Understanding Julio Cortazar, the first comprehensive discussion of his work to be published in English in a decade, recounts the varied literary achievements of one of Latin America's most acclaimed twentieth-century writers. Taking advantage of the perspective allowed by the time that has elapsed since Cortazar's death in 1984, Peter Standish reassesses the Argentinean's oeuvre. There is considerable discussion of how Cortazar, a man whose controversial persona has often colored criticism of his work, handled the tension between aesthetic and political aims.
Standish offers a brief overview of Cortazar's life and a chronological synopsis of his works. Structuring his assessment around metaphors drawn from boxing, Standish considers Cortazar's plays, stories, novels, political and literary essays and interviews, textual accompaniments to the visual arts, and poetry. Through close readings Standish explores Cortazar's views on literary genres and the creative process. Standish also expounds upon the writer's themes, including the metaphysical anguish of his protagonists as they search for "otherness", fail to come to grips with the passage of time, and reject rational and conventional values.