Friday, August 26, 2005

Hopscotch your way through the blogosphere . . .

. . . to the Julio Cortazar Page (in Spanish) in honor of the Argentine writer's birthday today. For those of you who can't be bothered with babelfish but would like to know more, here is a rather plain but nonetheless informative site in English. At least in my corner of the world, his work is hard to find at the local bookstores but is well worth the search. He's best known in this country for his novel Hopscotch (1963) and his short story "Blow-Up," which was the basis for the Antonioni film of the same name.

Cortazar came to prominence in this country with the other "Boom"-era (1950s-1970s) Latin American novelists (Garcia Marquez, Fuentes, Vargas Llosa, Rulfo, Amado, Sabato, etc.). But in sensibility he is rather different from them--more European than American (as in the Americas) in his orientation. Strange things happen in Cortazar's novels, but they are less magical-realist odd and more metaphysically odd. In that regard, then, he more overtly resembles his fellow Argentine Jorge Luis Borges (whose own birthday was 2 days ago) than are the other "Boom" writers.

If you don't yet know Cortazar's work, you should, lest this fate, described by Pablo Neruda, befall you:

Anyone who does not read Cortazar 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.

Heaven forbid, eh?

Hopscotch is one of the classics of the postmodern novel and so is a Must Read (at least) if you are interested in such things. Any collection of his short stories is well worth browsing the half-price stores for, but I can recommend very highly We Love Glenda So Much and A Change of Light. In story after story, what Cortazar is after, and beautifully achieves in spades, is Atmosphere of a brooding, even despairing sort; these are meditations, many of them, on how the existential Self gets ignored by others in favor of an Image others have envisaged: the Postmodern Condition of the individual. And then there is the very intriguing "collage book" (his term for it) Around the Day in Eighty Worlds: a collection of poems, fiction, essays and reviews, accompanied by photographs, some taken by Cortazar himself.

Fun fact: He owned a cat named Theodore Adorno.

I hope you'll have a look for his work. You will thank me later.

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René López Villamar said...

Feliz cumpleaños al Gran Cronopio!

I must agree with Mr. Meridian, Hopscotch is a most read.


Ariel said...

This post is enlightening. I didn't know much about Cortazar's background. Thanks, John!

Also, sounds like I may have to get a copy of Hopscotch.