Julio Cortázar Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

ph_0111207073-Cortazar.jpg Julio Cortázar Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Julio Cortázar’s literary career, which lasted almost forty years, includes—besides his short stories—novels, plays, poetry, translations, and essays of literary criticism. In his essay on short fiction entitled “Algunos aspectos del cuento” (“Some Aspects of the Short Story”), Cortázar studies the varying role of the reader with regard to different literary forms. Cortázar’s first book, Presencia (1938), was a collection of poetry that he published under the pseudonym Julio Denís. He translated authors as diverse as Louisa May Alcott and Edgar Allan Poe into Spanish and considered French Symbolist poetry to be of enormous influence on his prose writing. He experimented with a form of collage in his later works of short fiction.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

An antirealist, Cortázar is often grouped with Gabriel García Márquez as one of the foremost proponents of the Magical Realism movement and, during his lifetime, one of the most articulate spokespersons on the subject of Latin American fiction.

Although Cortázar is most admired for his short stories (his short story “Las babas del diablo” was made into a classic film in 1966 called Blow-Up by director Michelangelo Antonioni), it was the publication of the novel Rayuela (1963; Hopscotch, 1966) that placed the author among the twentieth century’s greatest writers. The Times Literary Supplement called Hopscotch the “first great novel of Spanish America.”

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Early in his career, Julio Cortázar (cohr-TAH-sahr) published two volumes of poetry—Presencia (1938; presence), under the pseudonym Julio Denís, and Los reyes (1949; the kings), using his own name—both still generally unnoticed by the critics. His short fiction, however, is considered among the best in Hispanic literature. His best-known short story is perhaps “Las babas del diablo” (the devil’s slobbers), the basis of the internationally acclaimed film Blow-Up (1966), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Cortázar’s collection of short fiction Bestiario (1951; bestiary) contains fantastic and somewhat surrealistic tales dealing mainly with extraordinary circumstances in the everyday lives of ordinary characters. Their common denominator is the unexpected turn of events at each story’s end; such surprise endings are a well-known trait of Cortázar’s short fiction. His second collection of stories, Final del juego (1956; end of the game), was followed by Las armas secretas (1959; secret weapons), Historias de cronopios y de famas (1962; Cronopios and Famas, 1969), Todos los fuegos el fuego (1966; All Fires the Fire, and Other Stories, 1973), Alguien que anda por ahí, y otros relatos (1977; included in A Change of Light, and Other Stories, 1980), Queremos tanto a Glenda, y otros relatos (1980; We Love Glenda So Much, and Other...

(The entire section is 569 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

At a moment when fiction in Spanish enjoyed little international esteem, Julio Cortázar’s multinational and multicultural orientation brought recognition of a sophistication and cosmopolitan awareness previously assumed to be lacking among Spanish-language writers. His unusual success in translation was an important ingredient in the “boom” in Latin American fiction, bringing the Spanish American novelists of his generation to unprecedented prestige and popularity in Europe and North America. His most celebrated novel, Hopscotch, unquestionably had an impact on experimental and vanguard writing in Spain and Latin America, and the notion of a variable structure and reassembled plot had a number of imitators among younger writers. In addition to influencing the literature of his “native” Argentina, Cortázar has had a significant impact on the younger generation of novelists throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Did Julio Cortázar’s works, which he wrote mostly after moving to Europe, depend more on his earlier experiences in Argentina or on his capacity for contemplating his Argentinian background from abroad?

What does the variety of the writers whose works Cortázar translated reveal about the man?

Discuss Cortázar’s determination to enrich Spanish literature by taking advantage of his mastery of French and English.

How did the myth of the Minotaur help Cortázar develop one of his important themes?

What is the likely reason for Cortázar’s use of Hopscotch as a title, and how does the work undermine the traditional structure of the novel?

To what extent can a mixture of fact and fiction, as in A Manual for Manuel, succeed in enhancing his reader’s concept of political reality?

Is an intention to “create disorder” truly a “necessity” for a man with Cortázar’s literary ambitions?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Alazraki, Jaime, and Ivan Ivask, eds. The Final Island. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978. A collection of essays, including two by Cortázar himself, about the role of magic or the marvelous as it works alongside what appears to be realism in Cortázar’s fiction. Contains a chronology and an extensive bibliography that offers data on Cortázar’s publications in several languages.

Alonso, Carlos J., ed. Julio Cortázar: New Readings. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Part of the Cambridge Studies in Latin American and Iberian Literature series. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Boldy, Steven. The Novels of Julio Cortázar. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1980. The introduction provides a helpful biographical sketch linked to the major developments in Cortázar’s writing. Boldy concentrates on four Cortázar novels: The Winners, Hopscotch, 62: A Model Kit, and A Manual for Manuel. Includes notes, bibliography, and index.

Garfield, Evelyn Picon. Julio Cortázar. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1975. Garfield begins and ends her study with personal interviews that she obtained with Cortázar at his home in Provence, France. She studies the neurotic obsession of the characters in Cortázar’s fiction and offers firsthand commentary by Cortázar on his methods of writing and his own experiences that helped...

(The entire section is 635 words.)