Hopscotch

ISBN: 0394752848
ISBN 13: 9780394752846
By: Julio Cortázar Gregory Rabassa

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Argentina Classics Favorites Fiction Latin America Latin American Literature Novels Spanish To Read

About this book

In 1966, Gregory Rabassa won the first National Book Award to recognize the work of a translator, for his English-language edition of Hopscotch. Julio Cortazar was so pleased with Rabassa's translation of Hopscotch that he recommended the translator to Gabriel García Márquez when García Márquez was looking for someone to translate his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude into English. "Rabassa's One Hundred Years of Solitude improved the original," according to García Márquez.The book is highly influenced by Henry Miller’s reckless and relentless search for truth in post-decadent Paris and Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki’s modal teachings on Zen Buddhism.Cortázar's employment of interior monologue, punning, slang, and his use of different languages is reminiscent of Modernist writers like Joyce, although his main influences were Surrealism and the French New Novel, as well as the "riffing" aesthetic of jazz and New Wave Cinema.

Reader's Thoughts

A.J. Howard

Coming up with an adequate reaction to Hopscotch involves a bit of a paradox. For instance, try this: Hopscotch is a really great book, but I would have liked it more if I didn't hate it so much. How about this, Hopscotchis a bore and a struggle to get through, but it's also one of the most brilliantly breathtaking books I've ever read. The best analogy I can think of to explain this reaction to Cortázar's novel is that Hopscotch like an incredibly great computer or device application with an interface that makes it almost inoperable. If you have the patience, and the endurance, you can get a hang of it. But if you don't it's not worth the frustration. So, I guess the three star rating is an average. The novel itself probably deserves at least four stars, but I'm giving myself two stars as a reader of Hopscotch. I've talked before about the notion of a "difficult" novel. I'm not sure how the difficulty Cortázar presents compares to other things I've read, but I can say that Hopscotch is the most aggressively non-reader friendly novel I've ever read. By that, I'm not saying that the novel sneers at you with contempt or calls your mother ugly names. What I mean is that it's very hard to "get lost in a book" with Hopscotch. You're forcibly reminded throughout almost the whole experience that you're reading a book, it's a real struggle to get into that zen-like trance where you can read for an hour and not notice the time go bye. There are several reasons for this. Perhaps most notably, Cortázar structures his novel in an innovative way. The 'proper narrative,' which is around 350 pages long, is followed by another 200 pages of additional material. Before the narrative begins, Cortázar explains that the novel was designed to be read in one of two ways. Either straight through, stopping at the end of the 'proper' narrative, or 'hopscotching' around the book, alternating between the 'proper' chapters and the 'additional' chapters. Seems fun, right? Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book for big kids! Except, not really. There are three things that make this less fun than it would first appear. First, Cortázar's prose, while at times brilliant, is incredibly dense. Dense on multiple levels actually: long clause-stuffed sentences, use of archaic or specialized terms, paragraphs that go on for pages without much happening (plus the font is really small). For me, Cortázar's writing both evokes Pynchon and Kerouac, with both the good things and the bad things that those comparisons entail. Secondly,, the vast majority of the chapters are very short, often no more than a paragraph long. While this may seem welcome on some level, it can lend to a disruptive reading experience, when you have to flip through the book to another short chapter soon after. Finally, there really isn't any plot to speak of, and to the extent that there is one, it doesn't matter. While there is a beginning, middle, and end in Hopscotch if you need some kind of traditional narrative, you'd be best to avoid this book. Each of the se elements, taken on their own may aren't really deal-breakers. But their combination creates a perfect storm of unreadability, at least to readers like me who might not have the longest attention spans unless they are completely engaged in something. That being said, there are parts of Hopscotch that are really, really great. Like, highlighting every word on two pages in a row great. Like, some of the greatest set pieces I ever read great. I couldn't help but notice that I enjoyed the book a lot more at night, when I had nothing to distract me. I've read five-star reviews that cited specific scenes that I completely agree with. I'm willing to admit that I may have missed on the intrinsic worth of some parts that I hated merely because I wasn't in the right frame of mind. The novel is like certain difficult family members, you really love them, but you just can't stomach being in the same room as them. That being said, I'm really glad that I have read Hopscotch while I never want to read it again. Well, maybe in some circumstances, I'd be willing to give it another go. In fact perhaps the truest thing I can say is that Hopscotch would be a great book to be have on a shelf if you were trapped alone in a nuclear bunker with nothing but, a supply of mate, and gallons of amphetamine.

