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¡Feliz cumpleaños, Julio Cortázar!

Julio Cortázar, one of the greatest writers ever,1 was born on August 26, 1914, and to celebrate the week of his birthday, Archipelago Books, one of the greatest presses ever, is offering a 25% discount on all three of the Cortázar books that they publish. Just insert “HOPSCOTCH13,” a code based on one of the greatest books ever written, at the checkout to get the discount.

Here’s a bit more info about the three Cortázar titles that Archipelago publishes:

Autonauts of the Cosmoroute

The concept behind Autonauts of the Cosmoroute is so perfectly Cortazarian in its gamelike setup: Julio Cortazar and his companion Carol Dunlop decide to spend an entire month in 1982 living on the freeway between Paris and Marseille (the “Southern Thruway,” which was the name and topic of an earlier Cortazar story), stopping at two rest stops each day and staying overnight at the second. With only 490 miles separating Paris and Marseilles, they don’t actually drive for very long on any given day. Using words and pictures, they create a scientific account of their journey, their thoughts, their experiences, of living life in a Volkswagen bus at a snail’s pace, discovering the secret pathway right next to this modern creation designed to be experienced at a blur.

It’s a mad idea, but not without it’s charm. [. . .]

Autonauts of the Cosmoroute is a strange book—not just in terms of Cortazar’s oeuvre, but in general. It’s a book to be cherished over a series of days, read leisurely, without trying to tease out any big themes, or gain any great insights. It’s a book shot through with nostalgia, conveying a longing for a simpler time, for a month in the “country” experimenting with a new way to live and truly creating a special experience for these two people. There is an undercurrent of sadness running throughout, and for good reason: in the prologue, Cortazar’s “illness” is mentioned (he reportedly died of leukemia in 1984), and at the very end, Dunlop has passed away and Cortazar is editing the book by himself. This is a special book, definitely worth reading, one that will alter your view of highways forever.

(From the review I wrote for Quarterly Conversation.)

From the Observatory

In my opinion, From the Observatory is the most challenging of all his books that I’ve read. In part, this is due to my own blindspot when it comes to poetry and poetic writing; in part, this is due to the elusive mingling of images and ideas present in this short, dense text.

In the interview I conducted earlier this week with Anne McLean [no longer available online] we talked a bit about the “Julio Cortazar” that Archipelago has been constructing through the publication of From the Observatory, The Diary of Andres Fava, and Autonauts of the Cosmoroute. In contrast to the Big Ideas and novelistic pyrotechnics found in the “classic” novels, these three books are quieter, and more personal. And in a way, they seem more focused on producing beautiful individual lines, than wowing the world with grand philosophical ideas.

That’s not to say that From the Observatory isn’t philosophical or removed from Cortazar’s earlier interests. Science and scientific metaphors run throughout Cortazar’s work, and are foregrounded in this piece, which intertwines information about the life cycle of eels from an article by Claude Lamotte that appeared in Le Monde with photographs and information about Jai Singh’s observatories.

(From this Three Percent review.)

The Diary of Andres Fava

The jacket copy:

Andrés Fava is a character from Cortázar’s Final Exam, and his diary originally formed part of that novel, written in 1950 but not published (for political reasons) until after the author’s death. At some point, Cortázar decided Fava’s diary should stand on its own as an independent work.

While Final Exam is mostly dialogue, Diary of Andrés Fava is all reflection: on his reading, dreams, conversations and writing. This unpredictable collection is peppered with quotes from French poets and American jazzmen. Bemused and melancholy, erudite and searching, this first-time English translation of Diario de Andrés Fava is full of autobiographical winks at the reader. Cortázar’s brilliance and irreverence are in full flower.

So head here now and buy them all . . .

1 After I get my hyphellipses tattoo—which I’ve been talking about for literally ever—I want a “62” somewhere in honor of Cortázar’s 62: A Model Kit.



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