By Hovhannes Vardanyan
Photos by Lucy Sargsyan and from the Internet
2016-12-12 10:33
Julio Cortázar: “When writing, I can’t be dictated or go against myself”
Argentine writer, linguist, screenwriter, novelist, essayist, translator, poet, professor, playwright and literary critic Julio Cortázar has written poems and short stories and has mainly composed in the style of magic realism, and this helped him receive the Medici Award.

The works of Julio Cortázar, as well as the novels, short novels and short stories by Gabriel García Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Miguel Ángel Asturias, Carlos Fuentes and Alejo Carpentier brought Latin American literature into an orbit, without which it would be impossible to imagine 20th century world literature.

Cortázar is considered one of the most unique and innovative writers of his time, the master of short stories and prose and the author of interesting novels. By breaking the classic stereotypes, he heralded the establishment of new forms of Latin American literature and avoided straightforward storytelling. Cortázar’s heroes are fully independent and endowed with an in-depth psychology that had never been seen before. Taking into account the fact that the real and imaginary are infiltrated in his works, Cortázar is often considered a surreal writer.

The first work by the Argentine writer is the short story entitled “House Taken Over”. On one occasion, Cortázar said the following: “I would write short stories and only short stories. I was relentless since I would refer to Borges and his extraordinary compactness.” Borges would always take pride in the fact that he was the first to publish Cortázar in his Anales de Buenos-Aires magazine in 1946.

“It is not easy to translate Cortázar. It is even complex. As Cortázar confessed, he loved jazz music a lot. He would sit and listen to jazz music for a long time and then write short stories in the style of jazz music. Imagine writing in the style of jazz. The complexity doesn’t steer me away. On the contrary, it attracts me because Cortázar is one of my most favorite authors, and his style is very close to my heart,” translator Kara Chobanyan said in an interview with

According to Kara Chobanyan, Cortázar is so unique that literary critics still can’t classify his literature and wonder whether it is magic realism, fantasy or surrealistic. “I always think it is strange to ask why one should read the book of this or that author when it refers to brilliant and internationally reputable authors. If we talked about an unknown or not too well-known writer, I might consider and list the reasons. However, only in Cortázar’s case, I must say that I read his works because he is brilliant. Whoever reads his works will understand why. Whoever doesn’t want to read his works, he won’t read them no matter what I say.”

“Borges taught me and our whole generation to be very demanding of yourself, to assess yourself with a sober mind and not publish anything that is not done well from the professional perspective,” Argentine prose writer Julio Cortázar would say. He made Latin American culture popular, spent most of his life in Paris and wrote novels and short stories in his beloved city.

The first collection of Cortázar’s short stories was released when he was already 50 years old. Although Cortázar considered the novel “Hopscotch”, it is hard to imagine what Latin American literature would be like without his short stories that fully highlight and reveal the image of Cortázar’s aestheticism, his great talent as a writer and his mastery of condensing within a short space.

The military dictatorship in the homeland and his work as a correspondent and translator at the UNESCO, which provided him with the opportunity to tour the world, motivated him to stay in Paris, and Cortázar would say the following about that: “It is better to be nothing in a city that is everything than the opposite.”

When asked if there are initial schemes that he is guided by, the writer replied: “When writing, I can’t be dictated or go against myself. No matter what I create, there have to be elements of fantasy, grotesque, humor and wordplay. I can’t write without turning something upside down and inventing something. My method of working goes against the romantic method. For me, writing is a part of the world of games. It is a tremendous pleasure and an enormous task. You imprecate everything on the face of the Earth, become exhausted, go out of your way and feel tremendously pleased.”

“I have never had any scheme. A miracle happens in literature, at least in my novels it seems as though the schemes automatically appear. It is suffice to introduce some extensive articles, elements and some characters, and everything is in relation with each other. Whether I want to or not, all this dictates solutions and sets objectives for me. For instance, the functioning of a doll in a novel-I wasn’t preparing to introduce such a thing in the text at all. However, one time I was on a train and saw how a girl took a doll out of a trashcan and looked at it for a long time, and there was even something obscene about that,” the writer said in one of his interviews.

Cortázar was very often discontent with the translations of his original works. As we already mentioned, he wrote with a unique rhythm of jazz, and one of the key objectives of his short stories was to reach that rhythm. The writer would very often complain that translators can’t seek that rhythm.

Several books of Cortázar have been translated into Armenian. The first of them, the novel “The Winners”, was published in the Soviet era, followed by a book of short stories entitled “Here and Now” released by Antares Publishing House through the series of books entitled “Foreign Literature”. There are also many bookstores in Yerevan that feature the Russian versions of his books, which also have high sales. Cortázar is in demand among Armenian readers.