Martin

I read this book when living in Madrid in 1982-83 and carried it around with me in my pocket for months, dipping into it whenever I had a spare five minutes, and hoping it would never end. It was one of the books, together with Camus' The Plague and some of Samuel Beckett's late prose pieces, that shaped my life in my early 20s. The translation has something of a 60s feel to it, with the constant "che" rendered as "man" in a way that sounds more hippy in English than in the original. At the heart of Hopscotch/Rayuela is, to my mind, a highly original intelligence and a great human tenderness. His 62/A Model Kit is, in some ways, even better.

Adrian

Just a bunch of losers moping around discussing jazz so that every reader will know how cool the author is. And then some more moping around: this book is long, repetitive, meandering, like a mental patient mumbling to himself for days and years on end. The chapters can be re-arranged not so much because there's a second story as that there's no story at all. It's one of those books that people fear they don't "get", a fear made worse by so many people making the bold claim that they do get it, but just because it's set in Paris at a time when people wore berets and smoked a lot doesn't make it a seminal text on existentialism or anything else.

Renato Guerra

Hay lecturas que me resultan aburridas y tediosas, aún así trato de seguir hasta terminar pero también están esos raros casos en donde el aburrimiento y el tedio llegan a niveles insospechados de manera que cada página me parece tiempo desperdiciado, en ese momento cierro el libro y paso a otra lectura. Esto último es lo que me ha sucedido con Rayuela de la que solo pude leer un poco más de la mitad.No he logrado ninguna clase de identificación ni con los personajes ni con la historia y he preferido pasar a otro libro que sé que voy a disfrutar muchísimo más.De Cortázar me quedo con algunos cuentos.

Scott Gates

Hopscotch reads like an endless treatise on the sophomoric.The details about the cool characters are not there to communicate or enlarge your sense of the world they live in: The information is there purely to come off as interesting or cool. Because of this, the details evaporate the moment you move on to the next paragraph. There is zero resonance to the descriptions.The characters suffer from paranoid delusions of importance, and Cortazar is at pains to make us understand that we are dealing with very Special People: “La Maga [Special Person #1:] was one of those people who could make a bridge collapse just by walking on it, or who could sobbingly remember having seen in a shop window the lottery ticket that had just won five million. As for me, I’m already used to the fact that quietly exceptional things happen to me. . . .” Cortazar is partial to the Facile Either/Or Lesson, which I think Milan Kundera or Tom Robbins has since patented. Example: The narrator at one point picks up a bunch of dry leaves off the ground and brings them to his apartment to stick on his lampshade because he likes the way they look. One of his friends visits, stays for hours, and doesn’t even look at or comment on the bizarre lampshade decoration. Another friend comes by and immediately picks up the lampshade and begins to study it and talk about it with enthusiasm. As in KunderaLand, big conclusions are quickly drawn. One could quote entire chunks of Hopscotch as a devastating critique against itself. This one nicely represents the vulgar ethos of the book:“La Maga was one of the few people who never forgot that someone’s face would always have something to do with his interpretation of communism or Creto-Mycenaean civilization, and that the shape of someone’s hand had something to do with what he felt about Ghirlandaio or Dostoyevsky.”Or this piece of sappy sophomoricness:“Only Oliveira knew that La Maga was always reaching those great timeless plateaus that they were all seeking through dialectics.” Big Important Names (Nietszche, Arjuna, Hamlet, Kierkegaard, Mozart, Manet and much more) are tossed around throughout the book, for no other reason than to decorate paragraphs with glamorous signifiers. There is no relevance to these allusions at all, and no fleshing out of a particular Important Person’s thoughts/writing/music/role. No, these names function as a sort of branding exercise for the narrator, a way for him to propagandize on behalf of his awful personality and characters, which seems to be the raison d’être of the entire book.

