Who was Julio Cortázar and what he wrote – El Sol de México

The leaves pass and time passes. Hundreds of readers play the game, consult maps, review lists of burials, ask for directions, repeat the coordinates in their minds (3rd division, 2nd section, 17 west)… At times they feel lost in that labyrinth-city of countless alleys, where marble and silence govern, which is the Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris.

Until they get there and know that this is the place, where the discreet tombs of the Argentine writer Julio Cortazar (1914-1984) and his wife Carol Dunlop (1946-1982), watch patients kneel in the sun. They feel that they were waiting for them and, then, they leave some souvenir: books, letters, travel tickets, flowers, a cigarette or small stones to play tag. hopscotch.

40 years after his death and 110 years after his birth, Julio Cortazar He continues to be among the most read or cited Latin American authors, he is mentioned in school textbooks and in coffee or bohemian conversations, as one of the greatest innovators of literature in our language during the 20th century.

To remember it, the teacher and poet Eduardo Casar, one of his keenest readers, spoke with The Sun of Mexico about the way in which this author changed the way of writing and reading literature, through his word games.

Language researcher

Cortazar He was a writer who worked on the expectations of reading, of what language and literature are believed to be, to change it; without doing it premeditatedly, because he was not a theorist who was doing experiments with reading animals, but he was asking himself about the possibilities of writing in different ways and inventing, for example, a story in which one never knows what threatens the characters.

“That is why I believe that his fantastic worlds emerge from language, from certain changes in the operations of verbal matter. He was a player. Just like this famous footballerLionel Messidoes wonders with the feet, what it did Cortazar They were arabesques of great novelty, but with language. He took many more liberties than the other writers of the Latin American Boom,” says Casar, with a laugh, as if remembering an impossible move.

About the particular style of Cortazar Compared to the other writers of the Boom, Casar affirms that he “created conflicts from the same words”; while Carlos Fuentes generated them, mainly, through the contrast of ideas and Vargas Llosa, did so from narrative structures. Each one in his own way had his own tactics and strategies. Casar attributes this Cortazarian characteristic to his great interest in poetry – a genre that he practiced before narrative, with his first book Presence (1938) —, because in the words of the same literary star, the story and the poem were “mysterious brothers,” due to their tendency to create brief universes of meaning.

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The oblique look

World renowned for his nine books of stories, such as Bestiary (1951), The secret weapons (1959), All the fires of the fire (1966) or We love Glenda so much (1980); the short story of Cortazar It is populated with fantastic, mythological and also realistic situations, with great narrative experimentation, where its characters can spit rabbits, make communes in the middle of a road, alter the perception of time with music, wake up in the middle of an Aztec sacrifice or become axolotls. .

Of the great diversity present in the Argentinian’s stories, Casar assures that his themes cannot be isolated in a specific way, since rather the great theme of Cortazar It was “the oblique gaze, or the way of seeing the interstices of reality. That is to say: not see the wall, but the cracks it has.”

The best thing about Cortázar is in his sensitivity and not in something very intellectual, he had an affinity with music, he made jazz with language

This musical and literary vision, comments the host of the television program The happy word, was present in other types of prose texts by the Argentine, who “knew how to see the literary in things where others could not,” as was the case in his book Stories of cronopios and famewhere, apart from stories, he also wrote imaginative rules, among them “Instructions for climbing stairs”, or his “Instructions for crying”.

Hopscotch, the game and chance

As a novelist, Cortazar He was also the author of six novels, of which the most recognized—with translations into more than 30 languages—is Hopscotch, that in 2023, he turned 60 years old. According to Casar, it is the most experimental novel of the Great Cronopio, in which he used his own context to continue experimenting and questioning the literary, by presenting a book, with a “navigation board”, that allowed readers to be an active part of the creation.

Full of cultured references due to the intellectual knowledge of its characters, Hopscotchtells the history of Horacio Oliveira, an Argentine intellectual, lost in Paris, who lives in search of love and the meaning of life, together with fellow intellectuals and the enigmatic women The magician; everything, surrounded by the artistic, philosophical and literary reflections of Morelli, a thinker whom Oliveira admire.

From this search for meaning, Casar explains that the characters are after an idea of ​​transcendence, which is why it is related to the image of the hopscotch —which in Mexico has its version in the game of little plane— in which you can ascend from earth to heaven. However, it also highlights his great interest in the chance of things.

“When speaking of the transcendent, what did Cortazar It was playing with many inconsequential things, which could be inconsequential. From the point of view of creation, he was very struck by the chance that was involved (…) All of us experience those sparks of intuition, but we do not follow them. what he did Cortazar “It was writing them very carefully to address the effect of what I was trying to say,” says the poet Casar.

Cortazar He was also a translator of several languages ​​into Spanish, bringing the work of classic authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Margarite Yourcenar, Daniel Defoe, André Gide and others. Work for which, according to Casar, his “ability to listen to the musicality of words” was also very useful.

Remembering the readings, anecdotes, biographies, and correspondences of CortazarCasar considers that the Chronopius Major Possibly he was a somewhat lonely child, who found “his best company in literature and language,” which allowed him to leave a great legacy in our present.

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“Play and freedom, those are the greatest lessons that it has given us Cortazar. When a child plays, he invents his own rules, and he invented his own written rules in a wonderful way, and the best thing is that he invited us to play,” he concludes.

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