Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In an essay on aspects of the short story published in Cuba in 1962, Cortázar defined the short story as “a mysterious brother to poetry” in which fantasy is shown to rule supreme, as opposed to the false empirical realism created by the Western notion of logic and causality. This definition applies to “Axolotl” because the story shows how a fantastic reality bursts into the realm of the everyday. In this short story, as in many others, Cortázar first gains the reader’s confidence, putting readers at their ease by creating a normal setting and conventional characters in familiar situations. Soon, however, readers find themselves trapped by a strange, nightmarish turn of events that threatens and ultimately destroys the logical, routine reality described up to this point. Cortázar has also likened the short story to a photograph. Unlike novels and films, which provide abundant details and complete, well-rounded plots, the short story—like a photograph—limits its scope to a single frame, a fragment of reality that forces the reader to supply the missing pieces. One of Cortázar’s finest stories, “Axolotl” is elegantly written. It uses suspense well and explores the mysterious boundaries between the human and the animal kingdoms.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Existentialism's Influence on Cortazar
"Axolotl" was first published in 1956. At that time, Cortazar no longer lived in his...

(The entire section is 842 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Point of View
The story's narration blurs the line between reality and fantasy. The story is narrated by a first-person...

(The entire section is 954 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The story's narration blurs the line between reality and fantasy. The story is recounted by a first-person narrator, some part of whose...

(The entire section is 827 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In "Axolotl," Cortazar combines fantastic and ordinary situations and characters as he creates his own method of understanding reality.


(The entire section is 155 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Julio Cortazar's short story "Axolotl" from the collection Final del juego (End of the Game, and Other Stories), has disturbed,...

(The entire section is 936 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1950s: Zoos are popular destinations for children and adults alike. Animals are captured in the wild and live the rest of their lives...

(The entire section is 154 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Investigate some of the myths, legends, stones, novels, and films in which humans turn into animals. Have people in real life ever claimed...

(The entire section is 108 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

An important precursor to Cortazar's novel is The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka's 1915 novella in which a man wakes up one day to find...

(The entire section is 227 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Labyrinths, Selected Stories and Other Writings, is Jorge Luis Borges's 1962 collection. Recognized all over the world as one of the...

(The entire section is 267 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka's 1915 novella. One day a man wakes up to find that he has been transformed into an insect.


(The entire section is 288 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Rabassa, Gregory "Lying to Athena Cortazar and the Art of Fiction." Books Abroad, Vol 50, No. 3, Summer, 1976, pp...

(The entire section is 225 words.)