MJ Nicholls

Original Review:Hopscotch, a sort of Argentinean Finnegans Wake, is noted for its “hopscotch” structure. If read the second way, the reader finishes up on Chapters 57 and 131, locked in an endless cycle of reading that ends only when his brain explodes. This method also omits Chapter 55, parts of which are embedded in Chapter 133. It’s complicated. Unfortunately, Cortázar’s incomprehensible and atrociously written novel could be read upside-down in any order, and the reader would still want to drill his brain out with a corkscrew. The book revolves around various Argentinean characters who drink the South American beverage maté every few minutes and stage laughable intellectual discourses that make absolutely no sense to anyone human.I’m surprised to see so many glowing reviews of this novel. The prose isn’t merely dense, it’s literally gibberish. The writing is of such a rambling and undisciplined style, it boggles the mind to see what kind of pretentious waffle writers could get away with in the 1960s. Viva la revolution, indeed. I do have patience for intellectual, challenging books, but post-Joycean texts such as this represent the most damaging and tedious excesses of postmodernism. The end result is an elitist parlour game: making the reader sweat over the author’s every sentence, scavenging for meaning in empty corners.A Partial Retraction, April 2012:This review makes me wince slightly, since it clearly bears the petulant stamp of the defeated reader, grasping for points of comparison and coming up with clumsy examples. Joyce? No. Too simple. I should insert the novel between more receptive thighs, i.e. the sixties Beats writers, with shades of Marquez-tinged magical realism. Seems more apt, if I recall rightly. Form-wise, this is closer to the structural games of the Oulipo than Joyce’s complete annihilation of recognisable language as a means of literary transcendence. Anyway, just wanted to clear that up. I’m off for a cup of maté with my mates.

Carmo Santos

3.5*Paris, anos 50. Um grupo de boémios estrangeiros com pouco dinheiro e muito tempo livre. O básico da história centra-se no argentino Oliveira, na sua relação problemática com Maga e nas reuniões do Clube da Serpente, onde passam horas intermináveis a debater questões filosóficas, literatura, ou musica. Devidamente regadas por álcool de qualidade duvidosa e doses industriais de café e nicotina.E jazz! Jazz a toda a hora e em todo o lugar, diria mesmo que é o fio condutor da história e das personagens. Salvo as discussões metafisicas, o Clube da Serpente não era muito diferente das reuniões típicas de um bando de adolescentes na garagem dos pais.A forma particular como o livro é apresentado e as múltiplas opções de leitura, dão a ilusão de se estar num jogo que ao princípio seduz mas rapidamente cansa; perde-se a noção do evoluir da leitura. O regresso a capítulos já lidos, linguagem inventada pelo autor, capítulos que não apresentam mais que uma notícia de jornal ou um poema… provavelmente fará todo o sentido para um QI mais elevado…É um livro difícil de classificar: encontrei capítulos lindos; poéticos, românticos ou nostálgicos que mereciam 5* e outros que foram penosos de levar até ao fim e que retiraram grande parte do brilho à obra. Alterna períodos de entusiasmo com outros de enfado. Gostei do início, perdi a paciência pelo meio e recuperei-a no final. O regresso de Oliveira à Argentina foi também o fim da linha para as personagens de Paris. Não mais se soube dos amigos e muito menos de Maga. Foi um bocadinho frustrante. Já o reencontro com o amigo de infância – Traveler – com quem reata uma relação de alguma ambiguidade, começa a despertar a curiosidade sobre o que pode vir a acontecer.É talvez a parte mais triste do livro. Oliveira a debater-se entre a lucidez e a loucura, a rever Maga em cada esquina, em cada mulher, em Talita… a esbracejar para se manter à tona e a afundar-se irremediavelmente no abismo.Podia ter parado aqui, no cap.56. Literalmente: “pof, acabou-se.”Levei-o até ao fim e não foi difícil; os capítulos são pequenos e dão uma imagem real do estado de Oliveira. Quando dei por mim estava a patinar do 58 para a 131 uma e outra vez, em modo repetição e só consegui pensar:estão a gozar comigo!:)Classificado por muitos como uma obra-prima, Rayuela deixou-me dividida e lamentavelmente não consegui encontrar nele a genialidade que lhe atribuem.

