“It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing”: Jazz, Para-audible Cadence, and Deep Listening in and around Cortázar’s Rayuela


  • Lee Dylan Campbell York University


"Julio Cortázar’s affinity for music is well known. Many of the dialogues and meditations of Rayuela (translated into English as Hopscotch, 1966) revolve around listening to jazz and blues records, and the author himself is often pictured playing a trumpet; but has its deeper influence on his writing been heard? Focusing on the conception of rhythm that emerges in his 1980 lecture on literary musicality, this article thinks sonically about the influence of jazz on Cortázar’s writing. Beyond referential representations and imitations of music, Cortázar pursues para-audible, encantatory cadences shaped to reach the reader’s “internal ear,” beneath manifest meaning, in an effort to build bridges between people, between heterogeneous media, and between the present, deep ancestral rhythms, and possible emancipated futures. The influence of jazz occurs primarily at the level of deep rhythms that hold sway over prose structure, inspire improvisation, and hail the reader as playful collaborator and active listener. Cortázar’s writing unsettles commonplace notions of literary musicality, challenging us to develop a practice of reading as deep listening."