40 years ago one of the most brilliant Argentine writers died in France (that's how he considered himself, despite being born in Brussels): Julio Cortázar. Just two months before his death he had been in Buenos Aires to visit his mother and his sister and he was not able to fulfill his last wish: to visit the elected president, Raúl Alfonsín.
The story of the disagreement with the leader of the Radical Civic Union, who had won the elections a month before Cortázar's arrival in the country (he arrived on November 30, 1983), gave rise to various conjectures.
Alfonsín had settled in the Panamericano Hotel, to finalize the assembly of his cabinet and prepare to assume leadership of the country on December 10, 1983.
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Hipólito Solari Yrigoyen, a diplomat close to Alfonsín (who was later appointed ambassador), was in charge of managing the meeting with Cortázar, who was only going to stay six days in Buenos Aires (he had lived in Paris for years). The government's version is that the meeting did not occur due to a trivial problem: appointments were misplaced.
Raúl Alfonsín, at the Casa Rosada on the day of his inauguration. (Photo: Presidency of the Nation).
“We must remember that at that time there was chaos in the Pan American, with feverish meetings to finish assembling the cabinet and take the first steps in management in the midst of a serious socioeconomic crisis,” recalled former chancellor Dante Caputo to justify the incredible mistake that would have prevented the historic meeting.
However, Cortázar's biographer, Mario Goloboff, held another position: “The meeting was not held for political reasons. Julio was a man of the left and Alfonsín was told by some advisors that it was not prudent to receive him, because it would mean a negative message.” On the other side they attacked the theory: “This hypothesis is implausible because shortly after taking office, Alfonsín signed a decree to judge the military. He did not tremble for that, look if he is going to have fears of meeting with Cortázar.”
The first interview that Cortazar gave for television, in 1973. His meeting with Alfonsín was cut short. Some say that it was due to an error in the agenda and others maintain that it was due to a political decision.
The author of Rayuela, Casa Tomada, Todos los fuegos el fuego and many other world-renowned works, was 69 years old on that historic visit to the country. He had not come for more than a decade and seemed happy for the return of democracy: “It is a joy to know that now I will be able to come whenever I feel like it,” he said in his last interview with the newspaper Clarín.
A fervent defender of human rights, the writer participated in marches and events against the Argentine dictatorship in Paris, during his exile in France. He was also a defender of the Cuban revolution and supported leftist movements in Latin America.
The history of the disagreement: “agenda problems”
“I would have liked, as president-elect and on behalf of the Argentine people, to express to Cortázar the gratitude we felt towards him for his contribution to national and world culture, and most especially, for his committed support in the fight against the dictatorship,” Alfonsín said in 2004 in an interview with La Nación.
He recalled that the days prior to his inauguration as president were “febrile” and that this climate also affected his collaborators, who found it difficult “to organize the number of interviews, informal meetings and issues that were presented and devoured every minute of the days.” without schedules,” Alfonsín highlighted.
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Nine weeks after his return to Paris, Julio Cortázar died as a result of leukemia and his last Argentine wish was cut short. “I liked Alfonsín's behavior in the bad years. His way of dealing with things, always with great dignity, I liked that, at the time of the Malvinas war, which unleashed a lot of murky feelings on many sides, he did not bow to those attitudes,” said the writer. .
“In Europe, many agree that Alfonsín is a man of clear ideas, balanced, who responds to the ideal of the democratic politician, as a Frenchman, a Spaniard or an Italian can see him. That inspires confidence in me and also coincides with my personal point of view,” Cortazar told Clarín in that last interview.
The unforgettable novelist was the son of Argentinians, but he was born in the south of Brussels, the capital of Belgium, on August 26, 1914. At the age of 4 his family returned to Buenos Aires and thus he was able to build his locality, which accompanied him until the end of his days.