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Cronopios and Famas Paperback – 1 Jan 1994

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Product details

  • Paperback: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd; New edition edition (1 Jan 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714525200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714525204
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.2 x 22 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 404,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
The job of having to soften up the brick every day, the job of cleaving a passage through the glutinous mass that declares itself to be the world, to collide every morning with the same narrow rectangular space with the disgusting name, filled with doggy satisfaction that everything is probably in its place, the same woman beside you, the same shoes, the same taste of the same toothpaste, the same sad houses across the street, the filthy slats on the shutters with the inscription the HOTEL BELGIUM. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 18 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant and boldly experimental 18 Jan 2001
By Michael J. Mazza - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Cronopios and Famas," by Julio Cortazar, is one of those wonderful books that stands in a class by itself. It has been translated from Spanish into English by Paul Blackburn. The book is a collection of interconnected short pieces that often blur the distinctions between the short story and the essay; some of the pieces further share aspects of poetry and drama. Cortazar also incorporates elements of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and comedy into this work. Call "Cronopios and Famas" a novel, if you prefer; or simply label it "experimental literature." But whatever you call it, read it!
The book is divided into four main sections, each of which is further subdivided into several short pieces. The first section, "The Instruction Manual," contains such pieces as "Instructions on How to Cry" and "Instructions on How to Climb a Staircase." Cortazar invites us to look at everyday things and actions from a radically altered perspective; in the process, he seems to point towards an occult, or metaphysical, wisdom.
The second section, "Unusual Occupations," details the antics of a bizarre family (think TV's "Addams Family" as drawn by Dr. Seuss, with input from Franz Kafka). The third section, "Unstable Stuff," is the most varied and chaotic section of the book, and is rich in fantastic and absurd elements.
The final section of the book has the same title as the entire book: "Cronopios and Famas." In several short vignettes Cortazar draws a portrait of an alternate society populated by three different types (races? castes? species?) of beings: Cronopios, Famas, and Esperanzas. Cortazar describes the individuals of each group, and details many instances of social interactions between the groups. This final section of the book is reminiscent of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," but more cryptic. Along the way we witness the invention of the "wild-artichoke clock" and get a glimpse of "GENITAL, the Cigarette with Sex."
"Cronopios and Famas" is not for the lazy reader. I must admit that after my first reading of the book, I didn't really like it that much. But the second time I read it, I said to myself, "This is brilliant! What was wrong with me the first time I read it?" I wonder what my reactions will be on my third and fourth readings. This book, rich in irony and remarkable images, is truly a remarkable achievement by one of the most innovative masters of 20th century literature.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Great book, pity about the translation 17 Aug 2000
By Vince Cabrera - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
All the reviewers have said that this book is wonderful and they're better than me at saying it. Suffice it to say that I agree with them and that any money that's not spent in buying this book is wasted.
But to be original, I'd like to add that the translation could be a lot better. The stye is quite ambivalent, attempting to anglicize place names in some stories and going back to the original Spanish in others. What point is there in mentioning "The Barrio Pacifico" alongside "Humboldt Street"? Give us either "The suburb of Pacifico" or "The Calle Humboldt". Why "Calle Serrano" and not "Serrano Street"? General Custer incongruously shows up in one of the stories too, which is a bit jarring. The result is all too often a mishmash of tones and styles which is confusing and not even good English. What the heck is "gifting" anyway? Why not use the more normal (and far less pretentious) "giving"?
Furthermore, the translator seems to have a complete lack of understanding of Spanish genders. He tends to get male and female genders and the occasional noun confused. Such carelesness is a pity. In the original Spanish the Esperanzas are clearly female and not male as Mr. Blackburn seems to think. His understanding of Argentine Spanish ("Castellano") is somewhat vague, which is also a pity: a great deal of Cortàzar's charm lay in his ear for ordinary everyday speech which introduces a note of sane humanity into the weirdest of his tales.
To be fair, translating Cortàzar is NOT an easy task. It'd be a real job for footnotes. Extensive footnotes at that, because a lot is said impicitly about characters and situations from the way they speak or where or on which street the story is set.
I suppose the question is whether the average Anglophone really cares about all this detail, or does it all get in the way of the story? I was born in Buenos Aires and so I will never be able to be completely objective about translated works.
If you're not a purist or aren't particularly hung up on Buenos Aires, don't worry about my review and buy the book anyway. You'll be glad you did. I tend to be a bit pedantic. But I can't help thinking that a definitive translation of this book has yet to be printed. The only reason I have not given this five stars is because the rating should be about this particular edition and not about the work itself.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Unstable Stuff 5 Sep 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Cronopios and Famas is a humorous and discourteous charge against the establishment. The lengthy title of one of its chapters gives us a summary of the entire books intentions: "A Small Story Tending To Illustrate the Uncertainty of the Stability within wich We Like to Believe We Exist, or Laws could Give Ground to the Exceptions, Unforeseen Disasters, or Improbabilities, and I Want to See You There".
Through this series of short anecdotes, myths, and "instructions", Cortazar succeeds in satirizing (undermining) the traditional concepts of work, family, and social customs. His original and fascinating observations make this book entertaining as well.
I first read Paul Blackburn's translation of this book five years ago, the humor was so absorbing and endearing that barely twenty pages into the book I was willing to declare it a favorite of mine; now, having read it for the third time, it is no less astonishing. I recommend it to anyone with a taste for absurd literary humor.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Makes me happy. 26 Jan 2001
By Maggie N. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is on my list of favorite books of all time; it is a great book not because it subtly describes the frivolties of life and not because it shows the persistence of human spirit, blah blah blah... It is a beautiful and great book because it makes you laugh - in its own great non funny way. It is not laughing out loud, of course, more like chuckling to yourself as you read it. You even get to identify with the characters of the book, with their weird perks and idiosyncracies. In our real world, the cronopios have a great cult following (at least online) - in the book, they are what people strive to be: worry-free animals in pursuit of happiness.
I read this book on a regular basis, mostly in short pieces. It is written in short chapters, so even when you are too tired to read anything else, this will cheer you up.
Recommended for all conoisseurs of inventive and experimental literature.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
instructions on how to be joyful 16 Jun 2000
By B. Mernit - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is the only book I ever stole from a library in my youth, and it helped me become a writer. The sometimes only page-long pieces create a uniquely Cortazar-ian world that contains: instructions on how to wind a watch (while death waits patiently in the background), the adventures of a bear lost in your plumbing pipes, and the story of a line that runs from a letter thrown on a table, into and out of a painting, onto the street to catch a bus and ultimately to a chillingly logical destination which would be the envy of Poe or Borges... Like Breton's NADJA, Brautigan's IN WATERMELON SUGAR and Calvino's INVISIBLE CITIES, it's a collection as measureless and resonant as imagination itself. What a fine purchase it will make: you're not only getting a great Cortazar book, the book will be getting you for its own rebirth-day.
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