Sometimes small typos can be an obstacle: Beware authors! (and readers)

In his Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, Julio Cortázar asks himself why a great author like Lezama Lima has not been recognised and acknowledged as such. Among other

Julio Cortázar (from

reasons, he notices that the editions of his works are so full of typos, “that it is no wonder, that the  school’s teacher —who lives in each of us— takes offense at them”*.

Readers —continues Cortázar— use his insistent transcription errors as alibi, as part of a defense-mechanism to remain on this side of Lezama, without having to take his visions seriously.

A few pages later, with perhaps some implicit sexism, Cortázar elaborates further on the sort of engagement required by great books comparing it with Jacob’s wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32:22-32). I am sorry to admit that I could not find the book neither in Spanish nor in English but that I enjoyed the text passage so much that I will have to quote it in German nonetheless:

In Rayuela habe ich das Leser-Weibchen definiert und attackiert, weil es den echten liebevollen Ringens mit einem Werk, das für den Leser wie der

André L. Leloir

Engel für Jakob ist, nicht fähig ist.

*my translation, C’s style is much more evocative.



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4 thoughts on “Sometimes small typos can be an obstacle: Beware authors! (and readers)

  1. I agree with this reflection but I can not stop thinking about our own production.
    Who could take seriously our small digressions since we are not the best in our field of knowledge?
    In the process of self-learning, we often want to see reflected on paper our work: what has been learned up to that point in our own words. It may happen that errors persist for years unrecognized, until a reader (another curious self taught person?) perceives it immediately. And he rejects what we have ¿given? not because he does not make mistakes but not the same.
    The only one interested in pointing that out and see corrected is virtually “teacher”, so it is necessary to learn surrounded by generous people.

    • Dear Martín,

      I might be wrong but I am often inclined to think that there are more “teachers” (or at least generous peers) one might think. After all, given the paucity of jobs in our field, we are here only because we enjoy doing what we do —and many of us enjoy doing it also regardless of what they gain through that. So, why don’t offer and demand meet?

      1) Perhaps a scholar does not notice generous peers, since she is busy aiming at the attention of top scholars (I have encountered this behaviour several times in students I have met).
      2) Sometimes there are communication problems, so that the generous peer tells her colleague that there are mistakes of the sort X in her paper and the colleague takes it personally. I discussed this issue in my previous blog:

      What do you think? What is your experience?