|Julio Florencio Cortázar|
|Born||August 26, 1914
|Died||February 12, 1984 (aged 69)
|Pen name||Julio Denis|
|Genres||fiction, prose, epic, poetry|
|Literary movement||Latin American Boom|
Julio Cortázar, born Jules Florencio Cortázar, (August 26, 1914 – February 12, 1984) was an Argentine author of novels and short stories. He influenced an entire generation of Latin American writers from Mexico to Argentina, and most of his best-known work was written in France, where he established himself in 1951.
Cortázar was born in Brussels, Belgium on August 26, 1914 a few days after the invasion of Belgium by Germany at the start of World War I. His father, Julio José Cortázar, was the European commercial representative for the family of his wife, María Herminia Descotte, and the couple had arrived in Belgium in 1913. They were both Argentine. As Cortázar himself put it, his "birth was a product of tourism and diplomacy."
Soon after the child's birth the family traveled via Frankfurt to Zürich, where they were reunited with María Herminia's parents: Victoria Gabel, who was a German citizen, and her lover, Descotte, who was a French citizen at a time when Frenchmen were not welcome in Belgium. The family spent two years in Switzerland, spent a short time in Barcelona towards the end of the war, and then returned to Argentina.
By then, however, Julio José Cortázar and María Herminia Descotte had split up. Cortázar spent the rest of his childhood in Banfield, near Buenos Aires, with his mother and his only sister, who was one year younger. He never saw his father again. His childhood home, with its backyard, was a source of inspiration for some of his stories. Despite this, he wrote a letter to Graciela M. de Solá (December 4, 1963) describing this period of his life as "full of servitude, excessive touchiness, terrible and frequent sadness." He was a sickly child and spent much of his childhood in bed reading. His mother selected what he read, introducing her son most notably to the works of Jules Verne, whom Cortázar admired for the rest of his life. In the magazine Plural (issue 44, Mexico City, May 1975) he wrote: "I spent my childhood in a haze full of goblins and elfs, with a sense of space and time that was different from everybody else's."
Cortázar became a primary school teacher when he was 18 (at that time, teacher´s degrees in Argentina were a diploma obtained after finishing high school and taking some more courses and exams). Although Cortázar never completed his degree in philosophy and languages at the University of Buenos Aires, he taught in several provincial high schools. In 1938 he published a volume of sonnets under the pseudonym Julio Denis. He later repudiated this volume. In a 1977 interviews for Spanish TV he stated that publishing that book was his only transgression to the principle of not publishing any books until he was convinced that what was written in them was what he meant to say. In 1944 he became professor of French literature at the National University of Cuyo. In 1949 he published a play, Los Reyes (The Kings), based on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
In 1951, Cortázar, who was opposed to the government of Juan Domingo Perón, emigrated to France, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. From 1952 onward, he worked for UNESCO as a translator. The projects he worked on included Spanish renderings of Robinson Crusoe, Marguerite Yourcenar's novel Mémoires d'Hadrien, and stories by Edgar Allan Poe. He also came under the influence of the works of Alfred Jarry and the Comte de Lautréamont, and wrote most of his major works in Paris. In later years he became actively engaged in opposing abuses of human rights in Latin America, and was a supporter of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.
Cortázar was married three times, to Aurora Bernárdez, to Ugnė Karvelis, and finally to Carol Dunlop. He died in Paris in 1984 and is interred in the Cimetière de Montparnasse, next to Carol Dunlop. The cause of his death was reported to be leukemia.
Cortázar wrote numerous short stories, collected in such volumes as Bestiario (1951), Final del juego (1956), and Las armas secretas (1959). English translations by Paul Blackburn of stories selected from these volumes were published Blow-up and Other Stories (1967). The title of this collection refers to Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blowup (1967), which was inspired by Cortázar's story Las Babas del Diablo (literally, "The Droolings of the Devil"). Puerto Rican novelist Giannina Braschi used Cortázar's story as a springboard for the chapter called "Blow-up" in her bilingual novel "Yo-Yo Boing!" (1998). Another story "La Autopista del Sur" ("The Southern Thruway") influenced another film of the 1960s, Jean-Luc Godard's Week End (1967). Another notable story, "El Perseguidor" ("The Pursuer"), was based on the life of the jazz musician Charlie Parker.
Cortázar also published several novels, including Los premios (The Winners, 1960), Hopscotch (Rayuela, 1963), 62: A Model Kit (62 Modelo para Armar, 1968), and Libro de Manuel (A Manual for Manuel, 1973). These have been translated into English by Gregory Rabassa. The open-ended structure of Hopscotch, which invites the reader to choose between a linear and a non-linear mode of reading, has been praised by other Latin American writers, including José Lezama Lima, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa. Cortázar's use of interior monologue and stream of consciousness owes much to James Joyce and other modernists, but his main influences were Surrealism, the French Nouveau roman and the improvisatory aesthetic of jazz. Cortázar also mentions Lawrence Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet several times in Hopscotch. His first wife, Aurora Bernárdez, was translating Durrell into Spanish while Cortázar was writing the novel.
Cortázar also published poetry, drama, and various works of non-fiction. He also translated Edgar Allan Poe's 1838 novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket into Spanish as Narracion de Arthur Gordon Pym. One of his last works was a collaboration with his third wife, Carol Dunlop, The Autonauts of the Cosmoroute, which relates, partly in mock-heroic style, the couple's extended expedition along the autoroute from Paris to Marseille in a Volkswagen camper nicknamed Fafner.
In Buenos Aires, a school, a public library, and a square in the neighbourhood of Palermo carry his name. The square is particularly well-known as a centre of a trendy and bohemian area with an important nightlife (sometimes referred to as "Plaza Serrano" or "Palermo Soho")
Duke University Press published a literary journal (1999-2002) called "Hopscotch: A Cultural Review", named after Cortázar's novel.
Mentioned and spoken highly of in Rabih Alameddine's novel, 'Koolaids: The Art of War', which was published in 1998.
Y después de hacer todo lo que hacen, se levantan, se bañan, se entalcan, se perfuman, se peinan, se visten, y así progresivamente van volviendo a ser lo que no son.
And after doing all they do they rise from their bed, they bathe, powder and perfume their persons, they dress, and gradually return to being what they are not.