cover image Literature Class, Berkeley 1980

Literature Class, Berkeley 1980

Julio Cortázar, trans. from the Spanish by Katherine Silver. New Directions, $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2534-2

Between October and November 1980, the late Argentine novelist Cortázar taught eight classes at UC Berkeley. Available for the first time in English through Silver’s agile translation, Cortázar’s sometimes stimulating and sometimes pedantic lectures cover topics that include literature‘s relationship to politics and music and the differences between realistic and fantastic fiction. In the first and most thought-provoking lecture, written in 1980, Cortázar begins by admitting that he has “always written without really knowing why” before listing stages he’s passed through as a writer: aesthetic, metaphysical, and historical (the last of which he still finds himself in). He’s less engaging in the lectures that discuss time and fate and attempt to define literary realism. He perfunctorily concludes that the difference between realism and fantasy is that the former places a greater emphasis on plotting and plausibility. Cortázar breezily tells one class that he began Hopscotch, perhaps his best-known novel, without a “precise literary architecture” but instead as a kind of “approximation” that “little by little found its form.” Though students’ questions from each class are included, these transcripts nevertheless lack the vitality of spoken exchanges and will most appeal to confirmed Cortázar fans. [em](Mar.) [/em]