Blow-Up and Other Stories

ISBN: 0394728815
ISBN 13: 9780394728810
By: Julio Cortázar Paul Blackburn

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Argentina Favorites Fiction Latin America Latin American Literature Magical Realism Short Stories Spanish To Read

About this book

A young girl spends her summer vacation in a country house where a tiger roams . . . A man reading a mystery finds out too late that he is the murderer's victim . . . In the fifteen stories collected here—including "Blow-Up," which was the basis for Michelangelo Antonioni's film of the same name—Julio Cortazar explores the boundary where the everyday meets the mysterious, perhaps even the terrible.

Reader's Thoughts


Cortazar isn't easy to read but he's worth the effort. In this collection of short stories several stand out in my mind - Axolotl, House Taken Over, Bestiary, Blow-Up, End of the Game and The Pursuer.I was particularly surprised to find out that Cortazar was very knowledgeable about jazz. The Pursuer is a 65 page short story about a jazz musician named Johnny Carter. It soon becomes apparent that Cortazar is writing about jazz great Charlie Parker. Many of the principle characters are easily identifiable as people associated with Parker. The real life Countess Nica de Koenigswarter is Marquesa Tica. Chan Parker is Lan, Pree is Bee. Jazz aficionados will have no problem matching up the fictional names to their real life counterparts. The story’s action takes place in Paris and is narrated by an associate of Carter who has written a biography of the musician. We learn of a recording session where Carter can’t complete a take (due to his drug and mental problems). The song produced is entitled Amorous. This is a reference to the famous Lover Man session in LA where Parker couldn’t complete the take and later that day had a complete nervous breakdown, resulting in his spending six months in what was then called a sanitarium and we now call rehab. (In both fiction and real life the resulting record is released anyway over the objections of the artist.) At first we think the narrator is a good friend of Carter who understands his talent and problems but little by little he reveals himself as just another sycophant who benefits from his association with Carter without truly understanding the depth of his talent or personality . At one time he wishes for Carter’s death and by the end he tells us Carter is “…a poor sonofabitch with barely mediocre intelligence, endowed like so many musicians, so many chess players and poets, with the gift of creating incredible things without the slightest consciousness…”

Lora Grigorova

Тайните оръжия:Когато Хулио Кортасар говори, аз мълча. Когато Хулио Кортасар пише, аз бягам от удобната структура на ревюто, за да се настаня удобно в нелогичното словоблудство, което ми е така любимо. Когато Хулио Кортасар разказва, пред мен се разгъва една въртележка от чувства, емоции и мисли, която може да бъде предадена единствено от една въртележка от думи. Когато Хулио Кортасар дълбае в човешката душа, аз се мъча да разровя своята с надежда да открия нещо там. А когато Хулио Кортасар е в ръцете ми, тогава трите часа път до университета и обратно, по Ваше време, са минути в безкрайността – по мое време.Прочети повече:


The first story of Cortazar's that I ever read was "La Noche Boca Arriba", roughly translatable as "The Night Turned Upside Down". It creeped me out then, and it still creeps me out. As in many of Cortazar's stories, it revolves around the idea that the protagonist simultaneously inhabits two parallel realities, that beyond the "normal events" being described lies a far more terrible world ready to engulf the protagonist (for instance, the obsidian knife of the Aztec executioner-priest). Or there's the opening paragraph of "axolotl": There was a time when I thought a great deal about the axolotls. I went to see them in the aquarium at the jardin des Plantes and stayed for hours watching them, observing their immobility, their faint movements. Now I am an axolotl. Time and again in this collection of brilliantly original short stories, Cortazar pulls the rug out from under the reader. Isabel spends her summer vacation in a country house stalked by a tiger, a situation which she ultimately exploits to get revenge, and a measure of justice. A man sits in his study, reading a murder mystery in which he himself is the victim. This collection, first published in 1967, contains translations of 14 of Cortazar's early short stories, as well as "The Pursuer", an exploration of a jazz musician's creative demons which the author dedicated to Charlie Parker. Though the translation is not particularly impressive, this volume does convey the energy, dislocation, and menace that is characteristic of Cortazar's stories.These stories were simultaneously fun and disturbing to read. I highly recommend them.

