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


"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

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.


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.


Amazing stories. Profound, subtle, bold, shocking, delicate. Peculiar and delightful. Great introduction to Cortazar's writing and leaves you wanting more.


To quote another review, "Cortazar displays throughout his stories the ability to elevate them above the condition of those gimmicky tales which depend for effect solely on a twist ending. His genius here lies in the knack for constructing striking, artistically 'right' subordinate circumstances out of which his fantastic and metaphysical whimsies appear normally to spring." (--Saturday Review)These tales deserve a place alongside the canonical short story greats. Imagine, if you will, that James Joyce had written The Garden of Forking Paths, or that Jorge Luis Borges had written The Dead. Metaphysics, illusion, suspense, imagination...he crafts an excruciating balance between the utterly mundane and the unbearably surreal, all seasoned with that Nabokovian ex-pat flavour of human detail and scenic artistry. Personal favourites are Letter to a Young Lady in Paris, House Taken Over, the title piece, and At Your Service, though the entire collection is a balanced and thoroughly well conceived work.


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:

Rebekka Istrail

I grew tired of certain mystical themes (i.e., life repeats itself, and two individuals can be telepathically connected and can trade places). Also, certain stories I'm sure I didn't fully understand (e.g., "At Your Service"). My favorite stories in this collection were "End of the Game" and "Bestiary." I also found the following ones engaging: "House Taken Over," "Letter to a Young Lady in Paris," "The Idol of the Cyclades," "The Night Face Up," and "Axolotl."


"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.

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.

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.

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.


I cannot for the life of me get through this.


after reading Hopscotch...and reading it some more I figured I'd continue hanging out in Julio's alternate universe for awhile...though I understand that in English he is "more intense."


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.

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