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Blow-Up and Other Stories

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  6,018 ratings  ·  305 reviews
A young girl spends her summer vacation in a country house where a tiger roams . . . A man reading a mystery finds out too late that he is the murderer's victim . . . In the fifteen stories collected here—including "Blow-Up," which was the basis for Michelangelo Antonioni's film of the same name—Julio Cortazar explores the boundary where the everyday meets the mysterious, ...more
Paperback, 277 pages
Published February 12th 1985 by Pantheon (first published 1968)
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Glenn Russell
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Oh, Julio, if I could just have a moment to talk to you. You are up here in your heavenly jazz tree, on a higher branch then where I am sitting, laughing at the sadness of the world stuck in its own grass and mortar rather than taking a ride in the whirlwind of imagination, reading Blow-Up, Axolotl, House Taken Over, Continuity of Parks, End of the Game and other stories in this little book of yours. You play the divine trumpet, buzzing your lips on the horn of plenty, the jazz of words,
The author has made Axolotls alive like beings who are conscious of their existence; as if they can steer their lives at their 'will'.

As if they can define it, which only a conscious being can do.

"They were lying in wait of something, a remote dominion destroyed, an age of liberty when the world had been that of axolotls."

The central theme of the story is existential angst about no inherent meaning of life and still existing authentically by defining your life and then taking responsibility to
This volume is my introduction to Cortázar, part of my 2012 Year of Discovering Latin American and Spanish writers. I have his novels on my horizon, and I'm itching to read them, but I thought starting with a short story volume would be a good introduction.

In the past, I have neglected short stories, in part because of an early preference for huge novels that I could escape in for days at a time. There may have been some elements of an introvert's frustration over getting to know a series of
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014

Now I am an axolotl!


After spending some quality time in the company of Julio Cortazar and his choice short prose, I believe I can more easily identify with the weirdness, wonder and mystery of existence, as seen though the ‘lens’ of his imagination. I may not be sure which side of the glass wall I am standing right now and what exactly I am looking at, but I recognize that reality/ realism is not providing all the answers I need, and that sometimes we need a tiger roaming around the house for
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here are stories of the prismatic-elastic-imaginative-labyrinthine type. Okay, Cortazar isn’t for everyone - his sentences stubbornly don’t do what you expect them to do, and those readers resistant to the particular magic of language, that it can simultaneously be music and meaning, archaic and capable of instigating a profoundly new perspective, bewildering and grounding, need not proceed. Those of you who have already closed avenues of readerly-possibility off, need not proceed. Those of you ...more
Parthiban Sekar
"I prefer the words to the reality that I'm trying to describe.",

says Cortázar. Through his exquisitely beautiful sentences what he offers is more than reality. The question of magical realism as his style is debatable. But what his stories overwhelm with is eccentricity. Most of his stories can be easily classified as 'uncanny', because of his way of encompassing his characters in a surreal mystery, of which they think as reality.

Time and Identity evidently seem to be the play things for
Jack Tripper

Cover of the 1968 Collier Books mass-market paperback (248 pages).
Nate D
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: axolotls, or anything else on the other side of the glass
Recommended to Nate D by: Antonioni and everyone else, correctly.
I've been starting a lot of story collections lately without (yet) finishing them, and this is another of those. I was reading it aloud, which is interesting and a little tricky, because the words here perform very strange and nuanced tricks of tone and configuration, resulting in elegant sentences that don't always make immediate sense. At least not until they've fully left the mouth, which can make it a challenge to anticipate the cadences and stresses as they emerge.