Richard

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! I had to read this for a book club. I read about 80 pages of this and threw it across the room. Wish I didn't. Maybe I could've gotten more for it when I traded it in. pretentiousness wrapped/uptight faux beatness. What I remember: expat intellectuals crying over jazz records having an "artistic" time in paris. Well read guy pines for girl who doesn't catch all his references but, you know, feels things. The cover blurb makes it look like it will change your life and then make sandwiches for you. Is this book pretentious or just about pretentiousness? I couldn't tell. Is either worth reading?

Boris Limpopo

Davanti a un capolavoro, non ci si dovrebbe sentire in obbligo di scrivere una recensione. Dovrebbe essere sufficiente scrivere: un capolavoro del romanzo contemporaneo. Anzi, un capolavoro del romanzo di tutti i tempi. Uno di quei libri rispetto ai quali c’è un prima e un dopo, come per l’Ulysses di Joyce, o la Recherche di Proust, o L’uomo senza qualità di Musil.Il problema è che, per quel poco che so, Il gioco del mondo è stato un romanzo largamente frainteso. La maggior parte dei commentatori ne ha colto lo sperimentalismo, il suo essere un romanzo ipertestuale ante litteram (l’autore ne suggerisce, accanto alla lettura sequenziale, che si limita ai primi 56 capitoli, una lettura guidata dai rinvii numerici alla fine dei ogni capitolo, che integrano nella lettura altri 99 capitoli “sovrannumerari” e che, per di più, porta a saltare il capitolo 55 – che ha un suo “doppio” nei capitoli sovrannumerari – e poi conduce a un loop infinito degli ultimi due capitoli).In realtà, Rayuela è molti romanzi in uno solo.Partiamo dalle parentele che ci ho trovato io. Henry Miller, per prima cosa (prima nel senso epidermico del termine, come se sbucciassimo una cipolla), per il clima degli expats a Parigi e anche per l’erotizzazione della città – anche se la Maga è un personaggio molto più profondo e complesso delle donne di Miller (Cortázar, sospetto, ha un rapporto con le donne molto più profondo e complesso e maturo e simpatetico di quanto Miller possa sognarsi di avere). Robert Musil (che prima non ho citato a caso) per la capacità di scrivere insieme un romanzo e un mondo enciclopedico, senza penalizzare né l’uno né l’altro dei due versanti, e senza mai essere né pedante né didascalico nelle digressioni filosofiche e di estetica. Il Joyce del Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man per l’uso del monologo interiore e, ancora di più, per essere anche Rayuela un Künstlerroman.Il gioco del mondo è soprattutto un gioco di specchi e di doppi: di qua e di là dell’oceano, Oliveira e Traveler, la Maga e Talita. Un gioco di ponti precariamente gettati. Un mondo di gioco e di giochi. Il circo e la follia. Il dolore irrisolto. L’abiezione.Non so chi ha scritto la quarta di copertina della mia edizione Einaudi, ma è stato un genio con il dono della sintesi:Un capolavoro del Novecento che ha cambiato la storia del romanzo e la vita di molte persone che lo hanno letto.Concordo in pieno. Non è un’esagerazione, nemmeno nell’affermazione che cambia la vita del lettore che vi si abbandoni, come ho fatto io. Leggetelo.Su Wikipedia (inglese) c’è una bella voce (Hopscotch, il nome inglese del gioco).Su YouTube c’è una bella intervista di Cortázar rilasciata alla televisione spagnola nel 1977.

