Julio Florencio Cortázar was born on August 26, 1914, in Ixelles, a district south of the city of Brussels, capital of Belgium. In those days, it was a country invaded by the Germans. Little “Cocó”, as his family nicknamed him, was the son of the Argentineans Julio José Cortázar and María Herminia Descotte. His father was an official at the Argentine embassy in Belgium, where he served as commercial attaché. Julio would later comment: “My birth was a product of tourism and diplomacy.”
Towards the end of the First World War, the Cortázars managed to move to Switzerland thanks to the German status of Julio's maternal grandmother, and from there, a short time later, to Barcelona, where they lived for a year and a half. Cortázar was four years old when he and his family returned to Argentina. He spent the rest of his childhood in Banfield, south of Greater Buenos Aires, with his mother, an aunt and Ofelia, his only sister (a year younger than him).
As he told it, his childhood was misty and with a different sense of time and space than the others. When he was six years old, his father abandoned the family, and they had no further contact. Julio was a sickly child and spent a lot of time in bed, so reading accompanied him. At the age of nine he had already read Jules Verne, Victor Hugo and Edgar Allan Poe. He also used to spend hours reading a Little Larousse dictionary.
Cortázar was a precocious writer, at the age of nine or ten he had already written a small novel, “fortunately lost,” as he himself declared, and even before that some stories and sonnets. Given the quality of his writings, his family, including his mother, doubted the veracity of his authorship, which generated great sadness in Cortázar, who shared that memory in some interviews.
After completing his primary studies at School No. 10 in Banfield, he trained as a normal teacher in 1932, at the Mariano Acosta Normal School of Teachers, located at Urquiza 277 in the Balvanera neighborhood, whose atmosphere he will recreate in the story “The Night School.” ”. This title enables you to practice teaching. That same year he unsuccessfully attempts to travel to Europe on a cargo ship with a group of friends (a failure that we can find explicit in Place Called Kindberg). That same year, in a bookstore in Buenos Aires, he discovered the book Opio, by Jean Cocteau, whose reading "completely" changed his vision of literature and helped him discover surrealism.
In 1935 he obtained the title of Normal Professor of Letters and entered the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Buenos Aires. He passes the first year, but since in his house "there was very little money and I wanted to help my mother", he abandons his studies to start teaching. Two years later he was appointed professor at the National School of a small city in the province of Buenos Aires, Bolívar. He reads tirelessly and writes stories that he never publishes.
In 1938 he published his first collection of poems, “Presencia” under the pseudonym Julio Denis. In July 1939 he was transferred to the Chivilcoy Normal School.
In 1941, under the pseudonym Julio Denis, he published an article about Rimbaud in the magazine Huella, which together with the magazine Canto were important vehicles of expression for young writers. He moved to Cuyo, Mendoza, and at his University he taught courses in French Literature. He publishes his first story, Bruja, in the magazine Correo Literario. He participates in demonstrations opposing Peronism. When Juan Domingo Perón wins the presidential elections he presents his resignation.
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It brings together a first volume of stories “The Other Shore.” He returns to Buenos Aires, where he begins to work at the Argentine Book Chamber.
In 1946 he published the story “Casa Tomada” in the magazine Los anales de Buenos Aires, directed by Jorge Luis Borges. That same year he published a work on the English poet John Keats, The Greek Urn in the Poetry of John Keats in the Classical Studies Magazine of the University of Cuyo. He collaborates in several magazines, Realidad, among others. He publishes an important theoretical work, Tunnel Theory.
In 1948 he obtained the title of public translator of English and French, after completing studies in just nine months that normally take three years. The effort causes him neurotic symptoms, one of which (the search for cockroaches in the food) disappears with the writing of a story, “Circ”, which together with “Casa Tomada” and “Bestiario” (appearing in Los anales de Buenos Aires) will later be included in Bestiario, which was his first book of short stories.
He then obtains a scholarship from the French government and travels to Paris, with the firm intention of settling there. He begins to work as a writer at UNESCO.
In 1953 he married Aurora Bernárdez, an Argentine translator, with whom he lived in Paris with some financial hardship until he accepted the offer to translate the complete works, in prose, of Edgar Allan Poe for the University of Puerto Rico. This work would later be considered by critics as the best translation of the American writer's work.
In 1959 he published “The Secret Weapons” (Sudamericana Ed.), which includes the long story “The Pursuer.” This story represents a bias in Cortázar's narrative. There he addresses "a problem of an existential type, of a human type, which will later be expanded in “Los Premios” and, above all, in “Hopscotch” (1963).
In 1961 he made his first visit to Cuba. That same year, the Fayard publishing house published the aforementioned “Los Premios,” the first translation of a work by Cortázar.
Then he published “Historias de cronopios y defamas” in the Minotauro publishing house in Buenos Aires and in 1963 “Rayuela” (Sudamericana Ed.) appeared, of which 5,000 copies were sold in the first year. In that same period he participated as a jury in the Casa de las Américas Award, in Havana.