Patrick McCoy

I first became aware of Argentine writer Julio Cortazar as an influence on one of my favorite film makers, Wong Kar-wai, which led me to start my journey with Cortazar's masterpiece Hopscotch. And that endeavor left me a taste for more Cortazar, so that led to my next selection: Blow-Up and Other Stories (1958). It is an eclectic collection of various stories: some fantastical, others realistic, some set in Argentina, others in Paris. The variety of the stories keep the reader off balance, looking to see where the author will journey to with a particular story. The standouts for me were: "Axoloti"-where I learned about the Mexican salamander via the narrator, "The Idol of Cyclades"-which was a supernatural and fantastic story seemingly ahead of its time,"A Letter To A Young Lady in Paris"-which is involved with vomiting up rabbits!, "Continuity of Parks"-another visionary meta-narrative ending with a twist. The last two stories, "The Pursuer" (about a junkie jazz musician-Chet Baker?) and "Secret Weapons" (about a love affair) are the longest, but not necessarily the most entertaining nor satisfying.


Dos de los relatos del libro, "Las babas del diablo" y "El perseguidor", están entre lo mejor que he leído este año.

Shivaji Das

Cortazar's writing is like a slow river that has small surprises hidden at every corner. The stories have layers and layers and layers, often talking about the slow surrender of an individual against slowly encroaching oppressiveness of reality, often crashing into a sudden submission. A love letter turns into a suicide note and a wanderer transforms into an axolotl. It is easy to lose Cortazar at many points but I could also get back on the same bus with him. And I wish Cortazar was still alive, sitting beside me, telling me about all the corners I missed when I got down from his magic bus.


"I thought of something odd. I arrived in the terrible city and it was afternoon, a green watery afternoon as afternoons never are if one does not help out by thinking of them." -22"I remember that I stopped to look at the river which was like spoiled mayonnaise thrashing against the abutments, furiously as possible, noisy and lashing." -24"But I'm not writing you for that reason, I was sending this letter to you because of the rabbits, its seems only fair to let you know; and because I like to write letters, and maybe too because it's raining." -40"It'll never be known how this has to be told, in the first person or in the second, using the third person plural or continually inventing modes that will serve for nothing. If one might say: I will see the moon rose, or: we hurt me at the back of my eyes, and especially: you the blond woman was the clouds that race before my your his our yours their faces. What the hell" -114"It's not that I despise people, but she was looking at me with that idiot expression." -156"Memories are always a drag, but this time I liked thinking about the guys and seeing them." -193"When one is not too sure of anything, the best thing to do is to make obligations to oneself that'll act as pontoons." -199


Cortazar's craft as a short story writer is staggering. Even when I wasn't completely engaged by the characters and situations, it was hard not to be blown away by his sinuous, rhythmic way of turning sentences. Like Borges, he operates in a territory where time and memory bleed in and out of each other, where reality flirts with the surreal, the magical and the menacing but is still grounded by the concrete, charmed details of everyday existence. I can't think of many things as utterly mesmerizing as "axoltol" or "continuity of parks" and even the longer ones, while not quite as mysterious or fabulistic, are still beautifully odd and evocative. It's not Hopscotch, but at its best these are still mostly wonderful.

Nick Anderson

A man drinks himself to death because he became the first mortal by killing his doppelgänger, ending his lineage. A woman dreams of a Hungarian peasants life at night, goes on her honeymoon there and the Hungarian takes her life away after they meet. Vivid dreams of an Aztec sacrifice after a motorcycle accident become true. A mans greatest shame is that he coughs up rabbits.Just a sample of what to expect from this volume. Every story is just as strange as the last. It is fantasy in the greatest sense, totally alien to our expectations. The title story Blow Out turns the awkward sight of a public tryst between an older lady and a young man to be part of a sinister plot, discovered by enlarging a photograph. Of course I got the volume because of the lim Blow Out. Every story in here holds on its own. Fortunately or not Blow Out the movie is the only way I can across Cortazar. The only issue is that the syntax can be a little off since it is a translation.


I cannot for the life of me get through this.


