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Final Exam (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – July 17, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook (Book 1109)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (July 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811217523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811217521
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,559,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Before Julio Cortazar emigrated to Paris in the '50s, where he composed his masterpiece, Hopscotch, he spent his apprentice years writing essays in Buenos Aires for a magazine edited by Jorge Luis Borges. The '40s in Argentina were politically dominated by the Perons and culturally dominated by European modernism. This novel, written in 1950, although first published in 1985, is tossed by both currents. Two couples, Juan and Clara and Andres and Stella, wander the streets of Buenos Aires the night before their final college examination. This particular night, Buenos Aires is an unreal city. A kind of pestiferous fog, or maybe smoke, has rolled in. Odd, perhaps poisonous, mushrooms are sprouting everywhere. Rumors circulate of some unspecified civil breakdown, and a very strange event is underway at the Plaza de Mayo. A bone is being exhibited in a tent there, and people are lined up to see it. The couples are brought into contact with other night owls--notably a character called the Chronicler, a journalist, who is full of gossip. Juan and Clara are also being stalked by a former friend, Abel, for reasons unmentioned. The next day, Juan and Clara go with Clara's father, Mr. Funes, to hear a concert performed by a blind violinist. While there, Funes gets into an altercation in the men's room. This fractured, impressionistic novel shows Cortazar's immense learning--the narrative is full of literary references to writers from Poe to Andre Malraux--but he had not yet mastered novelistic form. Still, for students of Cortazar's work, this book presents in prototype what will later be his great theme: how the disjunctions of urban life can be expressed in symbols of vague dread. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“The stream-of-consciousness narrative helps to make this one of Cortázar's key works.” (Multicultural Review)

“[A] major undiscovered work...a novel about Buenos Aires which one night turns into a Kafkaesque nightmare. (Worldview, Harry Morales, Summer 2001)

“Cortázar spoke of something more than novelty or progress--he spoke of the radically new and joyful nature of every instant, of the body, the memory and the imagination of men and women.” (Carlos Fuentes)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on January 6, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Stop! If you don't like talky movies and meandering conversations, you'll hate Final Exam. No point reading further. Most of the 'action' in this novel of ideas occurs only implicitly in the final pages, yet intellectually the book reaches a stunning conclusion -- the same conclusion that Julio Cortazar reached in real life the year after he wrote Final Exam. (That's a hint, my friends, in lieu of a 'spoiler'.)

The first half of Final Exam follows five Buenos Aires 'intellectuals' as they wander all night through their city, talking impulsively, compulsively, incessantly. The only forbidden subject in such conversation is silence. Juan and Clara, a young married couple, are scheduled to take important university exams the evening of the next day, so elements of their studies pop up in the conversation with quizzical irrelevance. As you'd expect from such a crowd, much is said more for style than for substance. Juan is a poet; fragments of his own and others' poetry flair up now and then. Andres, somewhat older and possibly wiser, has a "history" with Clara that leaks into the conversation in fits and starts. His current girlfriend, Stella, is too dim to follow most of the discourse; her remarks form a kind of chorus of incomprehension. One allusion leads to another; no one sticks to any topic long; the conversation hop-scotches inconclusively while the protagonists bar-hop through the increasingly ominous chaos of the city. Stilted and disjointed as it is, their conversation rings true. Believe me, English speakers, that's how the intelligentsia of Argentina - and Mexico, Spain, Italy, France - talk! There's a virtuosic realism in Cortazar's depiction.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on April 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Final Exam is a darkly funny novel set in a surreal Buenos Aires. Juan and Clara, two students at a Faculty called "The House" meet up with their friends Andres and Stella, as well as a journalist friend called "the chronicler". Juan and Clara are getting ready to take their final exam, but instead of preparing, they wander the city with their friends, encountering strange happenings in the squares and pondering life in cafes. All the while they are being trailed by the mysterious Abel, apparently a former lover of Clara's. Final Exam features stream-of-consciousness narrative techniques and is one of Julio Cortazar's best works. Ably translated from Spanish by Alfred MacAdam, Final Exam will serve to introduce English readers to a major literary talent.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By jorge salluh on May 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Final exam is a hazy book . What the eyes of Andres Favas shows us is not only a foggy Buenos Aires but a journey into the labyrinths of the late 50's intelectuality. Where does it take him? nowhere of course... inertia is the result of extenuating thinking , so Andre and his friends talk , read , define and redifine life but go nowhere while a surreal city burns.
Cortazar always enjoyed playing with words ( much like Borges) but mostly he played with time. The book has brilliant words but also silence and a stream of consciousness flows through the entire book and through an impossible Buenos Aires , a constelation of metaphores and specially a fast and corrosive intelectually challenging book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Reminding one of what would later develop into the style usedby Cortazar in "Hopscotch" and "62: A Model Kit,""Final Exam" is a nightmarish journey through Buenos Aires. As with 62, many of the most disparaging questions are left unanswered, and the reader is left wondering why this decaying reality seems so familiar. Another great novel from the Master!
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