Julio Cortazar

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Biographical note

“Julio Cortázar was born in Brussels of Argentine parents in 1914. After World War I his family returned to Argentina where he received a literature degree from the teachers college in Buenos Aires in 1935. From 1935 to 1945 he taught in secondary schools in several Argentine towns. From 1945 to 1951 he worked as a literary translator for Argentine publishing houses, translating the complete prose works of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as works by André Gide, Walter de la Mare, G.K. Chesterton, Daniel Defoe, and Jean Giono. He refused a chair at the University of Buenos Aires because of his opposition to the Perón regime. In 1951 he moved to France, where he lived until his death in 1984, dividing his time between Paris and the Provençal town of Saignon. He accepted President Mitterand’s offer of French citizenship in 1981, while insisting that he had not relinquished his Argentine citizenship. Active in Latin American politics, he visited Cuba in 1961 and Nicaragua in 1983; he donated his Prix Médicis prize money for Libro de Manuel(1973, translated by Gregory Rabassa as A manual for Manuel, 1978) to the United Chilean Front. During most of his years in France he worked for four months as a translator from French and English into Spanish for UNESCO and devoted the rest of the year to his writing and other loves such as the jazz trumpet. He published poems and plays in the thirties and forties but achieved his first major success with a book of stories, Bestiario, in 1951 (selections appear inThe End of the Game and Other Stories, translated by Paul Blackburn, 1967). His novel Rayuela (1963; translated by Gregory Rabassa as Hopscotch, 1966) was widely praised and won Cortázar an enthusiastic international following. AROUND THE DAY IN EIGHTY WORLDS is his eleventh major work to be translated into English.”

From the biographical note to “Around the Day in Eighty Worlds”; North Point Press, San Francisco.

Cortázar’s diverse interests included surrealist painting/art and the politics of the world. Perhaps Cortázar himself says it best:

Much of what I have written falls into the category of eccentricity, because I have never admitted a clear distinction between living and writing; if in my life I have managed to disguise an only partial participation in my circumstances, I still cannot deny that eccentricity in what I write, since I write precisely because I am only half there or not there at all. I write by default and dislocation, and since I write out of an interstice I always invite others to discover one of their own and to see for themselves the garden where the trees bear fruits that turn out to be precious stones. The monster remains the same.

From “On feeling not all there”, Around the day in 80 worlds.

Cortázar is acutely aware of the position of the reader in relation to the text and appears (to me) to attempt to create a play-pen where the reader can move about without constrictions. The construction of the playpen gives the author similar freedoms. With this idea in mind, perhaps, Cortázar wrote disjointed (or many jointed) texts that he called “collage books”. Apart from the obvious hyper-textuality of Rayuela, there is the lack of a progressive narrative in a number of books that are considered collections of short stories, but are not quite that. In these conceits (perhaps closest to a sonnet sequence or Barthesian prose) Cortázar can present alternate scenarios, both fantastic and “real”. Cortázar is perhaps searching for a literalization of Borges’ Book of Sand, a book which “has only one spine, but a hundred faces” (Jorge Luis Borges, On the sense of the fantastic). As a result of the technique, we find that Cortázar’s characters are themselves open-ended, in response as well as determination. Cortázar’s books can be read in many ways, most of them were not anticipated by the author, but what he did anticipate was that they would open an infinite series of forking paths, and we must make the maps ourselves.


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Translations in English

Twelve of Cortázar’s books have been translated into English. I have attempted to collect information on as many editions as I can. If one does not appear here, please do not hesitate to send me a note. The works are ordered chronologically by date of copyright.

The Winners

TRANSLATED BY: Elaine Kerrigan, © 1965
PUBLISHED: London, Allison & Busby; New York, Pantheon
ISBN: 0850315972
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62: A Model Kit

ORIGINAL TITLE: Sesenta y dos: modelo para armar
TRANSLATED BY: Gregory Rabassa, © 1972
PUBLISHED: London, Marion Boyars; New York, Pantheon
ISBN: 0714525022, 0714525316, 0394468228
LCCN: gb-9420915, gb-8955865, 723406//r82
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All Fires the Fire and Other Stories

ORIGINAL TITLE: Todos los fuegas el fuego
TRANSLATED BY: Suzanne Jill Levine, © 1973
PUBLISHED: London, Marion Boyars; New York, Pantheon
ISBN: 0714526398, 0714526401, 0394753585, 039446821X
LCCN: gb-94-21923, 732937, 8955364
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A Manual for Manuel

ORIGINAL TITLE: Libros de Manuel
TRANSLATED BY: Gregory Rabassa, © 1978
PUBLISHED: New York, Pantheon
ISBN: 0394496612
LCCN: 7788782//r83
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A Certain Lucas

TRANSLATED BY: Gregory Rabassa, © 1984
PUBLISHED: New York, Knopf
ISBN: 0394507231
LCCN: 8348850
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Nicaraguan Sketches

ORIGINAL TITLE: Nicaragua tan violentamente dulce
TRANSLATED BY: Kathleen Weaver, © 1989
PUBLISHED: New York, W. W. Norton
NOTES: Fiteen essays written between 1976 and 1983, History of Nicaragua 1979-1990
ISBN: 0393027643/0393306429
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Unreasonable Hours

TRANSLATED BY: Alberto Manguel, © 1994
PUBLISHED: Toronto, Coach House Press
ISBN: 0889104948
LCCN: C-949317497
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Save Twilight: Selected Poems

TRANSLATED BY: Stephen Kessler, © 1997
PUBLISHED: City Lights Books
NOTES: Bilingual edition
ISBN: 0872863336
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Final Exam

TRANSLATED BY: Alfred J. Mac Adam, © 2000
PUBLISHED: New York, New Directions
NOTES: Cortázar’s first novel, written in 1950
ISBN: 0811214176
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Other sites related to Julio Cortázar

Considering the scope of Rayuela I believe there is little on the Web that is not related to Cortázar in some way. Yet the truly esoteric is left to Lycos and I’m only going to attempt to list those sites that are directly related to Cortázar or his work in some way.