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April 18, 2014

Celebrations in Argentina, France, Mexico and Spain

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Remembering writer Julio Cortázar 30 years on

A classic photo of Julio Cortázar smoking in his studio.

February 12, 1984, was a sad day for most Argentines and for lovers of Argentine literature and culture: it was the day writer Julio Cortázar died in Paris, the city he had chosen to live and work in since the year 1951. The year 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Cortázar’s death and the 100th anniversary of his birthday on August 26, 1914, in Belgium.

Buried in Paris in the Montparnasse cemetery, Cortázar’s grave was yesterday the site of remembrance ceremonies. His body rests by the side of the tomb of his last wife, Canadian artist Carol Dunlop. Their tombstones are not eye-catching, and idle passers-by only notice the names when they see the heap of books, brochures, cigars, subway tickets, flowers and messages scrawled on the stone.

But yesterday there was no way visitors could pass by their graves without catching a glimpse of a group of Spanish-speaking people gathered to pay tribute to Cortázar. They all stood by the sculpture made by artist Julio Silva, a friend of the late couple’s, and some knelt down to leave written messages. The place was almost silent, save for a faint sound of jazz music, which Cortázar so much loved that he made foremost jazz musician Charlie Parker the protagonist of a celebrated short story, El perseguidor. The jazz tune wails out of the mobile phone of a tourist who has come all the way from Mexico to pay tribute to Cortázar, one of the leading figures of the 1960s literary movement known as the “boom” together with Colombia’s Gabriel García Márquez and Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa.

“I scheduled my visit to France to coincide with Cortázar’s anniversary,” an Argentine tourist says, adding that Cortázar’s work was the subject of her graduate thesis.

Yesterday’s moving tribute at Montparnasse marked the beginning of a year-long series of tributes to be held in Argentina and abroad. The programme includes exhibitions, conferences, publication of new book compilations, activities at the National Fine Arts Museum and the Book and Language Museum, among other institutions. One of the books to be reprinted is Cortázar de la A a la Z, compiled by Cortázar’s first wife, the celebrated translator Aurora Bernárdez. One of the highlights is the feature length film Historias de cronopios y famas (titled after one of Cortázar’s most famous books), an animated production with drawings and paintings by such distinguished artists as Carlos Alonso, Luis Felipe Noé, Antonio Seguí, Daniel Santoro and cartoonist Crist. The movie is scheduled to premiere in Argentina in April or May. Produced by Argentina’s National Film Board (INCAA), the film was directed by Julio Ludueña using 2D and 3D techniques. The movie features the voices of actors Cristina Tejedor and Aldo Pastur.

Apart from Argentina, other countries celebrating Cortázar’s legacy include France, Mexico and Spain. Indeed, the Año Cortázar fuera del país exhibition will be shown at the Paris Salon, where more than forty Argentine writers will pay tribute to Cortázar, and at the Guadalajara International Book Fair, where the Argentine Embassy will host a series of related activities.

Herald with Télam

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