Guido

La nota di Cortázar all'inizio di Rayuela spiega come questo libro possa essere letto in almeno due modi: il primo tradizionale, ordinato, dal capitolo 1 al 56 e senza capitoli aggiuntivi; l'altro apparentemente molto sperimentale, partendo dal capitolo 73 e seguendo di volta in volta le indicazioni per saltare da un capitolo all'altro. Lui stesso ha scritto il libro in modo quasi involontario, rendendosi conto soltanto dopo la stesura di diverse parti che queste potevano essere raccolte per formare un romanzo.Il valore sperimentale di quest'opera è il primo punto interessante, e indubbiamente quello più discusso. E' diventato facile e tremendamente popolare considerare le stramberie artistiche del secolo passato come provocazioni gratuite e ormai antiquate, un po' ridicole, esperimenti falliti a metà. Questo libro fa pensare che forse, in realtà, abbiamo fatto dei passi indietro. Cortázar non vuole demolire il romanzo tradizionale, né il suo linguaggio: li vuole scomporre per poi dar loro nuova vita ricostruendoli secondo regole nuove, vuole mettere in evidenza delle cattive abitudini che affliggono lettori e scrittori da secoli, e costringerci ad abbandonarle.Saltando da un capitolo all'altro ci si dimentica che il libro ha un determinato numero di pagine. Nessuno, leggendolo seguendo il secondo metodo - l'unico davvero interessante, a mio avviso - riuscirà a capire quante pagine ha già letto e quante ne manchino alla fine. Inoltre, non si può fare affidamento sul libro come un insieme ordinato, una stratificazione di eventi in ordine cronologico; i capitoli appartengono al passato, al presente o al futuro in un modo imprevedibile e quindi molto più realistico: è il Gioco del mondo con le sue caselle, disegnate per terra coi gessetti colorati. Leggete e divertitevi, non pensate al numero di pagine, all'inizio o alla fine del racconto: l'inizio e la fine sono sempre una truffa.Il secondo punto interessante è che questo romanzo non è illogico o privo di senso: ha una sua trama, per quanto improvvisata e involontaria per ammissione dello stesso autore, ma interessantissima e piena di domande (e non di risposte: questo è un punto fondamentale, Cortázar non intende insegnare nulla). Soprattutto, non si riesce mai a classificarla come "commedia" o "dramma" o altro: è una sorta di "Bohème" avanguardista che si svolge tra Parigi e Buenos Aires, il cui protagonista, Horacio Oliveira, è un eterno studente che vive con la sua compagna, la Maga; e con lei e altri squattrinati intellettuali ha fondato il Club del Serpente, i cui membri si riuniscono per ascoltare jazz, blues e musica da camera e discutere d'arte, di filosofia e letteratura. Oliveira è un eterno studente proprio perché le sue conoscenze e la sua cultura lo rendono del tutto inconcludente: pensa sempre troppo prima di agire e alla fine non fa mai nulla, mentre la Maga sembra avere già compreso tutto ed è capace di autentiche imprese senza aver bisogno di leggere o farsi una cultura.Oliveira è condannato come tutti coloro che usano troppo la propria immaginazione, a suo modo è un anarchico: la sua non è certo un'anarchia da bombaroli, ma una semplice quanto fatale consapevolezza della follia presente in qualsiasi ordine. Non riesce a considerare una determinata struttura (sociale, politica, artistica, architettonica, letteraria...) come ragionevole e dichiarare le altre prive di senso. Per Oliveira nessun ordine è più razionale o più assurdo di un altro - non a caso è uno che cerca, ma non sa cosa, e anche il suo bisogno di tornare a casa non è motivato da un sentimento preciso.Per concludere, devo aggiungere che questo libro mi mancherà perché è poetico e meraviglioso e più di una volta avrei voluto condividere quello che stavo leggendo con qualcuno, che si trattasse di gioia o di commozione o malinconia o risate. La preparazione del mate, la caña, il metodo romantico e dolcissimo con cui Oliveira e la Maga si davano gli appuntamenti, Talita e Traveler e il gioco delle domande-a-dondolo, i matti e il circo col gatto calcolatore, Etienne e i suoi dipinti, le note pedanti e contorte di Morelli che in fondo parlavano proprio del libro che stavo leggendo, il modo in cui mi sono sentito complice dello stesso Cortázar, sono soltanto alcune delle cose a cui ripenso.E perché si è usciti dall'infanzia (...) si dimentica che per arrivare al Cielo occorrono, come ingredienti, una pietruzza e la punta di una scarpa.Credo che terrò sempre questo libro molto vicino.

