a passive, non-critical reader? When we focus on the female characters in his best known stories, we might recall Rema in “Bestiario,” who is the victim of her brother's incestuous advances, or the character of Eva in “Instrucciones para John Howell,” who begs Rice to help her escape a husband bent on avenging her infidelity. In “La salud de los enfermos,” Mamá is lovingly sheltered from news of the death of her youngest son by solicitous family members, and the title character in “Liliana llorando,” even while weeping at the thought of her husband's imminent death, becomes romantically involved with his closest friend. Numerous critical studies have sought to define the varied treatments of female characters in Cortázar's stories, with descriptions ranging from “woman as intermediary or helper,”...
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SOURCE: McNab, Pamela J. “Shifting Symbols in Cortázar's ‘Bestiary’.” Revista Hispánica Moderna 50, no. 2 (December 1997): 335-46.
[In the following essay, McNab considers the symbolism in “Bestiary,” contending that “the reader must dispense with traditional notions in order to appreciate fully Cortázar's masterful and innovative manipulation of symbols via the uniquely limited narrative perspective of a child on the threshold of adolescence.”]
In his recent study Hacia Cortázar: Aproximaciones a su obra, one of Julio Cortázar's most careful readers, Jaime Alazraki, singles out “Bestiario” as a story worthy of further commentary.1 He writes, “la desequilibrada atención prestada al tigre ha dejado en sombra otras aristas de la narración que de ser iluminadas arrojarían también alguna luz sobre la función del tigre y rescatarían nuevos recursos desde los cuales funciona la delicadísima relojería de este cuento” (109). As Alazraki suggests, preoccupation with the omnipresent tiger has blinded many critics to this superbly crafted tale's significance in the trajectory of Cortázar's career. First published in Los Anales de Buenos Aires in 1947, “Bestiario” introduces several of the very characteristics we now recognize as the core of Cortázar's fictive universe: a creative approach to narrative voice, a...
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SOURCE: Henager, P. Eric. “Physical Competition and Identity in ‘Día Domingo’ and ‘Final del Juego’.” Aethlon 17, no. 2 (spring 2000): 77-91.
[In the following essay, Henager elucidates the role of sport and physical competition and its connection to the development of identity in Mario Vargas Llosa's “Día domingo” and Cortázar's “Final del juego.”]
An incident like the murder of Colombian soccer player Andrés Escobar after he had scored an autogol for the U.S. team in the 1994 World Cup reminds us that modern sports differ significantly from “play,” defined by Allen Guttmann as “nonutilitarian physical or intellectual activity pursued for its own sake” (From Ritual 3). Sport is an activity that seems innocent and straightforward on the surface but that often surprises us with its capacity for laying bare serious human problems, fears, and desires. In this paper I analyze the role of sport and physical competition in the development and potential resolution of juvenile identity crises as represented in two short narratives, Mario Vargas Llosa's “Día domingo” (1959) and Julio Cortázar's “Final del juego” (1964).
The scarcity of Spanish American stories in which sport is a primary thematic element might suggest that writers of the region for the most part accept the notion that sports, detached from real life and its more profound...
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SOURCE: Musselwhite, David. “Death and the Phantasm: A Reading of Julio Cortázar's ‘Babas del Diablo’.” Romance Studies 18, no. 1 (June 2000): 57-68.
[In the following essay, Musselwhite considers the model of the phantasm in “Babas del Diablo” and other stories collected in Las armas secretas.]
‘Babas del diablo’ is probably Cortázar's best known short story, and in spite of the quite extraordinary amount of commentary dedicated to it,1 it still remains one of his most problematic,2 quite apart from the notoriety that accrued to it from being the text on which Antonioni based Blow-up. There are many things that are confusing: the hesitancy as to the person of the narrator, the grammatical permutations, the mixture of first and third person narration, the double time of the narrative—first the original scene at the parapet of the Quai de Bourbon and then the recurrence or repetition of the scene in the fifth floor apartment of the writer/photographer Roberto-Michel—the rotation of the subject positions taken up by the boy, the blond woman, the man in the grey hat and Roberto-Michel himself—and finally the ‘dead’ (and alive?) status of the narrator at the end of the story. It is true that many of these structural and narrative effects or devices are to be found in many of Cortázar's other short stories—indeed there are times when his resort to...
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SOURCE: Kauffmann, R. Lane. “Narrating the Other: Julio Cortázar's ‘Axolotl’ as Ethnographic Allegory.” In Primitivism and Identity in Latin America: Essays on Art, Literature, and Culture, edited by Erik Camayd-Freixas and José Eduardo González, pp. 135-55. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Kauffmann offers an ethnographic interpretation of “Axolotl.”]
Is it possible to represent alterity without reifying, colonizing, or preempting it? In the diverse modes of ideology-critique prevalent at the end of the twentieth century, the Other is often invoked as though it were an amulet to ward off a host of ideological evils—humanism, sexism, monologism, and the proliferating “centrisms” (Euro-, ethno-, anthropo-, phallo-, logo-)—considered endemic to Western thought and society. But it has always been easier to invoke alterity than to depict or commune with the Other in a nonpreemptive way. This is particularly evident in ethnography, that genre of writing about other cultures which provides the empirical basis of cultural anthropology. Looking back at sixteenth-century writers Bartolomé de Las Casas and Michel de Montaigne as early modern forerunners, we see that the intent to rescue foreign cultures from the depredations of European conquest and colonization was part of the ethnographic project from its beginnings.1 And yet, as Todorov...
