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Julio Florencio Cortázar

Born August 26, 1914
Brussels, Belgium
Died February 12, 1984 (aged 69)
Paris, France
Pen name Julio Denis
Occupation Writer, translator
Genres fiction, prose, epic, poetry
Literary movement Latin American Boom
Notable work(s) Hopscotch

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.


Early life

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.[1] They were both Argentine. As Cortázar himself put it, his "birth was a product of tourism and diplomacy."[2]

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.[3] 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."

Education and teaching career

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.

Years in France

In 1951, Cortázar, who was opposed to the government of Juan Domingo Perón,[4] 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.

Cortazar's grave in Montparnasse, Paris

Work and legacy

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.[5] 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")

In 2007 Bertrand Delanoë, the Mayor of Paris, formally named a small square on the Île Saint-Louis in honor of Julio Cortázar.

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.

Notable works

Originally published in Spanish as "Ceremonias" (Barcelona, Seix Barral), title by which is widely known in Spanish literary circles, and in English (translated by Paul Blackburn) as End of the Game and Other Stories
A compilation of stories translated into English from the books Final del juego and Las armas secretas

Further reading


  • Julio Cortázar (Modern Critical Views) / Bloom, Harold., 2005
  • Mothers, lovers, and others : the short stories of Julio Cortázar / Schmidt-Cruz, Cynthia., 2004
  • Julio Cortázar (Bloom's Major Short Story Writers) / Bloom, Harold., 2004
  • The Lights of Home: A Century of Latin American Writers in Paris / Weiss, Jason., 2002
  • Understanding Julio Cortázar / Standish, Peter., 2001
  • Questions of the liminal in the fiction of Julio Cortázar / Moran, Dominic., 2000
  • Critical essays on Julio Cortázar / Alazraki, Jaime., 1999
  • Julio Cortázar : new readings / Alonso, Carlos J., 1998
  • Julio Cortázar : a study of the short fiction / Stavans, Ilan., 1996
  • The politics of style in the fiction of Balzac, Beckett, and Cortázar / Axelrod, Mark., 1992
  • Writing at Risk: Interviews in Paris With Uncommon Writers / Weiss, Jason., 1991
  • The contemporary praxis of the fantastic : Borges and Cortázar / Rodríguez-Luis, Julio., 1991
  • Julio Cortázar's character mosaic : reading the longer fiction / Yovanovich, Gordana., 1991
  • Julio Cortázar (Twayne World Authors Series) / Peavler, Terry., 1990
  • Julio Cortázar : life, work and criticism / Carter, E. Dale., 1986
  • The novels of Julio Cortázar / Boldy, Steven., 1980


  • Discurso del Oso / children's book illustrated by Emilio Urberuaga, Libros del Zorro Rojo, 2008
  • Imagen de Julio Cortázar / Claudio Eduardo Martyniuk., 2004
  • Julio Cortázar desde tres perspectivas / Luisa Valenzuela., 2002
  • Otra flor amarilla : antología : homenaje a Julio Cortázar / Universidad de Guadalajara., 2002
  • Julio Cortázar / Cristina Peri Rossi., 2001
  • Julio Cortázar / Alberto Cousté., 2001
  • La mirada recíproca : estudios sobre los últimos cuentos de Julio Cortázar / Peter Fröhlicher., 1995
  • Hacia Cortázar : aproximaciones a su obra / Jaime Alazraki., 1994
  • Julio Cortázar : mundos y modos / Saúl Yurkiévich., 1994
  • Tiempo sagrado y tiempo profano en Borges y Cortázar / Zheyla Henriksen., 1992
  • Cortázar : el romántico en su observatorio / Rosario Ferré., 1991
  • Lo neofantástico en Julio Cortázar / Julia G Cruz., 1988
  • Los Ochenta mundos de Cortázar : ensayos / Fernando Burgos., 1987
  • En busca del unicornio : los cuentos de Julio Cortázar / Jaime Alazraki., 1983
  • Teoría y práctica del cuento en los relatos de Cortázar / Carmen de Mora Valcárcel., 1982
  • Julio Cortázar / Pedro Lastra., 1981
  • Cortázar : metafísica y erotismo / Antonio Planells., 1979
  • Es Julio Cortázar un surrealista? / Evelyn Picon Garfield., 1975
  • Estudios sobre los cuentos de Julio Cortázar / David Lagmanovich., 1975
  • Cortázar y Carpentier / Mercedes Rein., 1974
  • Los mundos de Julio Cortázar / Malva E Filer., 1970
  • Yo y Cortázar / Christina Perri Rossi, 2001

See also


  1. ^ Cortázar sin barba, by Eduardo Montes-Bradley. Random House Mondadori, Editorial Debate, Madrid, 2004
  2. ^ Televisión Española, Serie A Fondo. Interview by: Joaquin Soler Serrano.
  3. ^ Cortázar sin barba, by Eduardo Montes-Bradley. Random House Mondadori, Editorial Debate, Madrid, 2004
  4. ^ Cortázar sin barba, by Eduardo Montes-Bradley. Random House Mondadori, Editorial Debate, Madrid, 2004
  5. ^ Sligh, Charles. "Reading the Divergent Weave A Note and Some Speculations on Durrell and Cortázar." [Deus Loci: The Lawrence Durrell Journal] NS 6 (1998): 118-132.

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar (August 26, 1914February 12, 1984) was an Argentine intellectual and author of several experimental novels and many short stories.



Rayuela (Hopscotch) (1963)

  • 'Andábamos sin buscarnos pero sabiendo que andábamos para encontrarnos.'
    • Translation: We went around without looking for each other, but knowing we went around to find each other.
    • Chapter 1.
  • Nada está perdido si se tiene el valor de proclamar que todo está perdido y hay que empezar de nuevo.
    • Translation: Nothing is lost if one has the courage to proclaim that all is lost and we must begin anew.
    • Chapter 71.
The snail lives the way I like to live; he carries his own home with him.

Historias de Cronopios y de Famas (1962)

  • 'Ahora pasa que las tortugas son grandes admiradoras de la velocidad, como es natural. Las esperanzas lo saben, y no se preocupan. Los famas lo saben, y se burlan. Los cronopios lo saben, y cada vez que encuentran una tortuga, sacan la caja de tizas de colores y sobre la redonda pizarra de la tortuga dibujan una golondrina.'
    • Traslation: Now it happens that turtles are great speed enthusiasts, which is natural.
      The esperanzas know that and don't bother themselves about it.
      The famas know it, and make fun of it.
      The cronopios know it, and each time they meet a turtle, they haul out the box of colored chalks, and on the rounded blackboard of the turtle's shell they draw a swallow.

Un tal Lucas (1979)

  • 'AMOR 77'

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.

    • Translation: LOVE 77

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.

Julio Cortázar (1975)

  • "The snail lives the way I like to live; he carries his own home with him."


  • Time is born in the eyes, everybody knows that.

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