In 1967, he broke his relationship with his first wife Bernárdez and married the Lithuanian Ugné Karvelis, whom he never married and who instilled in him a great interest in politics.
In 1970 he traveled to Chile, invited to the inauguration of the government of President Salvador Allende. The Sudamericana publishing house publishes the book Relatos, which includes a selection of stories from “Bestiario”, “End of the game”, “The secret weapons” and “All the fires the fire”.
In November 1974 he was awarded the Médicis étranger for “Manuel's Book” and gave the prize money to the United Front of the Chilean resistance. That year he was a member, along with the writers Gabriel García Márquez and Armando Uribe (the latter, in his capacity as a jurist), of the Russell II Tribunal meeting in Rome to examine the political situation in Latin America, in particular violations of Human Rights. . The result of that participation was the comic published later in Mexico “Fantomas contra los vampires multinacionales”, which Gente Sur published in 1976.
Also, in 1974, along with other writers such as Borges, Bioy Casares and Octavio Paz, they requested the release of Juan Carlos Onetti, the Uruguayan writer arrested for deliberating as a jury in favor of the story “The Bodyguard” by Nelson Marra, and whose imprisonment It caused traumatic consequences.
Cortázar was persecuted during the military dictatorship that occurred in Argentina between 1976 and 1983, he denounced and led the complaints and accusations to the Human Rights organizations of the Argentine exiles in Paris to the international press against the dictatorship.
In 1976, he traveled to Costa Rica where he met Sergio Ramírez and Ernesto Cardenal, undertaking a clandestine journey to the town of Solentiname in Nicaragua. This trip marked his life forever and was the beginning of a series of visits to that country. After the triumph of the Sandinista revolution, he repeatedly visited Nicaragua and closely followed the process and reality in both Nicaragua and Latin America. These experiences resulted in a series of texts that would be compiled in the book “Nicaragua, so violently sweet.”
In 1981, the socialist government of François Mitterrand, in one of his first decrees, granted Cortázar French nationality on July 24.
With his third partner and second wife, the American writer Carol Dunlop, he made numerous trips, among others to Poland, where he participated in a solidarity congress with Chile. Another of the trips he made with Carol Dunlop was captured in the book “Los autonautas de la cosmopista”, which narrates the couple's journey along the Paris-Marseille highway. After Carol Dunlop's death in 1982, Aurora Bernárdez accompanied him again, this time during her illness.
Between November 30 and December 4, 1983, he traveled to Buenos Aires to visit his mother after the fall of the dictatorship and the assumption of the government by President Raúl Alfonsín. The authorities ignore his presence, but he is warmly received by the people, who recognize him on the streets.
On February 12, Julio Cortázar dies and is buried in the Montparnasse cemetery, in the grave where Carol Dunlop, his last wife, lay.
In 1984 the Konex Foundation awarded him postmortem the Konex Honor Award for his great contribution to the history of Argentine literature.
In 1986, the Alfaguara publishing house began publishing the complete works of Julio Cortázar, even those that had remained unpublished until his death. With that purpose he creates a special collection, “Biblioteca Cortázar”.
Julio Cortázar's work was translated into several languages. His books live fully in the collective imagination of Latin America and the rest of the world.
In Buenos Aires there are many places that remember him and that are named after him in his honor. Some of them are: Plaza Cortázar, formerly called Plaza Serrano, located at the intersection of Serrano, Jorge Luis Borges and Honduras streets, in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood.
Also a street in the Rawson neighborhood (Espinosa) was named after him because the writer lived there for a few years, before leaving for Paris.
The Cortázar bridge, located on San Martín Avenue, in the Agronomía neighborhood (in the city of Buenos Aires), was named that way for the same reason.
And several educational institutions are named after him, such as the Basic Secondary School No. 13 “Julio Cortázar”, located at Bogotá 2759, in the Flores neighborhood, among others.
In the city of Buenos Aires, the London City cafeteria, named as a notable bar in 2000, a classic in downtown Buenos Aires, on the corner of Avenida de Mayo and Perú, in the San Nicolás neighborhood, is remembered because the writer Julio Cortázar chose some of its tables in the 60s to write his novel “Los Premios”. Even the cafe is mentioned as London in some of the paragraphs of the book. In this place, on the table where Cortazar used to sit, there is, in his honor, a life-size statue of him, smoking a cigar, with a coffee and a book on his table.
In April 1993, Aurora Bernárdez donated the author's personal library, on Martel Street, to the Juan March Foundation in Madrid; more than four thousand books, of which more than five hundred are dedicated to the writer by their respective authors, and most of them have numerous annotations by Cortázar, about which the work Cortázar and the books (2011), by Jesús Marchamalo, talks about.
During 2014, on the occasion of one hundred years since his birth, books were published as a tribute and exhibitions about the author were held in various countries. A monument in his honor was inaugurated in the Plaza Libertador of the National Library of Buenos Aires.