Julio Cortázar

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Julio Cortázar
Cortázar in 1967, photo by Sara Facio
Born26 August 1914
Ixelles, Belgium
Died12 February 1984(1984-02-12) (aged 69)
Paris, France
Resting place Cimetière de Montparnasse, Paris
OccupationWriter, Translator
Nationality Argentine, French
GenreShort Story, Poetry, Novel
Literary movement Latin American Boom
Notable works Hopscotch
Blow-up and Other Stories
Notable awards Prix Médicis (France, 1974), Rubén Darío Order of Cultural Independence (Nicaragua, 1983)

Signature Julio Cortazar signature.svg

Julio Cortázar, born Julio Florencio Cortázar [1] American Spanish:  [ˈxuljo koɾˈtasaɾ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); (26 August 1914 – 12 February 1984) was an Argentine novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Known as one of the founders of the Latin American Boom, Cortázar influenced an entire generation of Spanish-speaking readers and writers in America and Europe.

Latin American Boom Late 20th global century proliferation of Latin American literature

The Latin American Boom was a literary movement of the 1960s and 1970s when the work of a group of relatively young Latin American novelists became widely circulated in Europe and throughout the world. The Boom is most closely associated with Julio Cortázar of Argentina, Carlos Fuentes of Mexico, Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru, and Gabriel García Márquez of Colombia. Influenced by European and North American Modernism, but also by the Latin American Vanguardia movement, these writers challenged the established conventions of Latin American literature. Their work is experimental and, owing to the political climate of the Latin America of the 1960s, also very political. "It is no exaggeration," critic Gerald Martin writes, "to state that if the Southern continent was known for two things above all others in the 1960s, these were, first and foremost, the Cuban Revolution and its impact both on Latin America and the Third World generally, and secondly, the Boom in Latin American fiction, whose rise and fall coincided with the rise and fall of liberal perceptions of Cuba between 1959 and 1971."


Early life

Julio Cortázar was born on August 26, 1914, in Ixelles, [2] a municipality of Brussels, Belgium. According to biographer Miguel Herráez, his parents, Julio José Cortázar and María Herminia Descotte, were Argentine citizens, and his father was attached to the Argentine diplomatic service in Belgium. [3]

Ixelles Municipality in Belgium

Ixelles is one of the nineteen municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region of Belgium.

Brussels Capital region of Belgium

Brussels, officially the Brussels-Capital Region, is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region. Brussels is the most densely populated and the richest region in Belgium in terms of GDP per capita. It covers 161 km2 (62 sq mi), a relatively small area compared to the two other regions, and has a population of 1.2 million. The metropolitan area of Brussels counts over 2.1 million people, which makes it the largest in Belgium. It is also part of a large conurbation extending towards Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven and Walloon Brabant, home to over 5 million people.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a sovereign state in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

At the time of Cortázar's birth, Belgium was occupied by the German troops of Kaiser Wilhelm II. After German troops arrived in Belgium, Cortázar and his family moved to Zürich where María Herminia's parents, Victoria Gabel and Louis Descotte (a French National), were waiting in neutral territory. The family group spent the next two years in Switzerland, first in Zürich, then Geneva, before moving for a short period to Barcelona. The Cortázars settled outside of Buenos Aires by the end of 1919. [4]

Wilhelm II, German Emperor German Emperor and King of Prussia

Wilhelm II or William II was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia. He reigned from 15 June 1888 until his abdication on 9 November 1918 shortly before Germany's defeat in World War I.

Zürich Place in Switzerland

Zürich or Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zürich. It is located in north-central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zürich. The municipality has approximately 409,000 inhabitants, the urban agglomeration 1.315 million and the Zürich metropolitan area 1.83 million. Zürich is a hub for railways, roads, and air traffic. Both Zurich Airport and railway station are the largest and busiest in the country.

Geneva Large city in Switzerland

Geneva is the second-most populous city in Switzerland and the most populous city of Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Situated where the Rhône exits Lake Geneva, it is the capital of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.