Emily

Julio Cortázar's Hopscotch has only the most skeletal of plots: Argentine writer and pretentious blowhard Horacio Oliveira lives in Paris with his lover La Maga, drinking and listening to old jazz records with a group of bohemian friends who call themselves The Club, and who are collectively fascinated with the obscure and pedantic Italian writer Morelli. Something disastrous happens to La Maga; she disappears; Oliveira returns to Argentina and has further adventures with his frenemy Traveler and Traveler's wife Talita. That's it, really, but Hopscotch's real claim to fame is its unusual structure. Cortázar offers his readers two choices of how to read his book: you can start at Chapter 1 and progress as normal to Chapter 56, stopping there and discarding the final 200 pages of the book (which contain Chapters 57-155, the "expendable" chapters). Or, you can follow a leap-frogging list that begins with Chapter 73, progresses to Chapter 1, and continues vaulting back and forth between the necessary and expendable sections until you've eventually read the entire book...or have you? (I read it according to the second, "hopscotching" method.)Hopscotch was an extremely complex and contradictory reading experience for me. So much so, actually, that my so-called "review" grew to an unacceptably epic length, and I decided to split it into three separate posts. I thought about pruning, but I really do feel the genuine need to write about all three of these topics, if only to get them out of my system. So here we go. I'm starting with the good, progressing to the bad, and ending up with the wacky.1. Things that Inspired and Delighted MeBy far, the highlights of Hopscotch for me were the scenes in which Cortázar deals with music, compulsiveness, and the absurd. The Club's late-night blues-listening sessions were a special treat for me personally, as early blues (Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith) are one of my own favorite musical genres, and I hardly ever get to read such lively prose involving them. Cortázar's descriptions of the smoky, boozy Paris apartment where the Club talks and listens to scratchy records into the wee hours reminded me a bit of Kerouac's late-night bop passages, except that I liked Cortázar's much better.But it was Cortázar's depiction of the absurd avant-garde piano concert Oliveira stumbles into that really impressed me. Only in Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled have I come across such a lusty portrayal of modern "art" music--one that may revel in the absurdity of a particular performance, but still holds the concept of experimental classical/art music to have power. I love how Oliveira's irony and odd sincerity are woven together, in this passage, with the exodus of the other concert-goers and the manic desperation of pianist Berthe Trépat; it's masterfully done. [Alix Alix is the ostensible composer of the piece.:]In the two or three minutes that followed, Oliveira had some trouble in dividing his attention between the extraordinary stew that Berthe Trépat was boiling up at full steam and the furtive or forthright way in which young and old were leaving the concert. A mixture of Liszt and Rachmaninoff, the Pavan was the tiresome repetition of two or three themes which then got lost in innumerable variations, bits of bravura (rather poorly played, with holes and stitching everywhere) and the solemnities of a catafalque upon a caisson, broken by the sudden fireworks which seemed to delight the mysterious Alix Alix. Once or twice Oliveira was worried that the towering Salammbô hairdo of Berthe Trépat would suddenly collapse, but who knows how many hairpins were reinforcing it, amidst the rumble and tumble of the Pavan. The orgiastic arpeggios which announced the end came on, and three themes were successively repeated (one of which had been lifted bodily from Strauss's Don Juan), and Berthe Trépat let the chords rain down with growing intensity, modified by the hysterical repetition of the first theme and two chords composed of the gravest notes, the last of which came out markedly false for the right hand, but it was something that could happen to anyone and Oliveira applauded warmly; he had really enjoyed it.When Cortázar gets into full story-telling mode, his prose is crisp and his sense of humor wicked. His longer chapters