View Full Version : Cortázar, Julio

Danik 2016
10-02-2017, 11:51 PM
I am opening a short story thread for discussing the short stories of Julio Cortázar.

I tried to add the part of the Canterbury Tales thread, that refers to Cortázar.


Danik 2016
10-02-2017, 11:54 PM
I´m impressed that your library has Cortázar short stories collections in English.

The choice for the next story is yours.

10-03-2017, 02:03 PM
I think I will try to read these in Spanish using the link you provided earlier: https://culturacolectiva.com/letras/100-cuentos-de-julio-cortazar-y-jorge-luis-borges/

How about "Casa tomada": http://ciudadseva.com/texto/casa-tomada/ There is also a YouTube reading of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGGOv3t3BMo It is easier for me to understand if I can hear it. I may learn some Spanish at the same time.

Danik 2016
10-03-2017, 02:56 PM
"Casa tomada" is one of my favorites too. And it´s a great idea to use the reading of the story to remember or improve your Spanish. I try to do this with my English in the forum.

I´ll have a look at the you tube reading.

10-04-2017, 02:47 PM
I finished the story. It seemed to me that the house was taken over by all that knitting coming alive, but that wasn't clear to me. One of the good things about them losing their house is that they finally were forced to get out of it. It was a good story--haunting without being scary.

Danik 2016
10-04-2017, 07:47 PM
Interesting interpretation. I hadn´t thought of that. I read the story as a political metaphor: Argentinia taken over by the military dictatorship and people having less and less liberty and space to move.

"Lejana" or "No se culpe a nadie" next?

10-04-2017, 08:50 PM
I was unaware of the politics of Argentina, but that interpretation would make sense. There was the mention in the story that nothing came into Argentina since 1939.

"Lejana" sounds good. Here is the text: http://ciudadseva.com/texto/lejana/ And here is a reading of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzUEqGeuDzM

Danik 2016
10-07-2017, 10:26 PM
I´m looking forward to it.

10-08-2017, 08:12 AM
I read Lejana, however, I will have to read it again. It seemed that Alina dreamed of meeting someone on a bridge in Budapest and got married so she could go to Budapest and meet that person. Unless I totally misunderstood it. As a premonition the story was pretty good.

Danik 2016
10-08-2017, 10:33 AM
You are right, Yes/ No, although,if I remember the story rightly, Aline feels drawn to Budapest as if by a force that she can´t resist. The marriage would be a movement of resistance.

But I am rereading the story too, to remember the details.

10-09-2017, 04:16 PM
She did seem to be drawn to Budapest to meet someone on a bridge. That was what kept my interest in the story: what was drawing her?

Danik 2016
10-09-2017, 10:09 PM
The anagram "Alina Reyes, es la reina y…" seems to dictate her destiny. She is the queen, with her very ordered but somewhat boring bourgeois life. As I see the story she gets more and more possessed by the identity of the unknown beggar woman of Budapest like the man who got obsessed with the axolotles. When they meet on the bridge there is the definite exchange of identity.

10-10-2017, 06:24 AM
Her last name, Reyes, means Kings, so perhaps that is why she views herself as the "reina" or queen. What she predicted to see on that bridge was rather mundane. That she actually got there at all is what I find amazing. This does not seem to be an act of will on only her part.

There is a sense of magical realism in the these stories. Perhaps that is what makes them interesting.

Danik 2016
10-10-2017, 07:41 AM
I don´t think she views herself as a reina, she seems to be bored by her life as an upper class girl and even by her fiancee. I think that is where it all starts. One of the things I like about Cortázar is how he takes peoples unconcious feelings and fears and transforms them in something very concrete, like an besieged house, for example. I don´t know if that is magic realism. It is very different from García Marques.

If you want to go on with Cortázar, I suggest "No se culpe a nadie".

10-10-2017, 07:57 AM
Garcia Márquez is not the paragorn of Magic Realism, if there is any. The very definition is of Magic Realism is sloopy, may be or not be something purelly aesthetical under Borges influence or something related to latin american resistense against imperialism under Carpentier influence. Anyways, it is sometimes a label, very alike the Latin American Boom, that Europeans used to group sometimes distinct authors (sometimes not so so) for an easy understanding and consume in europe.

At any rate, not about this tale, but it is easy to identify magical realism traits in some of Cortázar work, after all he is heavily influenced by Borges (and precussors such as Poe and Kafka - which can be said about Márquez too), but some of his stories are clearly out of the label.

