Buenos Aires, Editorial Sudamericana, [1951]

8vo, pp. 165, [5]; a fine copy, uncut in the original colour illustrated wrappers.


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First edition, with a signed presentation inscription ‘Para Norma y Jean Luc, con la amistad de Julio, 1955’, on the first (blank) page.

Cortázar’s first collection of short stories and his first attempt at fiction, published the month he left Argentina, permanently as it turned out, for Paris. It was preceded by the poem Presencia (1938, under the pen-name ‘Julio Denis’), Los reyes (1949), a dramatic prose poem retelling the legend of Theseus, and some translations.

The first story in the collection, ‘Casa tomada’, was originally published by Borges in Los anales de Buenos Aires, though he did not appreciate it: ‘He is trying so hard on every page to be original that it becomes a tiresome battle of wits, no?’. Despite this criticism, Bestiario was a resounding success and made a name for Cortázar with the reading public.

The recipient of this copy has not been firmly identified, but the only Jean Luc we can trace in Cortázar’s voluminous correspondence is, most appropriately, Jean Luc Andreu (b. 1935), later of the University of Toulouse, who published critical studies of Bestiario and ‘Casa tomada’ in 1968. Cortázar’s first extant letter to Andreu, as published in Cartas (2002), dates from 1967 and discusses Bestiario, but as he addresses the academic there as ‘querido amigo’ it is entirely possible that their acquaintance had begun when Andreu was a young man.

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