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the Complete Review
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Cronopios and Famas

Julio Cortázar

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To purchase Cronopios and Famas

Title: Cronopios and Famas
Author: Julio Cortázar
Genre: Fiction
Written: 1962 (Eng. 1969)
Length: 161 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Cronopios and Famas - US
Historias de Cronopios y de Famas - US
Cronopios and Famas - UK
Cronopios and Famas - Canada
Cronopios and Famas - India
Cronopes et Fameux - Frankreich
Geschichten der Cronopien und Famen - Deutschland
Storie di cronopios e di famas - Italia
Historias de cronopios y de famas - España
  • Translated by Paul Blackburn
  • Translation of Historias de Cronopios y de Famas

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Our Assessment:

A- : variety of short pieces -- absurd, clever, humorous

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Atlantic Monthly . 6/1969 Melvin Maddocks
The NY Times Book Rev. . 15/6/1969 C.D.B.Bryan

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The complete review's Review:

       Divided onto four sections, Cronopios and Famas offers an enjoyable introduction to the mind of Julio Cortázar.
       The first section is an Instruction Manual, offering precise and sometimes far-fetched instructions on a number of unlikely subjects -- "How to Comb the Hair", "How to Cry", "How to Wind a Watch" (instructions that come with their own preamble), and "How to Kill Ants in Rome". Not necessarily the most useful advice, but these are clever pieces, going off on small (and sometimes obscure) tangents as Cortázar sees fit. Varied and short, one would not mind more of these instructions.
       The second section offers descriptions of Unusual Occupations. It begins: "We are an unusual family," and proceeds to explain why in various descriptive sections. "We have one failing: we lack originality," the narrator claims, but like an author who bases his writing on previous works Cortázar manages a lot with these imitative characters. A cohesive but out of the ordinary collective (the narrator generally writing in the first person plural) this group does manage some remarkable things. There are only eight vignettes, but they are all very strong, touching also on the political, philosophical, and literary. Most enjoyable.
       Unstable Stuff is a longer section. The pieces are again shorter -- generally a page or two -- and more varied. From Marvelous Pursuits, which follows the suggestion of cutting the leg off a spider and sending it to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and imagines what would happen, to A Plan for a Poem Cortázar offers unusual fables and stories. In A Very Real Story a man's glasses remain whole despite falling on a hard floor; buying a case to protect them in he finds them smashed inside the next time they fall. How's it Going, López ? shows the emptiness of greetings and the absence of communication in a few paragraphs. Story with no Moral is an Argentinian political tale, The Prisoner a more general one (focussed, beautifully, on language).
       Cortázar shows a wide range of talents in these very different stories. He avoids the obvious didacticism of most such modern fable-literature, working with considerable more subtlety. The pieces also vary greatly in form and approach.
       The final section of the collection shares the title of the volume itself, Cronopios and Famas. It deals with the creatures (or human types, if one prefers) of the title -- as well as a third genus, esperanzas. Cortázar contrasts these three classes of being in numerous scenes and tales.
       To explain the differences between them he describes, for example, their differing approaches to Travel, from the sedentary esperanzas who don't, to how the famas and cronopios take trips. The famas are precise, concerned and over-careful in their preparations (or, for example, in how they preserve their memories), the cronopios haphazard and and without much care.
       An amusing selection of little scenes, they again don't fall into the trap of oversimplification. The taxonomy of the famas and cronopios (and the esperanzas) is not as clear as most animal-fables, for example, are. Cortázar's imagination allows him to do more with them -- though here (and elsewhere in the volume) this absence of cohesion and lack of straightforward progression can be a bit disappointing.
       Cortázar is always interesting stylistically, and Paul Blackburn's translation seems to capture most of the writing quite well. The translation (from 1969) holds up well, with few jarring dated anachronisms -- no small feat, given Cortázar's playful and experimental style.

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Cronopios and Famas: Reviews: Julio Cortázar: Other books by Julio Cortázar under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentinian author Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) was born in Brussels, and lived in France from 1951 onwards. He is the author of numerous acclaimed experimental works.

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