Cortázar's father left when Julio was six, and the family had no further contact with him. [5] Cortázar spent most of his childhood in Banfield, a suburb south of Buenos Aires, with his mother and younger sister. The home in Banfield, with its back yard, was a source of inspiration for some of his stories. [6] Despite this, in a letter to Graciela M. de Solá on December 4, 1963, he described 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, who spoke several languages and was a great reader herself, introduced her son 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 elves, with a sense of space and time that was different from everybody else's".

Jules Verne French novelist, poet and playwright

Jules Gabriel Verne was a French novelist, poet, and playwright.

Education and teaching career

Cortazar in his youth JulioCortazar001.JPG
Cortázar in his youth

Cortázar obtained a qualification as an elementary school teacher at the age of 18. He would later pursue higher education in philosophy and languages at the University of Buenos Aires, but left for financial reasons without receiving a degree. [7] According to biographer Montes-Bradley, Cortázar taught in at least two high schools in Buenos Aires Province, one in the city of Chivilcoy, the other in Bolivar. In 1938, using the pseudonym of Julio Denis, he self-published a volume of sonnets, Presencia, [8] which he later repudiated, saying in a 1977 interview for Spanish television that publishing it 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. [9] In 1944, he became professor of French literature at the National University of Cuyo in Mendoza, but owing to political pressure from Peronists, he resigned the position in June 1946. He subsequently worked as a translator and as director of the Cámara Argentina del Libro, a trade organization. [10] In 1949 he published a play, Los Reyes (The Kings), based on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. In 1980, Cortázar delivered eight lectures at the University of California, Berkeley. [11]

University of Buenos Aires public university in Argentina

The University of Buenos Aires is a public research university in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Established in 1821, it is the premier institution of higher learning in the country and one of the most prestigious universities in the region. It has educated 17 Argentine presidents, produced four of the country's five Nobel Prize laureates, and is responsible for approximately 40% of the country's research output. According to the QS World University Rankings (2019), the UBA places number 73 globally, making it the highest ranked university in Latin America and the top Spanish language university in the world.

Eduardo Montes-Bradley Argentinian-American documentarian and photographer

Eduardo Montes-Bradley is an award-winning documentarian, and author. His early work can be traced to the social conflicts in Central America in the 1980s. In the late 1990s, began to develop a series of documentary films on Latin American writers which includes biographical sketches on Jorge Luis Borges, and Julio Cortázar. He later explored Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian cultures in such films as “Samba on your Feet” ,.. In 2008 he co-founded Heritage Film Project a publishing effort that includes biographical studies on Holocaust survivors, social activists (Julian Bond Che Guevara and Evita, historical themes, literature and the Arts as well as exposés on scientists working on research at the University of Virginia. Montes-Bradley films have been are frequently aired on American and European Public Television, and they have been recognized and awarded at prestigious film festivals. Montes-Bradley is a published author and has been translated into foreign languages by Random House and Sperling & Kupfer.

Chivilcoy Partido Department in Argentina

Chivilcoy Partido is a partido in the northern area of Buenos Aires Province in Argentina.

Years in France

In 1951, Cortázar emigrated to France, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life, though he traveled widely. From 1952 onwards, he worked intermittently for UNESCO as a translator. He wrote most of his major works in Paris or in Saignon in the south of France, where he also maintained a home. 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 as well as Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution and Salvador Allende's socialist government in Chile. [12]

UNESCO Specialised agency of the United Nations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris, France. Its declared purpose is to contribute to promoting international collaboration in education, sciences, and culture in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

Translation communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text

Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. The English language draws a terminological distinction between translating and interpreting ; under this distinction, translation can begin only after the appearance of writing within a language community.

Saignon Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Saignon is a commune in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. The nearest town is Apt.

