Las Armas Secretas

ISBN: 846630360X
ISBN 13: 9788466303606
By: Julio Cortázar

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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 stories collected here -- including "Blow-Up;' on which Antonioni based his film -- Julio Cortazar explores the boundary where the everyday meets the mysterious, perhaps even the terrible. This is the most brilliant and celebrated book of short stories by a master of the form.

Reader's Thoughts

Jamyang Phuntsok

It's always good to come across a writer who leads you to a new world and gives you a new way of looking at things. So it is with Cortazar and his stories in this book. I liked most of the stories, where reality is disrupted by something bizarre or mysterious, ending sometimes in horror ('The Night Face Up', 'The Idol of the Cyclades'). I thought reality is also presented as something 'flimsy' that could give way to something else ('Axolotl', 'Secret Weapons', 'Blow-up'). Later stories are more conventional. 'Bestiary', 'End of the Game' are psychological, Henry-James' like stories, the former is worth reading again. 'At Your Service' is unusually moving. 'The Pursuer' is perhaps the most difficult piece, not to mention the longest. Part story, part memoir (if I am not wrong), the 'Ch.P' at the start must be Charlie Parker whose art, and struggle with drugs is covered by his biographer and jazz-critic narrator. Like jazz itself, it is difficult to follow.Not just the themes, one is also struck by the language and the style. Although I didn't ponder too much over the sentences but they gave me the impression that they also had their place in the Cortazian world. One could read some of these stories just for the terrific, vivid images that they create (as in 'The Night Face Up'). In the Spanish original, these stories must be all the more crazy. Definitely worth reading if you are a fan of the so called magic-realism genre, also if you are not.


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.


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.


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.


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."

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.

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."


"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

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


I cannot for the life of me get through this.


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

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.

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.

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.

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