Danik 2016
10-10-2017, 07:21 PM
I looked up magic realism. Sometimes these definitions are very ample, and a label as you say, but I found this one helpful: "Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe'.
I think in Cortázar´s story there are powerful psychological elements. In "La Salud de los Enfermos" the only amazing thing is the capacity off a family for inventing stories to preserve the mother from suffering. It is a story that might have happened.

Why don´t you join us in the reading?

10-11-2017, 08:22 AM
I have read lots of Cortazar already (last month, for example, read his drama Los Reyes), but I am really over busy at work and a bit without energy. I am following, because I may find time once or while.

Anyways, I find that definition quite lacking. It does not address how this something strange that cannot believed happens. It is a key feature for Magic Realism, at least to distinguish it from other forms of Fantasy (Alice in Wonderlands is magic realism? Is Batman, Magic Realism?). What when something is realistic, yet unbelievable like Conrad? There is a strong element that shows the dictomy between real and fantastic is also a dictomy between cultures, like the clash of colony vs metropolis in latin america, and that definition lacks to deal with that.

10-11-2017, 11:47 AM
Stretcher's definition of magic realism as realism "invaded" by something that is unbelievable seems to have merit. That is how I experience it if that is what Cortazar is doing. The stories are realistic but parts of them such as the house being taken in "Casa tomada" require that the reader come up with an explanation because the author doesn't provide one. Some of the magic can be quickly explained away as delusion, but is it really delusion, such as in "La Salud de los Enfermos" when at the end one of the characters feels concerned with how to tell Alejandro that his mother died knowing that Alejandro is already dead. Why does she have that concern at all?

I hear the words "magic realism" often enough that I would agree they probably don't mean anything too specific. But Batman and Alice in Wonderland do not have enough realism in them to qualify as magic realism for me. The whole focus in those works is on the magic. The magic in those works is "invaded" by realism, probably to keep the reader's attention, not the other way around as I see it happening in Cortazar's stories.

10-11-2017, 01:48 PM
The point is not that the definition cannot be applied to Cortázar (or someone else), but how it can be applied to almost anything. For example, Michael Jordan pretty much do unbelieable things in a realistic context. We can use this for Dom Quixote (it is a highly realistic novel after all) and the madness of Alonso Quijano. We can use this for Science Fiction or Detective fiction (Hound of Baskerville for example) and basically any fantatisc literature (Batman is very realistic by the way, compare with for example Snoopy, the whole world is our world invaded by super-heroes). But if Magic Realism is a specific form of fantastic narrative, not all fantastic literature would fit there.

Alice example (which Cortázar could love) is how she is in a realistic setting and dreams (ok, she invades the dreams), but it is more close to surealism, which is another form of literature with realistic setting where unbelieable things happen (but often explained by psychological themes), see Breton's Nadja for example. And Magic Realism is often anti-surrealism, more mathematical in their construction.

Danik 2016
10-11-2017, 09:49 PM
The problem is that if we would have to start by defining "realism", "fantastic literature" and "magic literature". All these concepts are complex.
For example, I never would associate "magic realism" with D. Quixote. There is no subversion of the laws of realism there, as the strange things that happen can all be explained. I don´t know about Batman but I agree with Yes/No that Alice in Wonderland is not a realistic story. I don´t remember if the whole story is a dream, but it certainly depicts a parallel reality, that has it´s own laws.
I think in some of the stories by Cortázar there is a clear subversion of the laws of realism. How can you explain that a man transforms himself in an axolotl or a upper class Argentinian girl transforms herself in a beggar woman from Budapest? Or that a house has been invaded, but all you notice about it is some noises?

In other of his stories people act in an unusual way, but the are neither fantastic, nor are they a case of magic realism. They depict situations that, even if they are exaggerated, they could happen in real life.

10-11-2017, 10:41 PM
Yes, magic realism may demand something paradoxal in relation to reality, but this is not in the defintion I am challenging. It talks about something strange and something strange may not challenge any law. Moby Dick for example. Heart of Darkness for example. Of course, both are Borges's influence, but Strecher definition lacks elements you just added.

Danik 2016
10-12-2017, 02:21 AM
The definition was probably taken out of its context. I cited it from Wikipedia. I couldn´t open the article by Stretcher because one has to register to read it.
Here is some more on magic realism but I don´t know if it is helpful.


