Friday, January 13, 2006

Final Exam by Julio Cortazar

A review of Julio Cortazar's Examen

There is a reason why that novel, "Final Exam", written in 1949-1950, has taken so long to see print. In an introductory note, Cortazar (who died in 1984, not long before a Spanish edition was finally produced) says merely that "it was impossible to publish the book then".

But much of the responsibility must be placed on the text itself, which is dense, challenging, obscure, highly allusive and at times incoherent, and generally lacks the magic that characterizes the mature Cortazar. At the same time, it is an ambitious, innovative and revealing book, so it will be welcomed by all the Undoomed, members of the Cult of Julio (since "anyone who doesn't read Cortazar is doomed", according to Pablo Neruda).

Cortazar always struggled with longer forms. His masterwork, "Hopscotch", overcomes this by piecing together stories, poems and essays, then allowing the reader to skip from one to another rather than reading them sequentially. But many of his other novels have a planned-out quality that diminishes the spontaneity found in his shorter prose. (Cortazar once wrote that he wanted his writing to be like a jazz ``take'': a single, continuous, improvisational riff.)

You can find the full article here.

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