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Reviewed by:
  • Carolyn Fornoff
Brescia, Pablo, ed. Cortázar sampleado. 32 lecturas iberoamericanas. México: Librosampleados, 2014. 236 pp.

How is Julio Cortázar read today? What traces of his legacy slip—unconsciously or not—into contemporary fiction? Pablo Brescia's edited volume, Cortázar sampleado. 32 lecturas iberoamericanas, tackles these questions not with a cohesive, totalizing thesis, but through an assemblage of divergent and highly personal hypotheses. Bringing together thirty-two short essays by Spanish-speaking authors (currently dispersed throughout the globe, some situated in the US academy), Brescia's volume provides a series of snapshots of how Cortázar is read and remixed in the twenty-first century. The title, Cortázar sampleado, cleverly nods to this process of reinvention. Each reading is a metamorphosis; the original artifact is continually recycled or "sampled" such that it is constantly invented anew. Reflecting this variability of reception, the volume doesn't develop a sustained argument about Cortázar's stylistics, but instead offers glimpses of his fluctuating legacy. The collected essays are divided into five poetically thematic sections—animals, libraries, flux, political poetics, and instructions—that loosely group the responses by topics that are treated extensively by Cortázar and are of enduring critical interest. Cortázar sampleado adds to the large body of scholarship dedicated to this Argentine literary giant by providing welcome insight to the reception of his work, indexing the changing interests of his readers, and unearthing patterns in their current interpretative practices.

In the field of literary criticism, textual analysis is approached by-and-large as an impersonal, analytic act. Yet Brescia's volume unapologetically proves that reading is always personal, not just in the subjective unraveling of meaning, but also in the somatic creation of affective bonds that tie readers to texts. The connection between a work and its reader is relational; we don't just form opinions about texts, but also memories and feelings around them. This intimacy is evident in Cortázar sampleado. Most essayists include detailed accounts of where they first encountered Cortázar's tomes—on a parent's bookshelf (Andrés Mauricio Muñoz), a brothel (Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro), a second-hand bookstore (Cecilia Eudave)—, origin stories that establish reading not just as a cognitive exercise, but a situated encounter. These memories of adolescent infatuation also index the extent to which Cortázar pervaded the cultural imaginary of the 1970s through the 90s when the volume's contributors were writers-in-formation.

An edifice of Latin American literature, Cortázar's ubiquity and success is paradoxically an obstacle for today's reader. We presume that we already know him and what his work has to offer. As Edmundo Paz Soldán observes in his piece, many contemporary writers are reluctant to include Cortázar within their constellation of influences because "se ha vuelto familiar, sus recursos no sorprenden porque ya están instalados cómodamente en nuestro sistema literario" (84). This familiarity is humorously made literal by Eduardo Varas C. in his description of what happens when one grows up reading Cortázar: "lo asumes como un familiar cercano y lo perdonas todo … [es] ese pariente extraño que te averguenza, [pero] que quieres" [End Page 703] (139). The strength of Brescia's volume is that it thinks through literary influence and reception in terms that are not strictly aesthetic, but also affective and relational.

Cortázar sampleado attests that Cortázar continues to be a contested figure in the Latin American canon. In his essay, Marcelo Eckhardt recaps the varied, often contradictory, challenges leveled against him. Critics in the 70s argued that unlike Urondo or Walsh, Cortázar wasn't political enough. Critics in the 80s, following Ricardo Piglia, reversed course and rebuffed his work for being too politically didactic, in contrast with Borges or Arlt. Pushback continued through the turn of the twenty-first century, exemplified, Diego Trelles Paz notes, by Cesar Aira's iconic snub that "el mejor Cortázar es un mal Borges." Echoes of these critiques resurface in the essays of Cortázar sampleado. Most obviously, Rayuela continues to be a point of contention. Many contributors confess to detesting it in spite of its immense...


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