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Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar Julio Cortázar[2†]

Julio Cortázar, born as Julio Florencio Cortázar Descotte, was an Argentine author of novels and short stories[1†]. He was born on August 26, 1914, in Ixelles, a municipality of Brussels, Belgium[1†][2†]. His parents, Julio José Cortázar and María Herminia Descotte, were Argentine citizens[1†][2†]. Cortázar was educated in Argentina and later moved to Paris in 1951[1†][2†][1†]. He was dissatisfied with the government of Juan Perón and what he saw as the general stagnation of the Argentine middle class[1†][3†].

Cortázar is known as one of the founders of the Latin American Boom and has influenced an entire generation of Spanish-speaking readers and writers in America and Europe[1†][2†]. He is considered one of the most innovative and original authors of his time, a master of history, poetic prose, and short story in general[1†][2†]. He created important novels that inaugurated a new way of making literature in the Hispanic world by breaking the classical molds through narratives that escaped temporal linearity[1†][2†].

His masterpiece is the antinovel Hopscotch (1963), which is considered the first of the “boom” of Latin American novels of the 1960s to gain international attention[1†][3†][2†]. In this work, the reader is invited to rearrange the different parts of the novel according to a plan prescribed by the author[1†][3†].

Cortázar combined existential questioning with experimental writing techniques in his works[1†][3†]. He was a great admirer of Jorge Luis Borges and very early identified with the Surrealist movement[1†][4†]. He worked as a teacher in several cities in Argentina, while he published literary criticism, articles, and short stories[1†][4†]. He also worked for UNESCO as a translator[1†][4†].

Cortázar died on February 12, 1984, in Paris, France[1†][2†]. He had received French citizenship in 1981, though he also kept his Argentine citizenship and remained engaged with political causes in Argentina and Nicaragua[3†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Julio Cortázar was born on August 26, 1914, in Ixelles, a municipality of Brussels, Belgium[2†]. His parents, Julio José Cortázar and María Herminia Descotte, were Argentine citizens[2†][5†]. At the time of Cortázar’s birth, Belgium was occupied by the German troops of Kaiser Wilhelm II[2†]. 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[2†]. The family group spent the next two years in Switzerland, first in Zürich, then Geneva, before moving for a short period to Barcelona[2†]. The Cortázars settled outside of Buenos Aires by the end of 1919[2†].

Cortázar’s father left when Julio was six, and the family had no further contact with him[2†]. Cortázar spent most of his childhood in Banfield, a suburb south of Buenos Aires, with his mother and younger sister[2†]. The home in Banfield, with its back yard, was a source of inspiration for some of his stories[2†]. Despite this, in a letter to Graciela M. de Solá on 4 December 1963, he described this period of his life as "full of servitude, excessive touchiness, terrible and frequent sadness"[2†]. He was a sickly child and spent much of his childhood in bed reading[2†]. 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[2†].

After earning degrees in primary and secondary education, with a concentration in literature, he first taught high school in several small towns and in Mendoza[2†][6†]. He then taught French literature at the University of Cuyo, but his agitation against the Peronist regime led to his arrest and his subsequent forced resignation from the university[6†].

Career Development and Achievements

Julio Cortázar began his career as a teacher in several cities in Argentina, while he published literary criticism, articles, and short stories[4†]. He was a great admirer of Jorge Luis Borges and very early identified with the Surrealist movement[4†]. His anti-Peronist views prompted him to move to Paris in 1951[4†][7†]. He later acquired French citizenship in 1981[4†][7†]. The writer also worked extensively as a translator, working for UNESCO and also translating into Spanish classic works of fiction such as Robinson Crusoe and many of the tales of Edgar Allan Poe[4†][7†].

Cortázar’s first short-story collection, “Bestiario” (1951), was published the year he moved to Paris[4†][3†]. This act was motivated by dissatisfaction with the government of Juan Perón and what he saw as the general stagnation of the Argentine middle class[4†][3†]. Another collection of short stories, “Final del juego” (1956), was followed by “Las armas secretas” (1958)[4†][3†]. Some of those stories were translated into English as “End of the Game, and Other Stories” (1967)[4†][3†].

The main character of “El perseguidor” (“The Pursuer”), one of the stories in “Las armas secretas”, embodies many of the traits of Cortázar’s later characters[4†][3†]. The metaphysical anguish that he feels in his search for artistic perfection and in his failure to come to grips with the passage of time, coupled with his rejection of 20th-century values, was among Cortázar’s central preoccupations[4†][3†]. Another story, “Las babas del diablo” (1958), served as the basis for Michelangelo Antonioni’s motion picture “Blow-Up” (1966)[4†][3†].