"Las Armas Secretas" es un libro que reúne 5 historias: Cartas de Mamá, Los Buenos Servicios, Las Babas del Diablo, El Perseguidor y Las Armas Secretas. Podría empezar diciendo que con el simple hecho de que Cortázar los haya escrito, ya es garantía. Pero para aquellos que aún no lo conocen, este libro bien podría ser una fantástica manera para empezar a enamorarse de él. Encuentro su forma de escribir suave, como si fuera un océano tranquilo que nos va llevando poco a poco mar adentro, hasta que nos hunde y nos asfixia dulcemente con esos sentimientos que transmite en cada palabra. Tiende a describir muy bien cada situación en que se encuentran los personajes, pero jamás se pierde en las descripciones, éstas no se tornan aburridas. Más bien, describe las situaciones siempre centrándose en el sentimiento que quiere transmitir. Nos deja percibir lo que hay alrededor pero sin apartar la vista y la atención de lo que está pasando. Algo que me gustó de cada cuento, es que los finales no concluyen totalmente la historia, nos deja ese espacio para pensar en la vida del personaje, nos da tiempo para divagar un rato, para imaginarnos en la historia y así, continuarla y concluirla nosotros mismos. Mi historia favorita fue "Las Armas Secretas", tal vez porque hay actitudes que comparto con Michèle, tal vez porque me enamoré de Pierre. Es un cuento que contiene grandes sentimientos y pasiones que no llegan a nacer del todo.


5 nouvelles, 5 contes, 5 voyages... Le quotidien, l'illusion, l'irrationnel, le songe, l’imaginaire, le fantastique, ce côté comédie humaine parfois attachant (Bons et loyaux services), parfois effrayant (Les armes secrètes)... On longe cette fine frontière entre la réalité et l’illusion. D’ailleurs, l'une des nouvelles a inspiré Blow-Up d'Antonioni (Les fils de la vierge) tandis qu’une autre s'inspire de la réalité, celle de la vie de Charlie Parker, tant en y ajoutant sa part de fiction (L'homme à l'affût). Et il est important de noter que cette dernière est une avancée majeure dans l'œuvre de l'auteur: se pencher sur un personnage, sur sa conscience, relater une errance entre deux mondes, entre deux temps, entre la réalité et la folie, au nom du jazz. Les personnages ne sont pas ici des outils ou des fonctions à remplir au nom du conte. Il s'agit ici de relater une existence, l'essence d'une existence en quelques pages où Cortázar semble dialoguer avec son personnage, comme on pourrait dialoguer avec son double.Quelque chose germe dans chacune des nouvelles de Cortázar, pourtant il ne nous révèle rien, ou presque rien. On connecte les fragments parsemés avec une minutie diabolique et on en ressort troublés, hantés. Quelque chose s'immisce en nous lecteur. Comme ce moment entre le rêve et le réveil, ce stade où le songe nous habite encore, palpable, mais à mesure que le focus se fait sur la réalité, il se dissipe dans un brouillard plus ou moins épais, ne laissant que son fantôme. Le fantôme d'un rêve, qui peut surgir dans la journée, ou même le surlendemain. Les nouvelles de Cortázar, c'est vivre dans cet entredeux, dans ce processus de focus entre le songe et l'éveil. Mais se réveille-t-on vraiment?Mon admiration pour Cortázar ne cessera jamais de croitre à mesure que je découvre son œuvre, je ne cesserai d'être ébloui tant par le créateur, le conteur, l'écrivain, que par l'homme lui-même, aussi essentiel que Borges.


Cortazar, a mi entender, es un autor que aporta mucho mas a los lectores de inteligencia superior (caracteristica que, lamentablemente, no se aplica a mi). Para el comun de los mortales, sus cuentos a veces dejan un aire de posibilidad, de "que paso?". Las personas de imaginacion desbordante (como Cortazar), pueden completar sus cuentos de mil maneras distintas. Las posibilidades son, francamente, inagotables. Ejemplo perfecto es el segundo cuento del libro -"Los Buenos Servicios"-. Uno da la vuelta a la pagina esperando una respuesta, pero solo se encuentra con mas preguntas. Y dos paginas despues, lo mismo. Cortazar es prueba, en otros cuentos, de que la forma es tan importante como el fondo. Historias triviales se elevan para convertirse en obras llenas de reflexiones de dos lineas, de dialogos que lo hacen a uno pensar. "El Perseguidor" es un buen ejemplo. El cuento me gusto bastante, pero un hecho central le resto muchisima credibilidad: en teoria, los desvarios del protagonista, sus locuras, su esquizofrenia y descontrol, se atribuian casi enteramente al uso de mariguana.

