Childhood & Early Life
Julio Cortazar was born to Julio Jose Cortazar and Maria Herminia Descotte in Belgium, Brussels. His family, originally belonging to Argentina, relocated to Zurich shortly after his birth.
For two years, the family moved around Europe, settling at various cities including, Zurich, Geneva and Barcelona. The family finally settled at Buenos Aires in 1919.
After his parents separated, young Cortazar spent much of his time with his mother and younger sister. He was raised in the Banfield area of Buenos Aires. Since he was a sickly child, he spent much of his time bed reading. It was then that he developed a liking for the works of Jules Verne.
Academically proficient, he completed his formal education and by the age of 18, obtained a qualification as an elementary school teacher. He took up studying philosophy and languages later on from the University of Buenos Aires but did not graduate from the same.
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He took up a profession in teaching and served as the teacher in two high schools based in the cities of Chivilcoy and Bolivar.
In 1938, he came up with a volume of sonnets that he published under the pen name Julio Denis. However, he rebuffed this work of his later on.
In 1944, he took up as a professor of French literature at the National University of Cuyo. Five years later, he came up with a play titled, Los Reyes, which was based on the myth of Theseus and Minotaur.
Since he had an opposing line of belief as compared to the government of Juan Domingo Peron, he moved to France where he spent the rest of his life.
In 1951, he came up with a collected volume of short stories titled, ‘Bestiario’. The following year, he started working as a translator for UNESCO. He completed numerous works including Spanish interpretation of the works of Robinson Crusoe, Marguerite Yourcenar and Edgar Allan Poe.
From 1952 to 1959, he came up with several humorous and spirited stories that were published under the book, ‘Historias de cronopios y de famas’. Similarly, he came up with other works include ‘Todos los fuegos el fuego’ and ‘Libro de Manuel’.
It was during this time that he was influenced by the works of Alfred Jarry and Comte de Launtreamont. Towards the end of the decade, he came up two more works titled ‘Final del juego’ and ‘Las armas secretas’
In 1963, he released his magnum opus, ‘Rayuela’ or ‘Hopscotch’, which is an open ended novel or antinovel that invites the reader to rearrange the different parts of the novel according to a plan prescribed by the author
In 1967, publishers Pantheon Books came up with selected stories of Paul Blackburn which were compiled under the title, ‘End of the Game and Other Stories’. While the same served as the name for the hardcover edition, in the paperback, it was known as ‘Blow-Up and Other Stories’
Later on, he came up with various novels including Los premios (The Winners), Hopscotch (Rayuela), 62: A Model Kit (62 Modelo para Armar), and Libro de Manuel (A Manual for Manuel). While Los premios was translated by Elaine Kerrigan, the other novels were translated into English by Gregory Rabassa.
Along with Carol Dunlop, he came up with one of his last works ‘The Autonauts of the Cosmoroute’. The work based on the mock-heroic style, detailed the explorations made by the couple from Paris to Marseille in a Volkswagen camper nicknamed Fafner.
Other than literary works, he was actively involved in advocating human rights in Latin America. He was an ardent supporter of the Sandinista revolution as well as the Fidel Castro revolution. He even supported the Salvador Allende’s socialist government in Chile.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was twice married in his lifetime. The first was to Aurora Benardez, an Argentina translator in 1953. The relationship did not last long and the couple separated in 1967 due to his infidelity.
Same time, he became involved with Lithuanian Ugne Karvelis. The two were deeply in love but never married. It was Ugne who instilled in him the interest in politics.
He finally tied the knot with Canadian Carol Dunlop. She served as his soul mate until her death in 1982, following which he was taken care of by his former wife, Aurora Bernandez. Bernandez supported him right through his illness and later life.
He breathed his last in Paris in 1984. He was interred at the Cimeti�re de Montparnasse. Though it is widely speculated that leukemia was the cause of his death, he reportedly died due to AIDS which was caused due to blood transfusion.