10-12-2017, 01:02 PM
I like this quote from the above link: http://dks.thing.net/MagicRealism.html

The Mexican critic Luis Leal has said, "Without thinking of the concept of magical realism, each writer gives expression to a reality he observes in the people. To me, magical realism is an attitude on the part of the characters in the novel toward the world," or toward nature. He adds, "If you can explain it, then it's not magical realism."

Danik 2016
10-12-2017, 11:28 PM
I wouldn´t define magical realism just as an attitude of a character or of characters towards the world. I prefer the idea of conflicting perspectives but for the characters, the magical is usually part of their reality.

10-13-2017, 05:58 AM
Well, despite the presence in the name (albeit, sometimes magic realism is called by other names without magic), I avoid the idea of magic. The strange/fantastic is better, because sometimes it is not necessary something supernatural (Funes, the memorious is often put together as example of early magic realism alongside with Aleph, his brother tale), but you are right there.

The Fantastic that happens is something natural as the rain. It is not like Harry Potter or Narnia, where the fantasic invades a version of our world, because it is clear something apart, something amazing, something the characters see the difference. Maybe it is derivated from Conrad perspective. When he asked why he didnt use supernatural elements in his tales, he answered that Life is already full with fantastic things, so he didnt need to add anything (not with those words). Better be exemplified with Marquez that once said he wrote about stories that happened. Of course, nobody flies in the real world and he knew it.

Also, Magic Realism is different from surrealism, because it is not something about the perceptions of the character (but lets keep the word perspectve in perspective), so it is not in our mind, it is something really in the world. But why perspective? Because that was pretty much the point of the earlier use of Magic Realism, not with this name, with Carpentier. He saw the "conflict" of cultures between the natives, africans and europeans in Latin-America as something that caused this strangeness. He wrote about a world where the european culture had to find out that there was another culture (other beliefs, misticisms, etc) that was also true. So, it is not about the individual perspectives of the characters in the book, but our colective perspective of our cultural formation (our, because, while Brazil was pretty much outside the Boom and early Magical Realism group being sold to europe, later, Jorge Amado was mentioned together in the group - while i do not agree, I can see why, because this conflict of culture is present in many of his works). That is why so many academics refuse to admit magic realism outside latin america, at least a "pure" version of it, because it is normal authors under the influence of Magical Realism to write modern tales of fantastic, but often they do not have the elements to add this perspective in their works.

And why Funes, a story about a men that suffers an accident and then starts to remember everything in every detail could be magical realism, despite being a sittuation that is apparently normal. Because the story is actually about the conflicting notion that something finite could carry something infinite. Funes life is limited, much inferior to his memory that can be about everything. He is pretty much an Aleph and Borges is using his usual approach to mathematical paradoxes here (so, something that challenges reality norms) to bring a story. Of course, Borges predates Magical Realism for decades in a way, when he wrote, it was name mostly used for an expressionist art style, but since when Borges would confine himself to something as trivial as a chronology?

Danik 2016
10-14-2017, 01:15 PM
I don´t know how temperatures are elsewhere, but with 37ş, it has become too hot in Săo Paulo even to think. But today temperatures are slightly lower.
Although I read it long ago for me the most applicable definition of the fantastic is still that of Todorov (I just learnt that he died in Februar) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzvetan_Todorov.

If I remember rightly, Todorov distinguishes between the fantastic and the wonderful. The wonderful according to him is the world of the fairy and similar tales (would that include Alice?) which function according to its own laws. These laws are implicitly accepted by the reader.
In the fantastic world, something weird invades the realistic setting. If you find an explanation for the inexplicable the fantastic effect ceases.

It also ocurred to me that there are very different levels not only of the fantastic but also of realism itself. For example, some forms of political and religious experiences which are the normal every day experience of one people or group may seem absolutely srange to another.

10-14-2017, 04:59 PM
Yes, that is what I was pointing about the definition of Strecher being appliable for all fantastic narratives and not the specific manifestation (magic realism).

10-18-2017, 01:35 PM
I am going to try reading "No se culpe a nadie": http://www.literatura.us/cortazar/nadie.html with audio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFtH_f_REVM

Danik 2016
10-18-2017, 03:55 PM
Great, Yes\No, me too!

10-19-2017, 12:30 AM
I listened to the reading. It seems like he can't put on a pullover sweater for some reason. It seems like he is in a bad dream or perhaps I misunderstood it.