The First English Translation of “Headache” by Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar was an influential Argentine writer who wrote poetry, essays, plays, novels and short fiction. Although considered one of the major writers of Latin American literature of the 20th century—along with Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel Garcia Márquez—Cortázar wrote much of his important work while living in exile in France. During the 1960s and 1970s his work became world renowned and many of his more popular writings were translated, thereby reaching an even larger audience.

World literature is a passion of mine, and translated fiction is near and dear to my heart. Seeing the world from diverse perspectives is also near and dear to my heart. The nuances of culture and point of view add depth to the reader’s understanding and help break down barriers between people. Communications can occur, and influences, that might otherwise never happen. Indeed, Cortázar spent some time as a translator himself, bringing the work of such authors as Edgar Allen Poe and Daniel Defoe into Spanish.

With permission from the author’s estate, my husband and I commissioned a new translation of “Axolotl” for our multiple-award winning anthology The Weird (published by Tor in 2012). The previous translation of this short and transformative tale was published in 1967. We felt a new translation was warranted in order to introduce Cortázar’s work to the readership of the 21st century. Since then, I have sought out more translated stories by Cortázar and was surprised to find that there were still so many not yet translated into English.

“Cefalea” or “Headache” was originally published in Cortázar’s collection Bestiaro in 1951. This is the first time it has been translated into English. The translator, Michael Cisco, is a writer of surreal and fantastical fiction and he brings the right sensibilities to this story.

Cortázar was a sickly child and spent many hours in bed. Perhaps those memories inspired this particular story—although there are others that also deal with the health issues of his characters and unusual maladies and cures. We are introduced to the mancuspias; fantastical creatures who must be maintained on a very specific schedule. This responsibility is taken seriously by the narrators, as they express in great detail. The narrators in “Headache” are not identified, but the reader somehow feels comfortable in their capable hands as they relate their fascinating tale.

Cortázar’s fiction inspired a generation and it can continue to inspire generations to come as his work is made more readily available in other languages and new readers are introduced to these stories. I am pleased to present this story for the first time in English—read “Headache” now on


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