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June 27, 2011

For anyone interested in Latin American literature, Julio Cortázar is a central figure. Hopscotch is considered by many to be one of the capital-g capital-b Great Books of the twentieth century, its ingenious form (if you follow the directions, you read many chapters out of sequence) a precursor of digital possibilities. His precise, post-Borgesian short stories (especially those in Blow-Up and Other Stories and All Fires the Fire) are a great counterparts to the more sprawling novels—very playful and innovative, oft centered around a single provocative metaphysical idea (like a man reading a book about a man just like him reading a book).

Anyway, by the time that Around the Day in 80 Worlds came out, it seemed like all of the Cortazar to be discovered and translated had been discovered and translated. Not so! When Archipelago Books brought out Diary of Andres Fava they embarked on a project that has brought a “new” Cortazar to light.

All three of the books they’ve published—Diary of Andres Fava, Autonauts of the Cosmoroute, and now From the Observatory—are unmistakably Cortázar, but they’re a different sort of Cortázar from the Cortázar of Hopscotch or 62: A Model Kit. His writing is a bit more reflective, poetic in these three books. Quietly self-assured in a way that is particularly graceful. As you can see in this preview, From the Observatory defies categorization. A sort of prose poem complete with pictures of the observatories built by Jai Singh II, this is a very unconventional, beautiful book.

From the Observatory
Julio Cortázar
On Sale: June 1, 2011
Translated by Anne McLean
Archipelago Books

Past Read This Next Features
Every week, Read This Next previews a forthcoming work of literature, offering interested readers an opportunity to check out great new books before they're available anywhere else.

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