Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Cortázar: A Manual for Manuel

Cortázar's last novel, assuming one doesn't count A Certain Lucas, and his last book for Pantheon, appeared in the US in 1978. The wording of the title (the original being simply Libro de Manuel) was Gregory Rabassa's idea, Manuel's Book and The Screwery having been considered and discarded. The book, Cortázar's only overtly political novel, presented some special publishing difficulties, as the text includes newspaper clippings and other documents in Spanish that had to be translated and mocked up into authentic-looking English versions. I haven't read the book in nearly thirty years (it's on my list), and it may read very differently now when the images evoked by the idea of secretive cells of urban guerrillas have shifted considerably.

The jacket design is by Bob Cuevas, the author photo above by Anne de Brunhoff. As far as I know there was never a paperback edition in the US, and as of this writing the translation is out of print.

As early as 1975 Cortázar had broached the subject of changing publishers with Rabassa, who was by now his agent as well as his chief translator. He complained that he had never really been happy with the house, although his positive relationships with editors Sara Blackburn, Paula McGuire, and Jean Strouse had made the situation tolerable. He specifically mentioned Knopf, who in fact became his primary American publisher after A Manual for Manuel. Rather than continue exhaustively with the remainder of his output, including posthumously published editions (he died in February 1984), I think I'll consider that a logical endpoint for this series of posts, and maybe add a couple of sidenotes at my leisure another time.

1 comment:

Ana said...

I hope you read it because it is not only the politic of that time that is approached. The newspaper clippings are in French since the personages are in France and Cortázar lived in Paris.
He did a great narrative and achieved an amazing technique that one can know what each character is doing simultaneously.
Unfortunately Cortázar is highly underestimated by English spoken English and he is a multimedia avant la lettre.
Give it a try. there are erotic moments... hehe