Cortázar’s masterpiece, “Rayuela” (1963; “Hopscotch”), is an open-ended novel, or antinovel[4†][3†]. The reader is invited to rearrange the different parts of the novel according to a plan prescribed by the author[4†][3†]. It was the first of the “boom” of Latin American novels of the 1960s to gain international attention[3†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Julio Cortázar was a prolific writer, and his works have had a significant impact on literature. Here are some of his main works:

Each of these works showcases Cortázar’s unique narrative style and his ability to push the boundaries of literary conventions[2†][9†][8†][3†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Julio Cortázar’s literary career spanned almost forty years and included a wide range of works, including novels, plays, poetry, translations, and essays of literary criticism[10†]. His work is often associated with the Magical Realism movement, and he is considered one of its foremost proponents[10†]. His writing is characterized by an exploration of the fantastic that lurks beyond everyday reality[10†][11†].

Cortázar’s work is known for its innovative narrative style. He often created normal settings and conventional characters, only to introduce some strange, even nightmarish, turn of events that threatened the established order[10†][11†]. This fantastic, illogical dimension infiltrates and subverts everyday reality, allowing both reader and writer to experience an exception to the rules[10†][11†].

His short stories are particularly noteworthy for their careful construction and use of symbols and metaphors for subconscious obsessions[10†][12†]. Unlike the Surrealists, Cortázar’s short fictions are not merely fantastical but are carefully constructed, often dealing with extraordinary circumstances in the everyday lives of ordinary characters[10†].

In his novels, Cortázar often identified with particular characters, depicting them as seeking a way of life and love and a more just social order[10†][11†]. His novel “Hopscotch” is a prime example of this, exposing the reader to Cortázar’s theory of the antinovel[10†][11†].

Cortázar’s work reflects a worldview that coincides with that of the Surrealists: The so-called real, concrete world is only one side of a coin whose opposing face is the fantastic, the repressed, the hidden, and the taboo[10†][11†]. Like the Surrealists, Cortázar ventures upon the darker, ignored, and repressed side of humanity[10†][11†]. He did not consider these darker human dimensions to be pathological; instead, they served as exciting keys to a full appreciation of life[10†][11†].

Overall, Cortázar’s work is characterized by its innovative narrative techniques, its exploration of the fantastic, and its insightful analysis of the human condition[10†][11†][12†].

Personal Life

Julio Cortázar was born on August 26, 1914, in Ixelles, a municipality of Brussels, Belgium[2†]. His parents, Julio José Cortázar and María Herminia Descotte, were Argentine citizens[2†]. His father was attached to the Argentine diplomatic service in Belgium[2†]. At the time of Cortázar’s birth, Belgium was occupied by the German troops of Kaiser Wilhelm II[2†]. 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[2†].

The family group spent the next two years in Switzerland, first in Zürich, then Geneva, before moving for a short period to Barcelona[2†]. The Cortázars settled outside of Buenos Aires by the end of 1919[2†]. Cortázar’s father left when Julio was six, and the family had no further contact with him[2†]. Cortázar spent most of his childhood in Banfield, a suburb south of Buenos Aires, with his mother and younger sister[2†]. The home in Banfield, with its back yard, was a source of inspiration for some of his stories[2†]. Despite this, in a letter to Graciela M. de Solá on 4 December 1963, he described this period of his life as "full of servitude, excessive touchiness, terrible and frequent sadness"[2†].

He left Argentina in 1951 to settle permanently in Paris, where he earned his living working as a freelance translator and for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)[6†]. In 1953, Cortázar married the Argentinian Aurora Bernardez, who was also a freelance translator[2†][6†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Julio Cortázar, an Argentine, naturalised French novelist, short story writer, essayist, and translator, is considered one of the most innovative and original authors of his time[2†][13†]. He was a master of history, poetic prose, and short story in general and a creator of important novels that inaugurated a new way of making literature in the Hispanic world by breaking the classical molds through narratives that escaped temporal linearity[2†][13†].

Cortázar was one of the authors at the forefront of the Latin American Boom, a literary movement from the 1960s to 1970s where Latin American works became popular throughout the world[2†][14†]. His works have been translated into different languages, providing insight into the writer’s enduring legacy and the reasons behind his continued popularity[2†][15†].

Cortázar passed away on February 12, 1984, in Paris, France[2†][3†]. Despite his passing, his influence remains strong, and his works continue to be celebrated and studied for their literary significance[2†][15†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Goodreads - Author: Julio Cortázar (Author of Hopscotch) [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Julio Cortázar [website] - link
  3. Britannica - Julio Cortazar: Argentine author [website] - link
  4. Agencia Literaria Carmen Balcell - Julio Cortázars [website] - link
  5. Britannica Kids - Julio Cortázar [website] - link
  6. eNotes - Julio Cortázar Biography [website] - link
  7. don Quijote - Julio Cortazar - Argentinian Writers [website] - link
  8. Gale - Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Works by Julio Cortázar [website] - link
  10. eNotes - Julio Cortázar Analysis [website] - link
  11. eNotes - Julio Cortázar World Literature Analysis [website] - link
  12. eNotes - Julio Cortázar Critical Essays [website] - link
  13. Wikiwand - Julio Cortázar - Wikiwand [website] - link
  14. Wikibooks - Julio Cortázar [website] - link
  15. Heritage Film Project - Exploring the Literary Journey of Julio Cortázar [website] - link
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