Julio Cortázar: credit: Jerry Bauer

Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar (1914–1984): An Argentine novelist, poet, essayist, and short-story writer, Cortázar was born in Brussels. After moving permanently to France in 1951, he gradually gained recognition as one of this century’s major experimental writers. His works reflect the influence of French surrealism, psychoanalysis, and his love of both photography and jazz, along with a strong commitment to revolutionary Latin American politics.

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Literature Class

Nonfiction by Julio Cortázar

Translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver

“I want you to know that I’m not a critic or theorist”—so begins the first of eight classes that the great Argentine writer Julio Cortázar delivered at UC Berkeley in 1980. These classes are as much reflections on Cortázar’s own writing—”in my work I look for solutions as problems arise”—as musings about literature. He covers such topics as “the writer’s path” (“while my aesthetic world view made me admire writers like Borges, I was able to open my eyes to the language of street slang, lunfardo”) and the fantastic (“unbeknownst to me, the fantastic had become as acceptable, as possible and real, as the fact of eating soup at eight o’clock in the evening”), Literature Class provides the amazingly warm and personal experience of sitting in a room with this fantastically inventive author.…
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Final Exam

Fiction by Julio Cortázar

Translated from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam

Written in 1950 (just before the fall of Perón’s government), Final Exam is Julio Cortázar’s bitter and melancholy allegorical farewell to an Argentina from which he would soon be permanently self-exiled. In a surreal Buenos Aires, a strange fog has enveloped the city to everyone’s bewilderment. Juan and Clara, two students at a college called “The House,” meet up with their friends, and, instead of preparing for their final exam, wander the city, encountering strange happenings and pondering life in cafés.…
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62: A Model Kit

Fiction by Julio Cortázar

Translated by Gregory Rabassa

First published in English in 1972 and long out of print, 62: A Model Kit is Julio Cortázar’s brilliant, intricate blueprint for life in the so-called “City.” As one of the main characters, the intellectual Juan, puts it: to one person the City might appear as Paris, to another it might be where one goes upon getting out of bed in Barcelona; to another it might appear as a beer hall in Oslo.…
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Cronopios and Famas

Fiction by Julio Cortázar

Long out of print and now reissued in paperback, Cronopios and Famas is one of the best-loved books by perhaps the greatest of Latin American novelists (author of Hopscotch and Blow Up and Other Stories). “The Instruction Manual,” the first chapter, is an absurd assortment of tasks and items dissected in an instruction-manual format. “Unusual Occupations,” the second chapter, describes the obsessions and predilections of the narrator’s family, including the lodging of a tiger — just one tiger — “for the sole purpose of seeing the mechanism at work in all its complexity.…
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As Cortázar stresses throughout his talks, writing is rarely a pursuit of answers but, rather, about investigation—of the self, of one’s work, and of the world at large. The goal of the novel, Cortázar says, is to harmonize its formal and literal questions into a central, destabilizing quandary: ‘Why are things like they are and not otherwise?

The New Yorker

[T]he lectures, at times, do feel cobbled together—but in the best way, in the way of art that thrives in complexity and contradiction. They are made from pieces of Cortázar’s life, his writing, his experiences as a young writer in Argentina and an as exile in Paris, his deep engagement with literature and cinema and politics, and they show the mind of a writer at work, asking questions and unearthing new possibilities.

The Rumpus

Based on the words spoken by Cortázar and his students, the class that he taught appears to be an interesting hybrid of Cortázar as tour guide of his body of work, and as mentor into the broader lessons about the qualities of fiction that resonated most with him.

Culture Trip

The consequent lectures—originally delivered in Spanish and translated adeptly by Katherine Silver—are erudite, intimate, charmingly fragmented, and anecdotal, covering a range of topics, from “Eroticism and Literature” to “The Realistic Short Story.”

—Dustin Illingworth, The Atlantic

He was, perhaps without trying, the Argentine who made the whole world love him.

—Gabriel García Márquez

A first-class literary imagination.

The New York Times

Anyone who doesn’t read Cortázar is doomed.

—Pablo Neruda

This book is a golden nettle.

Christian Science Monitor

I’m permanently indebted to the work of Cortázar.

—Roberto Bolaño

Deeply touching, enjoyable, beautifully written and fascinatingly mysterious.

The New York Times

Anyone who doesn’t read Cortázar is doomed.

—Pablo Neruda

Anyone who doesn’t read Cortázar is doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who has never tasted peaches. He would quietly become sadder… and, probably, little by little, he would lose his hair.

—Pablo Neruda
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