Alin G.

[Review in romanian]In general opera lui Cortazar se axeaza pe cateva teme fundamentale – jocul si trecerea dintr-o realitate in alta, cu precadere din realitatea cotidiana intr-una fantastica (elementele trecerii fiind aproape de fiecare data insesizabile). Ei bine, aceste teme sunt ceva mai subtile in cele cinci povestiri pe care le prezinta volumul de fata.Cartea debuteaza cu o povestire pe care o mai citisem si intr-unul din volumele de la Polirom, insa nu m-a deranjat sa o recitesc. Intitulata Scrisori de la mama, prezinta realitatea unui cuplu de argentinieni care traiesc in Paris din momentul in care scrisoarea obisnuita de la mama pomeneste intr-o fraza numele fratelui mort, ca si cum acesta este inca in viata. Realitatea aceasta se schimba atunci cand numele lui Nico persista si in scrisorile urmatoare, pana in momentul in care este anuntata sosirea acestuia la Paris.In La dispozitia Dumneavoastra trecerea de la o realitate la alta nu este atat de usor de sesizat, in prim plan aflandu-se elementul social. O femeie este angajata pentru o petrecere, insa la fata locului constata ca slujba ei este aceea de a pazi niste catei. La scurta vreme dupa petrecere este contactata din nou de aceleasi persoane care doresc sa o angajeze pentru a juca rolul unei mame la inmormantarea unui personaj din viata mondena. Realitatea se modifica in momentul in care femeia realizeaza ca de fapt nu joaca un rol si ca este singura persoana care il plange de fapt pe cel decedat.Funigei este povestirea din care s-a inspirat Antonioni pentru filmul Blowup. Mai mult decat atat, este un exemplu ideal al metalimbajului narativ, asa cum descinde inca din prima fraza – “Nu se va sti niciodata cum trebuie povestite toate acestea, la persoana intai sau la a doua, folosind a treia plural sau nascocind la nesfarsit forme care nu-s bune de nimic.”Urmaritorul este un omagiu adus lui Charlie Parker si de ce nu, genului muzical jazz. Este cu siguranta cea mai impresionanta povestire a intregului volum, si poate una din cele mai bine structurate nuvele pe care le-am citit. Firul narativ urmareste ultimele zile ale saxofonistului Johnny Carter prin ochii biografului sau. Povestea lui Johnny trece de la scipiri de geniu la momente de dezolare aduse de dependenta de droguri a acestuia, insa nuvela lui Cortazar este un regal adus muzicii, care merita citita (cum altfel) pe ritmurile lui Charlie Parker sau Dexter Gordon.Ultima povestire din volum, Armele Secrete este ceva mai intunecata decat celelalte, analizand intr-un fel trairile interioare ale unui cuplu tanar, incapacitatea de comunicare intre cei doi si un final neobisnuit pentru o povestire de acest gen.

Quinn Slobodian

A while ago Molly was going to lend this book to me. Then she changed her mind and kept it. I had to wait until she left for Spain to read it. I thought this was strange at the time, a bit selfish, out-of-character, but I understand now. Looking at it lying on my bed after I finished it just now, I thought, that's it? Now I just slip it back into the row of other books? Make do with the memory and not the material of it? No. I want it out a little longer. It's like a talisman somehow. I want it in miniature zipped into a secret pocket through the winter. The stories make that same superstitious move, the headfake with reason. This collection is notorious for containing the story that inspired Antonioni's Blow-Up but I think the 60s director was wrong. It should have been Chris Marker. There's the same dream motility of La Jetée, the O. Henry punch line, the forced recognition again that the imaginary premise can be that much more painful than the real.

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