The Perfect Mix Between Magic and Psychology: The Universe of Cortázar

Julio Cortazar is one of the greatest Latin American writers, his unique style of mixing fantasy with psychology are renowned. Let’s take a deeper look.

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Univision Julio Cortazar in his House

Famous Argentine writer Julio Cortázar is noted for his distinctive writing style, which merges magical realism with psychological deterioration. Cortázar constructs tales in his short stories and novels that examine the human condition and its conflict with everyday life. This article will examine how Cortázar employs magical realism to depict his characters’ mental decline and how he consistently alternates between Paris and Buenos Aires as settings. If we examine his motivations, life story, and rise to prominence, we will eventually get to his best work, Hopscotch, which culminates in a synthesis of the mystical and the psychological.

Magic and Mental Decay in the Tales of Cortázar

The writing style of Cortázar is noted for its ability to transport readers on a mind-blowing voyage into a place where enchantment and mental corruption are inextricably linked. Reality and fiction dance together in Cortázar’s novels, and his capacity to dive into the most mysterious aspects of ordinary life is clear.


To illustrate the protagonist’s journey into lunacy in Axolotl, Cortázar employs magic. The protagonist is desperately trying to find his place in a world that feels strange and scary; this is symbolized by his fixation with the enigmatic axolotls of the Parisian aquarium. As the protagonist drifts farther and further from reality, he gradually becomes one of these entities, a metaphor for the loss of his own identity. Cortázar utilizes the aquarium as a metaphor for the wall that divides humans from their essential nature, and the axolotls are mute witnesses to this disconnection from reality, producing an unsettling environment that mirrors the protagonist’s fear and infatuation.

Infobae Julio Cortazar looking directly at an Axolotl


Blow-Up is another work by Cortázar that demonstrates his skill at blending magical realism with psychological deterioration. A photographer in this narrative is consumed by his obsession with a shot in which a speck of spit transforms into a monster. As he delves more into this picture, his own sense of reality begins to disintegrate. The power lies in the image’s ambiguity, which defies reason and drives the protagonist mad with suspicion. Cortázar creates a frightening and distressing tale by examining the pathological effects of obsession and the failure to comprehend the unexplained.

The Influence and Results

The effects of fixation on the protagonists’ perspectives and psyches serve as a unifying thread in both narratives. The protagonists in both novels undergo a radical change in their outlook on the world after being ensnared by an obsession that goes well beyond simple curiosity. For Cortázar, most of his writings delved into the depths of addiction and magic. His interest in these subjects stems from several philosophical and literary considerations.

Michelangelo Antonioni Protagonist of the story Blow-Up taking pictures while hiding in a Bush

To begin, Cortázar was profoundly curious about the inner workings of the human mind and all its complexity. He often used the topic of obsession to explore the depths of the psyche and the pathological consequences of extreme feelings. His characters’ obsessions allowed him to delve profoundly and emotionally into their minds.

However, Cortázar was well-known for his boldness in experimenting with his writing style and topics. His use of magic and passion as story elements enabled him to deviate from conventional storytelling and write works that surprised and delighted his readers. His ambition to shake things up led to significant contributions to the growth of modern literature and the testing of accepted literary conventions.

El Grito Literario Julio Cortazar in his working desk writing a new novel while experiencing his creative process

Even further, the obsession and magic motifs mirrored deep facets of the human condition. You might say that obsession is a natural part of being human and that magic is the pursuit of the exceptional in the mundane. Cortázar used these elements to engage his audience and encourage contemplation on the essence of humans and the nature of reality. He also admired writers who could surprise and engage their audience. His tales were captivating and unforgettable because of the mystical aspects he included or how he probed the depths of obsession.

In the City of Love and the City of Fury

Cortázar often uses Paris and Buenos Aires as the locations for his works, yet, these cities are more than simply backdrops; they are integral to the plot. While Paris, the City of Love, is symbolic of affluence, isolation, and the quest for self-discovery, Buenos Aires, the well-known city of Fury, signifies homecoming and ties to Latin American heritage. The author’s life, which included both of these towns, was marked by a perpetual tension between his attachment to his hometown and his need to see the world.

