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Cronopios and Famas Paperback – April 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Anyone who doesn't read Cortazar 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 . . . and, probably, little by little, he would lose his hair. -- Pablo Neruda

About the Author

Julio Cortázar (1914-1984), Argentine novelist, poet, essayist, and short-story writer, was born in Brussels, and moved permanently to France in 1951. Cortazar is now recognized as one of the century's major experimental writers, reflecting the influence of French surrealism, psychoanalysis, and his love of both photography and jazz, along with his strong commitment to revolutionary Latin American politics.

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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Classic
  • Paperback: 162 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811214028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811214025
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on January 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Cronopios and Famas," by Julio Cortazar, is one of those wonderful books that stands in a class by itself. It has been translated from Spanish into English by Paul Blackburn. The book is a collection of interconnected short pieces that often blur the distinctions between the short story and the essay; some of the pieces further share aspects of poetry and drama. Cortazar also incorporates elements of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and comedy into this work. Call "Cronopios and Famas" a novel, if you prefer; or simply label it "experimental literature." But whatever you call it, read it!
The book is divided into four main sections, each of which is further subdivided into several short pieces. The first section, "The Instruction Manual," contains such pieces as "Instructions on How to Cry" and "Instructions on How to Climb a Staircase." Cortazar invites us to look at everyday things and actions from a radically altered perspective; in the process, he seems to point towards an occult, or metaphysical, wisdom.
The second section, "Unusual Occupations," details the antics of a bizarre family (think TV's "Addams Family" as drawn by Dr. Seuss, with input from Franz Kafka). The third section, "Unstable Stuff," is the most varied and chaotic section of the book, and is rich in fantastic and absurd elements.
The final section of the book has the same title as the entire book: "Cronopios and Famas." In several short vignettes Cortazar draws a portrait of an alternate society populated by three different types (races? castes? species?) of beings: Cronopios, Famas, and Esperanzas.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Vince Cabrera on August 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
All the reviewers have said that this book is wonderful and they're better than me at saying it. Suffice it to say that I agree with them and that any money that's not spent in buying this book is wasted.
But to be original, I'd like to add that the translation could be a lot better. The stye is quite ambivalent, attempting to anglicize place names in some stories and going back to the original Spanish in others. What point is there in mentioning "The Barrio Pacifico" alongside "Humboldt Street"? Give us either "The suburb of Pacifico" or "The Calle Humboldt". Why "Calle Serrano" and not "Serrano Street"? General Custer incongruously shows up in one of the stories too, which is a bit jarring. The result is all too often a mishmash of tones and styles which is confusing and not even good English. What the heck is "gifting" anyway? Why not use the more normal (and far less pretentious) "giving"?
Furthermore, the translator seems to have a complete lack of understanding of Spanish genders. He tends to get male and female genders and the occasional noun confused. Such carelesness is a pity. In the original Spanish the Esperanzas are clearly female and not male as Mr. Blackburn seems to think. His understanding of Argentine Spanish ("Castellano") is somewhat vague, which is also a pity: a great deal of Cortàzar's charm lay in his ear for ordinary everyday speech which introduces a note of sane humanity into the weirdest of his tales.
To be fair, translating Cortàzar is NOT an easy task. It'd be a real job for footnotes.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Cronopios and Famas is a humorous and discourteous charge against the establishment. The lengthy title of one of its chapters gives us a summary of the entire books intentions: "A Small Story Tending To Illustrate the Uncertainty of the Stability within wich We Like to Believe We Exist, or Laws could Give Ground to the Exceptions, Unforeseen Disasters, or Improbabilities, and I Want to See You There".
Through this series of short anecdotes, myths, and "instructions", Cortazar succeeds in satirizing (undermining) the traditional concepts of work, family, and social customs. His original and fascinating observations make this book entertaining as well.
I first read Paul Blackburn's translation of this book five years ago, the humor was so absorbing and endearing that barely twenty pages into the book I was willing to declare it a favorite of mine; now, having read it for the third time, it is no less astonishing. I recommend it to anyone with a taste for absurd literary humor.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Maggie N. on January 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is on my list of favorite books of all time; it is a great book not because it subtly describes the frivolties of life and not because it shows the persistence of human spirit, blah blah blah... It is a beautiful and great book because it makes you laugh - in its own great non funny way. It is not laughing out loud, of course, more like chuckling to yourself as you read it. You even get to identify with the characters of the book, with their weird perks and idiosyncracies. In our real world, the cronopios have a great cult following (at least online) - in the book, they are what people strive to be: worry-free animals in pursuit of happiness.
I read this book on a regular basis, mostly in short pieces. It is written in short chapters, so even when you are too tired to read anything else, this will cheer you up.
Recommended for all conoisseurs of inventive and experimental literature.
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