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SOURCE: Tandeciarz, Silvia. “Writing for Distinction?: A Reading of Cortázar's Final Short Story, ‘Diario para un Cuento’.” Latin American Literary Review 29, no. 58 (July-December 2001): 73-100.
[In the following essay, Tandeciarz views “Diario para un Cuento” as representative of Cortázar's recurring thematic interests and determines the influence of his experiences in Peronist Argentina on his fiction.]
[T]he logic of identity-formation involves distinctive associations and switching between location, class and the body, and these are not imposed upon subject-identity from the outside, they are core terms of an exchange network, an economy of signs, in which individuals, writers and authors are sometimes but perplexed agencies. A fundamental rule seems to be that what is excluded at the overt level of identity-formation is productive of new objects of desire.
—Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression
If Julio Cortázar is so widely read today, it is because his fictions—short, long, and “testimonial”—raise issues that are very much at the center of cultural debates currently raging in diverse academic circles, particularly those touched by cultural studies. As an intellectual, Cortázar's “ethics of writing” (González) and efforts to elicit a “politics of...
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SOURCE: Carbajal, Brent J. “Illusive Reality in Cortázar's ‘Las Babas del Diablo’ and Antonioni's Blow-Up.” Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 29, nos. 1-2 (2002): 169-76.
[In the following essay, Carbajal examines the theme of illusive reality in “Las babas del Diablo” and its cinematic adaptation, Blow-Up.]
It goes without saying that many of Julio Cortázar's writings have to do with the ambiguous and illusive nature of any “true” reality. In fact, Cortázar himself would probably agree with the assessment that “it goes without saying,” owing to the fact that he often explored in his fiction a crisis in language and literature in which discourse fails to convey reality and actually distorts any intended message. Scholars have lauded Cortázar's complicated narrative structures and points of view, and students have for years, after struggling mightily with the Byzantine twists and turns of the Argentine's plots, marveled at his evocative portrayals of how fantasy and dream are just as real, perhaps more so, than their perceived reality. It is not, however, the intent here to attempt to improve upon the superb body of extant criticism on Cortázar's existential queries, his questioning of reality, or his concerns with linguistic subversion. Instead, the goal here is to demonstrate how the theme of illusive reality as registered in Cortázar's story “Las babas del diablo,”...
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SOURCE: Holmes, Amanda. “Residential Unhomes in Short Stories by Julio Cortázar and Ilse Aichinger.” Neophilologus 87, no. 2 (April 2003): 246-64.
[In the following essay, Holmes compares the question of home in Cortázar's “Casa tomada” and Ilse Aichinger's “Wo ich wohne.”]
In his short story “Casa tomada,” Julio Cortázar creates what Anthony Vidler calls an “unhomely house”—a house that prevents the dweller from experiencing the comfort and shelter that a home should otherwise offer. Characters feel ill-at-ease inside these houses, fleeing them to escape the disquieting inner environments as the once cosy spaces become unhomely. Cortázar's urban home loses all signs of safety as the siblings leave its confines to escape the invading Other. The dichotomy of heimlich and un-heimlich converges in this residence through the incursion of an exterior force onto the interior.
As the Other in “Casa tomada” enters the house, the brother and sister progressively close off those sections that have been appropriated. Finally the occupants find themselves in the middle of the night without access to the kitchen or the bathroom, they hurriedly abandon their home and, once safely outside, discard the key. The Argentinean Cortázar (1914-1984), most renowned for his novel Rayuela [Hopscotch] (1963), important for its experimental narrative...
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Alonso, Carlos J., ed. Julio Cortázar: New Readings, pp. 260. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Collection of critical essays.
García, Graciela P. “Time, Language, Desire: Julio Cortázar's ‘The Pursuer’.” Pacific Coast Philology 38 (2003): 33-9.
Contends that by analyzing the many layers of meaning in “The Pursuer” we are able to perceive “a vision of desire as a profoundly contradictory force at the center of both personal and social human experience.”
Lohafer, Susan. “Preclosing an ‘Open’ Story by Julio Cortázar.” In Reading for Storyness: Preclosure Theory, Empirical Poetics, and Culture in the Short Story, pp. 40-54. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.
Provides a reading of “Orientation of Cats.”
Manguel, Alberto. “Imagination to Power!: Remembering Julio Cortázar.” In Into the Looking-Glass Wood: Essays on Books, Reading, and the World, pp. 75-81. San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., 1998.
Reflects on Cortázar's impact as a short story writer.
Rodríguez-Luis, Julio. “Cortázar's Approach to the Fantastic.” In The Contemporary Praxis of the Fantastic: Borges and Cortázar, pp. 61-100. New York: Garland Publishing, 1991.
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