Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Anyone who doesn’t read Cortázar is doomed."

Over at if:book, Dan Visel has a nice post on the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, who is probably best known for his proto-hypertext novel Hopscotch — he was perhaps the most radically experimental of the writers of El Boom Latinoamericano. Years ago I read all his major novels, but oddly enough, when I think of Cortázar, what always comes to mind is a very simple and straightforward short story called “The Health of the Sick.” It’s one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read — and if you look for it online, make sure you avoid reviews that tell you what happens. I don't suppose I will ever forget its last sentence.

I read it in the collection of stories called All Fires the Fire, which was the first book of Cortázar’s I bought, and I bought it because of a blurb on the back cover. To this day I think of it as the best blurb I have ever read. It was written by Pablo Neruda:

Anyone who doesn’t read Cortázar is doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who has never tasted peaches. He would quietly become sadder, noticeably paler and, probably, little by little, he would lose his hair. I don’t want those things to happen to me, and so I greedily devour all the fabrications, myths, contradictions, and mortal games of the great Julio Cortázar.

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