His characters often experience culture shock and isolation in Paris, making them feel like strangers. They face an obstacle in the form of the City of Light, with its foreign and unfamiliar culture. Without a strong cultural foundation, they are left to confront their deepest anxieties and explore their darkest thoughts alone. Paris becomes a psychological maze in tales like Blow-Up and The Continuity of the Parks, reflecting Cortázar’s perspective as an Argentine writer entrenched in a society unfamiliar to him who frequently feels alienated.

Magicas Ruinas Julio Cortazar walking on the streets of Paris

While Cortázar’s protagonists find solace and acceptance in Buenos Aires, they also must confront the consequences of their decision to leave the city. Although the protagonists return to a society and city that are familiar to them, they find that something has changed while they are gone. Because of this, they begin to doubt who they are and where they belong. Some works, like End of the Game and Bestiario, portray Buenos Aires as a spiritual haven, while others use the city as a mirror to examine the changes and difficulties of contemporary existence.

Viajando.Travel City of Buenos Aires

Cortázar’s characters’ conflicting loyalties to either Paris or Buenos Aires represent the author’s own internal conflict as he tries to find his place in the world. His tales, characters, and recurrent themes all benefit from his attention to detail when selecting settings. Cortázar creates a literary tapestry that continues to captivate readers throughout the globe by examining the complexities of identity, the quest for meaning, and the conflict between the known and the unfamiliar through the lens of these two towns.

Cortázar’s Masterpiece

In Hopscotch, which is often regarded as Cortazar’s magnum opus, he achieves literary greatness by breaking free of the constraints of traditional storytelling and establishing himself as an important figure in 20th-century writing. Originally published in Spain in 1963, this book has gone on to become one of the most important works of Spanish literature and the pinnacle of Cortázar’s career.

The novel storyline is what elevates Hopscotch to the level of remarkable work it is. Cortázar subverts the conventions of linear narrative by giving the reader the option of reading the work in either chronological order or by rearranging the chapters. This approach, also known as “continuous reading,” provides the reader with a one-of-a-kind literary experience in which the story takes on the form of a literary maze that must be solved by the reader.

Revista Diners Rayuela Illustration of the Maga and Oliveira the main couple in the book

The protagonist of Hopscotch, Horacio Oliveira, is an alter ego of Cortázar’s who travels to Paris and Buenos Aires to experience new things intellectually and emotionally. The novel’s unconventional structure is challenged by philosophical musings, wordplay, language experimentation, and lyrical aspects. In the novel’s third half, Cortázar adds to its depth and complexity by including notes, newspaper clippings, poetry, and quotations.

The novel Hopscotch is widely recognized as a landmark of avant-garde literature. It’s a masterwork that defies classification and provides several levels of reading thanks to its seamless integration of experimental and emotive elements, intellectual and emotional ones, and abstract and tangible ones. Passion, individualism, loneliness, and the quest for meaning are just some of the topics that Cortázar tackles, and he does it in a manner that really hits home.

Inspirations and Life of Cortazar

The renowned Argentine poet Julio Cortázar had an everlasting influence on literature with his experimental writing and in-depth studies of the human condition. Cortázar combined his European background (he was born in 1914 in Brussels, Belgium) with his Latin American upbringing (he spent his formative years in Argentina). The years he spent in the classroom and the years he spent translating books shaped his perspective on both writing and language.

With the release of Bestiario in 1951 and Hopscotch in 1963, Cortázar gained widespread renown in both Spain and beyond. In particular, the novel’s experimental form and profound philosophical depth made him an international celebrity and an important player in the Latin American “boom” of the 1960s literary scene. The Latin American “boom” was a literary trend that brought international attention to Latin American literary work, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s. During this time, his approach drew readers from all over the globe to his explorations of regional social, political, and cultural subjects.

Pijao Editores Julio Cortazar looking at the camara

Cortázar’s writings have prominent themes of obsession and magic, revealing his interest in human psychology and his ambition to subvert literary norms. As a curious and courageous thinker, he probed the depths of his psyche, looking at the ways in which obsessions and strong emotions may distort one’s view of the world. The fantastic elements in his writings are also metaphors for his willingness to go into the unknown and test the limits between the fantastical and the real.

The global impact of Julio Cortázar’s life and work, his role in the Latin American “boom,” and his facility with tackling weighty topics like obsession and magic are hallmarks of the author’s legacy. His unquenchable intellectual curiosity and willingness to push against the conventions of storytelling ensure his name will live on in modern writing.

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