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

Colin N.

"Blow-up" is a collection of quite bizarre surreal short stories. Most of these tales involve identity in some way - transformation from one identity to another, strange connections between individuals that blur the distinctions between identities, the destruction of identity and self through interactions with others. The stories are often violent, there is death and horror everywhere. Cortazar creates an often nightmarish landscape where things are not as they seem and the otherworldly appears an ordinary part of existence. Stylistically Cortzar explores some very unconventional storytelling. Which often makes these stories a bit confusing. In some instances I had to just continue reading for a number of pages before I could figure out what was going on. Cortzar is also sometimes intentionally vague, and we are never quite sure what exactly has occurred. Nevertheless many of these stories have some really interesting ideas and are worth the struggle.A good read.


A kind fellow GoodReads member put me on to this author and suggested this book of short stories would be the place to start. All I can say is WOW! Thats not a very appropriate word to use in literary review or criticism but that's my initial reaction. His perspective is unique and unsettling, not for the squeamish and for those who are not willing to go along for the ride, its better to back out before you enter further into his unique and some times unsettling perspective. I started with "Blow-Up" having seen the Antonini(?) film in the 1960's I wasn't sure what to expect or even if that was the directors inspiration for his film. In a nutshell there is little similarity between the book and the film and probably there was never an intention that there be a significant correlation. A kernel of Cortazar's base premise that what we see (either with the naked eye or through a camera lens) is in fact true reality as what we perceive to be the reality. The film succeed in its take on that base premise but the book is so much better and concise in its short narrative that leaves one unsettled. I then went on to "Axolotl" and "House Taken Over" .......what a ride!!! I can easily say his writing and perspective is unlike any author I have read previously. I have returned the book to the library some weeks ago and now must get my own copy as I didn't finish it all, my library, great as it is, had to get this book from another library, yes we have DVDs of the latest blockbuster Hollywood schlock film but books by authors like Cortazar? not so much, what does that say? Check him out but be warned his ideas/writing will get under your skin!

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.

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:


After first reading "Hopscotch," I devoured several of Cortazar's books in college, during a very long, hot, idle summer in Albuquerque. Other favorite experiences that summer included driving "Marlene," the black 1963 Volvo coupe I'd built from the ground-up (9 months), out to the volcano basin on the west side of town, past the Rio Grande, to watch the sun set, listening to things like Miles Davis's "Sketches of Spain" and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Cortazar is a master of altered atmosphere and observation of metaphysical trapdoors in everyday reality. There are long stretches in his novels where he's playing, like a rhythm or background, and it seems not to progress, but then he drops into shimmering majesty. Jewels you'll remember 20 years later. And so, his short stories are in some ways ideal, because there's less meandering and more of the jewels.

Nathaniel Gallegos

I enjoy it so far though I have to admit I am having trouble connecting with his particular brand of dreamy surrealism. I enjoy that the, for lack of a better word, surrealism is lackadaisical, dreamy and almost lazy, that it haunts the stories rather than animates them, but for some reason I am having trouble making any kind of emotional connection with the characters though I do find their mania, if it may be conceived of as such, intriguing. Just going by the first couple of stories there seems to be some kind of theme developing in the particular psychological reactions the characters have towards things, creatures, people etc. that exist in their world. A kind of projection of the personality. However in the two examples I am thinking of (Axolotl, Distances) this psychological projection could conceivably be seen to take on some kind of occult value, and in that these stories are reminiscent, to me anyway, of some kind of folk story dealing with mysterious creatures and figures possessive of malevolent powers and strange abilities to influence and control human life.I find it an intriguing book in many of its premises and I think the way the work is executed is well done, and to some degree even unique, but again there is that barrier here for me where I find myself sort of regarding with a detached amusement and intellectual curiosity the motives of the characters and the driving forces of the story rather than identifying with them as such. It may be worth noting that this is my second approach to Cortazar, whom came highly recommended to me by a friend with exquisite taste in all things literary, after an aborted attempt to read what is apparently regarded as his masterpiece, Hopscotch. If you are new to this man's unique and rather oddball work, and you enjoy a dreamy, detached surrealism and stories with a kind of pleasant exterior but possessing a subtly sinister and dark undercurrent moving beneath them, then this might be for you.

Antonio Rocha

Hechos triviales transformados en historias excepcionales. Cortázar es capaz de tomar cualquier suceso cotidiano (una carta, una propuesta, una fotografía, una cita) y agregarle un toque fantástico para hacer que estos cuentos sean excelentes. Estos cinco relatos hablan de una realidad en la que siempre hay algo escondido, algo que no puede verse ni tocarse, que apenas puede percibirse pero que, llegado el momento, se manifiesta violentamente y jode todo lo que se ponga enfrente.Así, una simple (y perturbadora) confusión en las cartas que envía una madre a su hijo se convierte en el detonante de una crisis matrimonial. En otro de los cuentos una fotografía de una pareja en un parque se transforma en una obsesión que cobra vida. O una cita amorosa se altera hasta convertirse en el peor de los miedos, uno que pareciera regresar del otro mundo. Un jazzman prodigioso pero jodido por la marihuana y unas extrañas ideas sobre el tiempo que no dejan de atormentarlo.Una vez más, la magia de los cuentos está en lo que no se dice, lo que no se hace y lo que no se ve. Al leerlo uno tiene que esforzarse en unir los puntos, descifrar las pistas que Cortázar nos va dejando y seguir leyendo, con la seguridad de que nos espera un final que nos dejara transtornados e impactados.Mis cuentos favoritos:Las babas del diabloEl perseguidorLas armas secretas


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.

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.

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.


"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.


"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 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…”

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.

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