tended to be my favorites for this reason: given time to build up the absurdity of his situations and the strength of his narrative voice, he invariably left me in stitches. I have so many favorite scenes in this regard: the extended piano recital and subsequent walk home in the rain; the scene in which Horacio and Traveler build a plank "bridge" across the alley separating their apartment buildings; the several "expendable" chapters in which Traveler and Talita get hysterical over a book of crackpot political science; the early OCD-esque scene in which Oliveira tells us that he always feels compelled to personally pick up anything he drops or "something terrible will happen" to a person he loves whose name begins with the same letter as the dropped object (followed by a gut-busting account of dropping a sugar cube in a restaurant). Only occasionally did I feel like Cortázar was overdoing the absurdism; in his narrative chapters he generally strikes just that hard-to-achieve balance of hilarity and cohesion. In this passage, for example, Horacio, back in Argentina, has become unaccountably obsessed with the idea of straightening out a bunch of bent nails in the sweltering afternoon sun."God, it's cold," Oliveira said to himself, because he was a great believer in autosuggestion. Sweat was pouring over his eyes out of his hair and it was impossible to hold a nail with the hump up because the lightest blow of the hammer would make it slip out of his fingers which were all wet (from the cold) and the nail would pinch him again and he would mash his fingers (from the cold). To make things worse, the sun had begun to shine with full force into the room (it was the moon on snow-covered steppes, and he whistled to goad the horses pulling against their harnesses), by three o'clock the whole place was covered with snow, he would let himself freeze until he got to that sleepy state described so well and maybe even brought about in Slavic stories, and his body would be entombed in the man-killing whiteness of the livid flowers of space. That was pretty good: the livid flowers of space. Right then he hit himself full on the thumb with the hammer. The coldness that had got into him was so intense that he had to roll around on the ground in an attempt to fight off the stiffness that was coming on him from the fact that he was freezing up. When he managed to sit upright waving his hand around, he was wet from head to toe, probably from the melting snow or from that light drizzle that was mingling with the livid flowers of space and refreshed the wolves as it fell on their fur.I mean, brilliant, right? The way his mind plays with itself and revises its jokes and those revisions are intermingled with and affected by his physical environment. Delicious.And, of course, I loved Cortázar's unremitting experimentalism. He really is a stylistic master; in addition to the obvious structural oddness of Hopscotch there is a chapter which gives us interposed lines of text as Horacio tries to read a book while his mind is on other things; an "erotic" chapter told in a nonsense language invented by La Maga; exuberant alternation among various first- and third-person points of view; and much more. Of all these things, I could not get enough.2. Things that Bored and Offended MeI know we're dealing with South American Lit from the 1960s here, but Cortázar's level of animosity toward women in this novel really got to me. Not only is La Maga the stereotype of the ignorant/uneducated yet "intuitive" female (dear lord, if I never read another example of "I swim in the river / she IS the river," bullshit, I will die happy). Not only does the most interesting woman in the book gain her author's approval by ridiculing other, "normal" females for her husband's voyeuristic pleasure as he hides in the closet. Not only that, but through Morelli we are introduced to the concept of the undesirable "female-reader," the lazy person who doesn't want to do any work while reading: ...the type that doesn't want any problems, but rather solutions, or false and alien problems that will allow him to suffer comfortably seated in his chair, without compromising himself in the drama that should also be his.Okay! Fuck you too, Julio. It's only fair to remark that the hypothetical "female-reader" seems actually to be male, but a male who is