Cortázar had three long-term romantic relationships with women. The first was with Aurora Bernárdez, an Argentine translator, whom he married in 1953. They separated in 1968 [13] when he became involved with the Lithuanian writer, editor, translator, and filmmaker Ugnė Karvelis, whom he never formally married, and who reportedly stimulated Cortázar's interest in politics, [14] although his political sensibilities had already been awakened by a visit to Cuba in 1963, the first of multiple trips that he would make to that country throughout the remainder of his life. He later married Canadian writer Carol Dunlop. After Dunlop's death in 1982, Aurora Bernárdez accompanied Cortázar during his final illness and, in accordance with his longstanding wishes, inherited the rights to all his works. [15] [16]

He died in Paris in 1984, and is interred in the Cimetière de Montparnasse. The cause of his death was reported to be leukemia, though some sources state that he died from AIDS as a result of receiving a blood transfusion. [17] [18]


Cortazar photographed in Buenos Aires in December 1983, when he returned after 10 years of exile in France Cortazar buenos aires.jpg
Cortázar photographed in Buenos Aires in December 1983, when he returned after 10 years of exile in France

Cortázar wrote numerous short stories, collected in such volumes as Bestiario (1951), Final del juego (1956), and Las armas secretas (1959). In 1967, English translations by Paul Blackburn of stories selected from these volumes were published by Pantheon Books as End of the Game and Other Stories ; it was later re-titled Blow-up and Other Stories. Cortázar published four novels during his lifetime: 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). Except for Los premios , which was translated by Elaine Kerrigan, these novels have been translated into English by Gregory Rabassa. Two other novels, El examen and Divertimento, though written before 1960, only appeared posthumously.

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, Giannina Braschi, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa.[ citation needed ] Cortázar's use of interior monologue and stream of consciousness owes much to James Joyce [19] and other modernists,[ citation needed ] but his main influences were Surrealism, [20] the French Nouveau roman [ citation needed ] and the improvisatory aesthetic of jazz. [21] This last interest is reflected in the notable story "El perseguidor" ("The Pursuer"), which Cortázar based on the life of the bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker. [22]

Cortázar also published poetry, drama, and various works of non-fiction. In the 1960s, working with the artist José Silva, he created two almanac-books or libros-almanaque,La vuelta al día en ochenta mundos and Último Round, which combined various texts written by Cortázar with photographs, engravings, and other illustrations, in the manner of the almanaques del mensajero that had been widely circulated in rural Argentina during his childhood. [23] One of his last works was a collaboration with 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. As a translator, he completed Spanish-language renderings of Robinson Crusoe , Marguerite Yourcenar's novel Mémoires d'Hadrien , and the complete prose works of Edgar Allan Poe. [24]

Influence and legacy

Cortazar's grave in Montparnasse, Paris Juliocortazar.jpg
Cortázar's grave in Montparnasse, Paris

Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blowup (1966) was inspired by Cortázar's story "Las babas del diablo", which in turn was based on a photograph taken by Chilean photographer Sergio Larraín during a shoot outside of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. [25] Cortázar's story "La autopista del sur" ("The Southern Thruway") influenced another film of the 1960s, Jean-Luc Godard's Week End (1967). [26] The filmmaker Manuel Antín has directed three films based on Cortázar stories, Cartas de mamá, Circe and Intimidad de los parques. [27]

Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño cited Cortázar as a key influence on his novel The Savage Detectives : "To say that I'm permanently indebted to the work of Borges and Cortázar is obvious." [28]

Puerto Rican novelist Giannina Braschi used Cortázar's story "Las babas del diablo" as a springboard for the chapter called "Blow-up" in her bilingual novel Yo-Yo Boing! (1998), which features scenes with Cortázar's characters La Maga and Rocamadour. [29] Cortázar is mentioned and spoken highly of in Rabih Alameddine's 1998 novel, Koolaids: The Art of War .

North American novelist Deena Metzger cites Cortázar as co-author of her novel Doors: A Fiction for Jazz Horn, [30] written twenty years after his death.

In Buenos Aires, a school, a public library, and a square in the Palermo neighborhood carry Cortázar's name.


