Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 82

Cortázar, Julio 1914–

Illustration of PDF document

Download Julio Cortázar Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Cortázar is an Argentine novelist, short story writer, translator, and poet. Like his fellow Argentine and mentor, Borges, Cortázar creates a fictional work in which fantasy and reality are indistinguishable. In this bewildering dream world his characters are portrayed as victims both of their delusions and of the fantastic world around them. Cortázar's short story "Las babas del diablo" was made into the film Blow-up. (See also CLC, Vols. 2, 3, 5, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 21-24, rev. ed.)

David I. Grossvogel

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 829

Like most of Cortázar's short stories, ["Las babas del diablo"] is primarily a tale about the impossiblity of telling and about the frustration of seeing—twin expressions of the ontological dilemma that defines man, for Cortázar, as an irreducible separateness that recognizes similarly hermetic presences, without ever being able to establish more than a surface contact with them, without being able to assimilate them through either perception (sight) or definition (telling). The dramatic tension of Cortázar's stories derives from the exacerbation of their people's attempts to cancel and transcend their ontological sentence. They fail, but their efforts are sometimes of such magnitude as to alter forever the order of the natural world in which they previously dwelled.

Michel is a translator: his job is to understand telling and to make it intelligible to others…. But as a consequence of his unearthly adventure Michel will sense that his plight resulted from a desperation to see beyond the surfaces that limit human sight, and that even beyond existence (for the people of Cortázar are afflicted with the same curse as Beckett's people: death does not still their metaphysical questioning) the problem remains one of telling.

Michel's dilemma is that however he focuses on the objects of his world, those objects remain separate from him and alien; his focusing instrument—the camera, the typewriter, the word—cannot bite on those objects, is irremediably inert…. (p. 50)

As the virulence of the ontological sickness intensifies, the victim's urge to escape into, and possess, his vision increases his need to voice the sense of his proximity to this vision and the sense of his frustration at not being able to cancel the forever remaining distance. He must tell his state of being…. Just as the still photograph subverts the life it intends to reproduce, the very act of telling subverts the substance of what is to be told…. But in Michel, as in so many of Cortázar's protagonists, the ontological exacerbation is sufficient to affect the fourth dimension of his universe; like that of a latter-day Pygmalion, Michel's relentless desire to possess the object of his sight informs the photographic blow-up with the life of that desire and that life is sufficiently powerful to draw him into its own truth. He crosses over to another ontological dimension (retracing, in a sense, the steps of the surrealists drawn into their metaphysical mirror) and, in so doing, forever affects the natural balance of his universe without allaying the need that precipitated the metaphysical calamity.

Whatever else the parable may convey about the human condition, Cortázar's fable comments upon the Mallarmean need and frustration of the writer whose work is tensed between his unbounded vision and his unequal capacity to express it. Cortázar makes a literary point from the very first…. Like Michel, the artist can neither tell as he knows he must, nor can he accept not to tell, or tell inadequately. He must possess through words (if he is a writer) the objects of his world (and his sense of those objects), but the words have an opacity equal to his own ontological...

(The entire section contains 7972 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Julio Cortázar study guide. You'll get access to all of the Julio Cortázar content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Biography
  • Critical Essays
  • Analysis
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Cortázar, Julio (Short Story Criticism)


Cortázar, Julio (Vol. 13)