Born in Brussels, Belgium, Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) was an Argentine writer who emerged as a key pillar in the Latin American Boom, a literary movement where Latin American authors captured worldwide attention in the mid-20th century.
Early Life and Education
Julio Florencio Cortázar Descotte was born on August 26, 1914. His family returned to Argentina shortly after his birth, and Cortázar grew up in Buenos Aires. Although known to be a sickly child, this didn’t prevent him from developing an intense passion for literature.
Cortázar was an avid reader and began writing at an early age. He studied to be a teacher and then a professor, and graduated with a degree in letters from the University of Buenos Aires. During this time, he also worked as a translator, a craft he continued throughout his life.
Cortázar started his serious literary career in the 50s with the publication of his first book of short stories, “Bestiario” in 1951. This work already displayed some of the elements that would mark his future work: surrealism, games with time and space, and an unsettling blend of the everyday and the fantastical.
True international recognition came with the publication of “Final del Juego” in 1956, and later, with his most famous novel, “Rayuela” in 1963. “Rayuela” is considered a masterpiece and one of the pillars of the Latin American Boom. This novel breaks with traditional narrative conventions, as it can be read in several different orders.
Julio Cortázar was not just an inventive novelist but also an accomplished short-story writer and translator. His works are known for their innovative style and structures, imaginative scenarios, and complex themes. Here are some of his most notable works:
“Hopscotch“, considered Julio Cortázar’s magnum opus and a cornerstone of Latin American Boom literature, is a transformative piece of literature. Set in the vibrant cities of Paris and Buenos Aires, the novel follows the enigmatic life of Horacio Oliveira,
“End of the game” (1956)
This is another collection of short stories that cemented Cortázar’s reputation as a master storyteller. The book includes the widely studied story “Continuity of Parks”, famous for its unexpected twist.
“Las armas secretas” (1959)
This collection includes one of Cortázar’s most famous stories, “The Devil’s Drool” (“La babas del diablo”), which inspired Michelangelo Antonioni’s film “Blow-Up.”
In addition to being a prominent writer, Cortázar was also known for his political activism. He moved to France in 1951, where he lived most of his adult life. During the period of the military dictatorship in Argentina, Cortázar became an active voice against repression and censorship.
Death and Legacy
Cortázar died in Paris on February 12, 1984, but his literary legacy endures. He left a vast body of work, including short stories, novels, poems, essays, and translations. In his honor, the City Government of Buenos Aires established the “Cortázar Novel Award” for young writers.
His innovative style and his ability to blend the magical and the everyday in his stories have influenced countless writers. Through his life and work, Julio Cortázar remains a bright beacon in Latin American literature.
From his humble beginnings in Argentina to his status as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, the life and work of Julio Cortázar is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Through his playful and innovative literature, he reminded us that art has no limits and that imagination can transform our view of the world.
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