Published in 1968, but
Steven Godin
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Having taken a bigger interest in Latin-American writers in the past few years, I was asked the question recently had I ever read julio cortazar? No, I hadn't, I replied. I was then asked are you a fan of the short-story? Yes, yes I am, I said. I was then told to absolutely read Blow-Up and Other Stories. So I did. And although I can't score it a five, it was a collection that really grabbed my attention. I found then vividly experimental in nature, and a mixture of all sorts of things, some ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A tiger stalking the house a young girl is holidaying in; middle-aged siblings who experience an enforced segregation in their home; a young man who cannot stop vomiting baby rabbits; a disaffected and drug-addled jazz musician via the eyes of his morose biographer-this is the rich tapestry from which Cortazar weaves his short stories, whether it be the lachrymose streets of Paris or the sultry neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires, the constant theme which runs through Cortazar's novel is the ...more
Mattia Ravasi
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Video review:
Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2017

There's gold for everyone in this amazing collection, showcasing some of Cortazar's best stories. Fans of the quirkier and more sinister tales might be put off by the more sprawling, epiphanic stories, and vice-versa, but what can you do - it's still a must read.
Jan 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
While reading this book, I turned into the book, but remained myself looking at the book looking at me. Then I threw up a bunny who, it turns out, is creeping up behind me as I write these wor-
There was a time when I thought a great deal about the story "Axolotl". When I envied those rhythms, their faint movements, those sentences in particular, intimate, slightly illogical, thought-like vectors achieving a rolling quality that is not like a sentence at all. Yes, above all I envied Cortazar's sentences, which are unique in their grammatical messiness, their organic connections, the imperceptible consequences of unfolding. Those days I read "Axolotl" obsessively, drunk on the sound of ...more
Jun 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: south-america
I had the same problem with this book that I've had with most of the short story collections I've read the last few years. I really liked the first stories, but then it only went downhill. I'm almost starting to suspect that this is a conscious strategy - putting the best works first, and then just filling up the rest.

I bought this book solely because of the story "Continuity of Parks", the only thing I had previously read by Cortazar. In only two pages it can be said to contain everything a
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Cortazar's craft as a short story writer is staggering. Even when I wasn't completely engaged by the characters and situations, it was hard not to be blown away by his sinuous, rhythmic way of turning sentences. Like Borges, he operates in a territory where time and memory bleed in and out of each other, where reality flirts with the surreal, the magical and the menacing but is still grounded by the concrete, charmed details of everyday existence. I can't think of many things as utterly ...more
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Well, shit. Now I have to change my opinion of Cortazar. These stories, at least toward the beginning of this collection are in a vein quite separate from that of Hopscotch, a book I loathed. And as much perverse pleasure as I've gotten out of poo-pooing that novel, I know now that at some point I'm going to have to give it a second chance. This was just too good.
I'm fairly sure that in every picture I've seen of Borges, he's wearing a suit. Imagine that old gentlemen instead in flip-flops and a
Cortazar isn't easy to read but he's worth the effort. In this collection of short stories several stand out in my mind - Axolotl, House Taken Over, Bestiary, Blow-Up, End of the Game and The Pursuer.

I was particularly surprised to find out that Cortazar was very knowledgeable about jazz. The Pursuer is a 65 page short story about a jazz musician named Johnny Carter. It soon becomes apparent that Cortazar is writing about jazz great Charlie Parker. Many of the principle characters are easily
Jul 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
The first story of Cortazar's that I ever read was "La Noche Boca Arriba", roughly translatable as "The Night Turned Upside Down". It creeped me out then, and it still creeps me out. As in many of Cortazar's stories, it revolves around the idea that the protagonist simultaneously inhabits two parallel realities, that beyond the "normal events" being described lies a far more terrible world ready to engulf the protagonist (for instance, the obsidian knife of the Aztec executioner-priest).


