(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The novel is divided into four chapters, entitled “Prologue,” “Day One,” “Day Two,” and “Epilogue.” In the opening section, eighteen people, representing a broad spectrum of Buenos Aires society, are gathered in the Café London. They are the winners, with their invited guests, of a mysterious lottery whose prize is an ocean cruise with a secret itinerary. They are greeted courteously but evasively by an inspector from the “Ministry of Cultural Affairs” who tells them about certain “technical problems” that have complicated the arrangements. They are taken to the Malcolm, a freighter of uncertain nationality, where they discover that the whole after portion of the ship is barred to them. The prohibition, at first unexplained, is later implausibly blamed on an outbreak of “Typhus 224.” The only contact with the other part of the ship is provided by the waiters, a bartender, a single officer who represents the invisible captain, a doctor, and a few uncommunicative seamen who speak an unrecognizable language.

On the first day at sea, the motley group of passengers becomes acquainted, developing attractions and enmities, social and sexual, but the mysterious prohibition becomes the focus of a major division into two groups, sometimes referred to as “the group of the damned” and “the peace party.” The latter are the partisans of the establishment who accept without question whatever explanations are offered by the representatives of Magenta Lines. The former band, composed of the more unconventional, socially critical thinkers, rejects the explanations, suspecting something much more...

(The entire section is 671 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Alazraki, Jaime, and Ivar Ivask, eds. The Final Island: The Fiction of Julio Cortázar. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978. Perhaps the finest collection of criticism on Cortázar, a representative sampling of his best critics covering all the important aspects of his fictional output.

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.

Guibert, Rita. Seven Voices: Seven Latin American Writers Talk to Rita Guibert. New York: Knopf, 1973. Includes an important interview with Cortázar, who discusses both his politics (his strenuous objection to U.S. interference in Latin America) and many of his fictional works.

Harss, Luis, and Barbara Dohmann. Into the Mainstream: Conversations with Latin-American Writers. New York: Harper and Row, 1967. Includes an English translation of an important interview in Spanish.

Hernandez del Castillo, Ana. Keats, Poe, and the Shaping of Cortázar’s Mythopoesis. Amsterdam: J. Benjamin, 1981. This is a part of the Purdue University Monographs in Romance Languages, volume 8. Cortázar praised this study for its rigor and insight.

Peavler, Terry L. Julio Cortázar. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Peavler begins with an overview of Cortázar’s life and career and his short stories of the fantastic, the mysterious, the psychological, and the realistic. Only one chapter is devoted exclusively to his novels. Includes chronology, notes, annotated bibliography, and index.

Stavans, Ilan. Julio Cortázar: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1996. See especially the chapters on the influence of Jorge Luis Borges on Cortázar’s fiction, his use of the fantastic, and his reliance on popular culture. Stavans also has a section on Cortázar’s role as writer and his interpretation of developments in Latin American literature. Includes chronology and bibliography.

Yovanovich, Gordana. Julio Cortázar’s Character Mosaic: Reading the Longer Fiction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991. Three chapters focus on Cortázar’s four major novels and his fluctuating presentations of characters as narrators, symbols, and other figures of language. Includes notes and bibliography.