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

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

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:

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!


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.


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.

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.


"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.


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


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.


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.


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

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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