'Blow-Up' blew away all the others like so many dry leaves skittering across the surface of a lonely road at midnight. It was the only one approaching the genius of 62: A Model Kit. While the last story, 'Secret Weapons,' held promise with its skilled pacing and encroaching atmosphere of vague menace, ultimately it left me feeling unfulfilled at the end. It strikes me that maybe Cortázar's style works better in novel form, although I haven't read enough of either his novels or his short stories
Mar 10, 2013 added it
There is barely a weak spot in this entire collection. As the stories progress, the fantastic Borgesian elements fade leaving us clasping Ariadne's thread amidst the no less bewildering labyrinth of "reality." (Always in quotations) If Cortazar wants your head to spin, it will spin. He is a master of distraction, disorientation and perspective - expertly packaging the precepts of the Nouveau Roman in the short story format. I actually wish I had read these stories before skipping and jumping ...more
May 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Full of lines that were interesting in part because they were confusing, e.g. "Somebody told me that the marquesa had given Lan money too, without Lan knowing where it had come from. Which didn't surprise me at all, because the marquesa was absurdly generous and understood the world, a little like those omelets she makes at her studio when the boys begin to arrive in droves, and which begins to take on the aspect of a kind of permanent omelet that you throw different things into and you go on ...more
Robledo Cabral
Feb 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Anxiety-filled from cover to cover (although, for some reason, I suspect that may have something to do with the fact that I read an English translation). Even the short stories which seem pervaded by a comic element preserve, in the interstice between words, an idea of tension, of restlessness. Literature can be very rewarding in its exploration of chaos, and Cortázar does at time reach great heights of sensitivity ("Letter to a young lady in Paris", "Continuity of Parks", "The night face up", ...more
Mar 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2009
I'm leaving Goodreads. This review is now available on LibraryThing, user name CSRodgers.
Quinn Slobodian
Oct 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A while ago Molly was going to lend this book to me. Then she changed her mind and kept it. I had to wait until she left for Spain to read it. I thought this was strange at the time, a bit selfish, out-of-character, but I understand now. Looking at it lying on my bed after I finished it just now, I thought, that's it? Now I just slip it back into the row of other books? Make do with the memory and not the material of it? No. I want it out a little longer. It's like a talisman somehow. I want it ...more
Julio Cortazar brings the baffling, the surreal, and the Kafkian in spades. If you're familiar with his Hopscotch, then you know the breaks. If you're coming at this because you were a fan of Blow-Up the film (excellent as it is), don't expect anything even remotely similar. Rather, expect some peculiar, well-crafted little stories that smack of the mysterious, along with a lengthier story about a dissolute jazz performer that seems to have taken its cues more from a Tom Waits song (again, ...more
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
I am not the axolotl of a one trick Porteñan pony with half a tail in Paris. I am just a burro on a windy, rainy street, but I am not behind the glass or a disconnected mirror. There is a nineteenth century streetlamp next to me and it illuminates gold wisps of dust that disappear down the alleyway, unable to find your lace in its gardens or the childish ingenuity running your circles.
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi

Recently I was reading about a group of Soviet dissidents who were arrested in Ukraine in the 60s. They were then sent to forced labor camps, where they were starved and tortured; some of them committed suicide. I’ve read plenty of similar accounts. But having also recently read Cortazar’s ‘The Night Face Up’, I thought for a few minutes, from the comfort of a chair in Barnes and Noble, about what it might be like to live for, say, three decades, a life of relative comfort, with mostly an
Oct 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
The stories in this marvelous collection are divided into three numbered sections and were drawn from three different anthologies first published in Spanish. The first stories, section one and the beginning of section two, are magnificently surreal—a man watches axolotls (a Mexican salamander) at the aquarium with an intensity that results in the man becoming the axolotl who is watching a man at the zoo; three archaeologists steal an idol from a Greek excavation site and first one, then another ...more
Rebekka Istrail
Jun 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
I grew tired of certain mystical themes (i.e., life repeats itself, and two individuals can be telepathically connected and can trade places). Also, certain stories I'm sure I didn't fully understand (e.g., "At Your Service").

My favorite stories in this collection were "End of the Game" and "Bestiary." I also found the following ones engaging: "House Taken Over," "Letter to a Young Lady in Paris," "The Idol of the Cyclades," "The Night Face Up," and "Axolotl."

I've read 5 stories only, they were all good to very good. Gotta read more of these.
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Julio Cortázar, born Julio Florencio Cortázar Descotte, was an Argentine author of novels and short stories. He influenced an entire generation of Latin American writers from Mexico to Argentina, and most of his best-known work was written in France, where he established himself in 1951.
“Now I am an axolotl.” 42 likes
“Once in a while it happens that I vomit up a bunny... it's not reason for one to blush and isolate oneself and to walk around keeping one's mouth shut.” 23 likes
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