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Julio Cortázar (1914-1984)

The Department of Special Collections possesses a collection of 10 letters of Julio Cortázar's to René Micha, editor of the French literary journal, L'Arc. While the letters mainly concern his contributions to the journal, Cortázar also discusses other writing projects.

In a letter from 25 March 1963, Cortázar writes about Historias de cronopios y de famas, commenting that his style embraced some of the magical aspects found in the writings of Henri Michaux, though he himself leans toward a blacker humor. In another letter from 22 January 1964, Cortázar gives, at Micha's request, an idea of his intentions for the experimental novel Rayuela, and explains the different parts within the book's three "plans." Included with this letter are three-pages in French from the first part of Rayuela.

Biographical Information

Julio Cortázar is considered one of the finest Latin American writers of the Twentieth Century, a master of the short story and leader in the genre of the experimental novel. While he is often mentioned with other members of the Latin American "Boom Generation," which included Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and others, he was also closely allied with Jorge Luis Borges and other Argentine writers of an earlier period. Though he grew up in Argentina, Cortázar was born in France and spent of most of his adult life there.

While training as a teacher in Argentina, Cortázar published his first work, a book of poetry bearing the title Presencia, in 1938. Wider public recognition came a few years later with the 1944 publication of his short story "Casa tomada."

In 1951, Cortázar received a scholarship to study in Paris, and later worked as a translator for UNESCO. While his fame as a writer and work as a translator allowed him to travel extensively throughout his life, France became his home.

Cortázar published three collections of short stories in the 1950s: Bestiario, Final del Juego, and Las armas secretos. These made his reputation as one of Latin America's best short story writers. In 1963 Cortázar published what many consider his masterpiece, the experimental novel, Rayuela. His later works included travelogues, collaborations with painters and photographers, and political writings, as well as more short stories, novels and poetry.

By the time of his death in 1984, Cortázar's work had filled more than thirty volumes, including some eighty short stories.

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Description of Archival Collection (MSH/SCL 1062-1 to 1062-11 and 1064-1)

The collection contains ten letters in French that Cortázar wrote to René Micha, editor of the French literary journal L'Arc, between 20 December 1963 and 3 November 1978. The content of the letters revolve largely around Cortázar's contributions to Micha's journal. Included with one letter is a partial French translation of Cortázar's "Rayeula."

The letters were acquired from Lame Duck Books in August 2001 through the generosity of Robert E. O'Grady.

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Issue no. 80 of L'Arc is dedicated to Cortázar. (Hesburgh Library, General Collection: AP 20 .A66)

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