Recording from the Library of Congress

Julio Cortazar reading from his own work

See also

Further reading



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  1. Montes-Bradley, Eduardo. "Cortázar sin barba". Editorial Debate. Random House Mondadori. p. 35, Madrid. 2005.
  2. Cortázar sin barba, by Eduardo Montes-Bradley. Random House Mondadori, Editorial Debate, Madrid, 2004
  3. Herráez, Miguel. Julio Cortázar, Una Biografía Revisada Alrevés, 2011 ISBN   9788415098034 p. 25
  4. Montes-Bradley, Eduardo. "Cortázar sin barba". Editorial Debate. Random House Mondadori, p. 110, Madrid, 2005.
  5. Herráez, Miguel. Julio Cortázar, Una Biografía Revisada Alrevés, 2011, ISBN   9788415098034, pp. 38 & 45,
  6. Banfield is mentioned in the short story "Conducta en los velorios" [ permanent dead link ] from Historias de cronopios y de famas .
  7. Herráez, Miguel. Julio Cortázar, Una Biografía Revisada. Alrevés, 2011, ISBN   9788415098034, p. 343.
  8. Conversaciones con Cortázar on YouTube Omar Prego, Muchnik Editores, 1985 (p. 33).
  9. Julio Cortázar - A fondo on YouTube TVE 1977.
  10. Herráez, Miguel. Julio Cortázar, Una Biografía Revisada. Alrevés, 2011, ISBN   9788415098034, pp. 118-119.
  11. Illingworth, Dustin. "The Subtle Radicalism of Julio Cortázar's Berkeley Lectures". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  12. Liukkonen, Petri. "Julio Cortázar". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 28 April 2009.Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help); Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |website= (help)
  13. Herráez, Miguel. Julio Cortázar, Una Biografía Revisada Alrevés, 2011 ISBN   9788415098034 pp. 245-252.
  14. Mario Goloboff (1998). "Chap. 11: De otros lados". Julio Cortázar - La biografía. pp. 170–174. ISBN   950-731-205-6.
  15. «Las cartas de Cortázar», article in the newspaper El Mundo (Madrid), 15 July 2012.
  16. Julio Cortázar. Cartas, 3 (2000 edition, Alfaguara), p. 1785. ISBN   9505115938.
  17. Una nueva biografía sostiene que Cortázar habría muerto de sida clarin.com, 7.06.2001
  18. «Peri Rossi: “Cortázar murió de sida por una transfusión”», article in the newspaper ABC from 25 January 2009.
  19. Julio Cortázar y James Joyce
  20. Picón Garfield, Evelyn. Es Julio Cortázar un surrealista?, 1975
  21. "El jazz en la obra de Cortázar" Archived 2013-11-24 at the Wayback Machine , p. 41.
  22. Doris Sommer, "Grammar Trouble for Cortázar", in Proceed with Caution, When Engaged by Minority Writing in the Americas, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, p. 211.
  23. Herráez, Miguel. Julio Cortázar, Una Biografía Revisada Alrevés, 2011, ISBN   9788415098034, p. 242.
  24. Biblioteca Julio Cortázar, Fundación Juan March.
  25. "Fallece Sergio Larraín, el mítico fotógrafo chileno que renunció al mundo | Cultura". La Tercera. 2012-01-24. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  26. Jean Franco, "Comic Stripping: Cortázar in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", in Critical Passions: Selected Essays, eds. Mary Louise Pratt and Kathleen Newman, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999, p. 416.
  27. “No hice otra cosa que plagiar a Cortázar”, Pagina 12, 21 March 2012.
  28. Roberto Bolaño, Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003, trans. Natasha Wimmer, New York: New Directions, 2011, 353.
  29. Debra A. Castillo, editor, Redreaming America: Toward a Bilingual American Culture, "Language Games," by Ilan Stavans, pp. 172-186, SUNY, New York, 2005.
  30. Deena Metzger, Doors: A Fiction for Jazz Horn, Red Hen Press, Pasadena CA, 2004