Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Notes on Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In his youth, he was especially fond of reading fantasy and poetry. He worked as a teacher and translator in Argentina until, at age thirty-seven, his opposition to the dictatorship of Juan Péron led him to seek a new home in France. He supported himself by translating for a United Nations organization based in Paris.

Cortázarpublished his first collection of short stories in 1951, the year he left Argentina. He won acclaim as a novelist as well as a short-story writer. “Hopscotch,” which he published in 1963, is one of the most important modern Latin American novels. Cortázar loved using experimental literary techniques. His narratives often shift back and forth through time and space, challenging the laws of nature and logic.

In “The Night Face Up,” Cortázar explores a frightening aspect of the Aztec culture. During the fifteenth century, the Aztecs came to dominate what is now central and southern Mexico. Their society was highly organized, with the state controlling all religious, economic, and social activities. Aztec religious worship included ritual sacrifice of humans. In one form of sacrifice, priests would cut out the beating hearts of victims on temple altars. Afterwards, the bodies were thrown down the high temple steps. Most of the sacrificial victims were prisoners of war or subject peoples of the Aztec Empire. Not surprisingly, the Aztecs failed to gain the loyalty of these subject peoples, who helped Spanish invaders destroy the empire in 1521.

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