HAVANA.-Julio Cortázar, an Argentinean of colossal height and an even more expansive mind, lover of Paris and of the World, also visited Havana and fell in love with it, where today he still has a house.
According to what the intellectual Roberto Fernández Retamar once wrote, the author of Rayuela (Hopscotch) said: ‘although he (Cortázar) was born by chance in Brussels, he is of course Argentinean; and since 1959 he also has another country: Cuba’.
The phrase made those from the island ‘spectacularly happy’ and during his second visit to the Caribbean nation, the journalists pestered the narrator, people stopped him in the street and they visited him in his hotel, told the present president of the House of the Americas in a letter.
This institution opened its doors to him and embraced his work and his audacious thinking. There he met other prestigious authors of his generation and he began to take a little more interest in the Latin-American political reality.
Only two years after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cortázar made his first trip to the island and then confessed that during his visit he discovered his big political void: ‘From that day on I tried to acquaint myself with it, tried to understand it, and read about it’.
By coincidence, the same year of the publication of his novel Rayuela in 1963, he participated as judge in the House of the Americas Literary Award competition.
Now, this cultural centre, along with the Cuban Book Institute, The Ministry of Argentinean Culture and the Alia Foundation annually cofund a competition in his name.
The Julio Cortázar Ibero-American Award of stories – awarded precisely on the date of his birthday – was won by the Chilean writer Oscar Barrientos, with the story Quillas como espadas(Keels as Swords), which has an unusual plot that creates an atmosphere that manages to erase reality.
Julio Florencio Cortázar was born on August 26, 1914 – a few days before the German invasion in Belgium – in the Argentinean embassy in Brussels, which was classed as ‘a product of tourism and diplomacy’.
‘I spent my childhood in a haze of spirits, elves, with a sense of space and time that was different from that of the others’ he said when recalling those times.
The father of ’cronopios’, lover of cats, jazz and boxing, claimed that a novel should win for ‘rings’ and a story for ‘knockout’.
As a child, when his asthma, multiple fractures and frequent illnesses kept him bed bound, surrounded by books, he dreamt that he visited Europe and made his home in Paris.
In fact, some critics consider him to be a ‘frenchified’ writer, and it was precisely in ‘the City of Light’ where some of his works were born.
One of his most remembered and praised novels Rayuela breaks the conventional structure of narration and allows for various ways of reading it not only in the linear fashion. The formula caused rage in the literary world and even surprised the creator himself.
He even once confessed: ‘I wrote long passages of Rayuela without having any idea about where they were located and what they were actually responding to…It was a way of making things up as I wrote, without ever progressing from what I could see in that moment’.
On February 12, 1984, leukemia wrote the final chapter of the life of this brilliant Argentinean who had an eternally young-looking face and was always visible in a crowd with his height of 1.93m.
When he left, he left the Magician behind and Horacio Oliveira too, crying inconsolably in glíglico and drawing hopscotch over his tomb in the Montparnasse cemetery.Share on FB Share on TT