inappropriately effeminate (by which Cortázar seems to mean passive, rather than active) in his approach to reading and literature. I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse. The idea that women are all right as long as they act like one of the boys is mirrored elsewhere in Hopscotch, so it makes a perverse kind of sense that men would only be acceptable as long as they don't act like women. I might go so far as to point out that using a word like "female" when what you really mean is "lazy" or "passive" is a pretty lazy lingual trick in itself, although I'm not sure how Spanish-to-English translation may have affected the "female-reader" term. I assume, however, that the "female" portion of it was not invented by the translator out of whole cloth. Even more disturbing, there are a number of passages that seem either to make light of, or to actually praise, rape and sexual abuse. In one scene, Club member Ossip badgers La Maga into telling him about her early life in Montevideo, including a grisly rape. She doesn't want to talk about it, but eventually acquiesces - after which, club members make fun of how she "always" tells the story, belittle the seriousness of the experience, and offer joking compliments to the rapist ("That Negro was quite a guy."). (And yes, the depiction of the rape also struck me as fairly racist, incorporating the tired stereotype of the drooling, animalistic black man living in squalor and attacking an innocent, pubescent white girl.) Later on, the narrator speaks of La Maga's rapist having "dirtied and exalted" her body. Let's be clear, people: rape does not "exalt" anybody or anything. And that's not even to mention the scene in which Oliveira feels all proud of himself for "mistreating" and objectifying La Maga while having sex with her, and worries that as a result she will feel for him "that most subtle form of gratitude which turns to doglike love." This scene also features the cringe-worthy phrase "that ultimate work of knowledge which only a man can give to a woman" - which refers, nonsensically enough, to cunnilingus. Um. Dude is bohemian, but apparently not quite bohemian enough.The narrator's/author's relationship to the characters is uneasy, and he definitely doesn't condone all their actions or attitudes. Oliveira is firmly an antihero, not a hero. However, even if half the misogyny in the novel can be passed off as thoughtful commentary on Horacio's machismo, what remains still goes beyond the normal range of casual sexism I'm ready to overlook on the basis of cultural differences. Although I hardly ever stop reading a book partway through, it grossed me out enough that I considered not reading any further. Overall I'm glad I continued; toward the end, the Talita character even began to recoup some of the respect I lost for Cortázar during the first three quarters of the book. Still, these attitudes severely tarnished my enjoyment of the novel as a whole, and Talita's assertions that she's "nobody's zombie" were, in my opinion, too little, too late. (Whew!)My other main complaint is that, while much of Cortázar's narration is riveting, he does sometimes cross a line into sophomoric pseudo-intellectualism reminiscent of a stoned high-school student. To wit:And Time? Everything begins again, there is no absolute. Then there must be feed or feces, everything becomes critical again. Desire every so often, never too different and always something else: a trick of time to create illusions. 'A love like a fire which burns eternally in the contemplation of Totality.'"Duuuude...turn up the Zappa and pass that j! Sometimes this kind of thing is present intentionally, to demonstrate Oliveira's pretension or intoxication, but at other times it seems sincere - and goes on, I might add, for pages and pages at a time. I think the problem is that there's a lot of Cortázar in Oliveira and Morelli. So while Cortázar is sometimes showing Oliveira/Morelli as a sophomoric windbag, at other times Cortázar himself is a sophomoric windbag. It's that much more painful because there's tangible evidence, sometimes on the previous PAGE, that the guy is a creative genius when he wants to be. Does he include all the faux philosophizing as the dreck that will make his gem-like narrative chapters shine all the brighter? If so, I hardly think it was necessary.3. Effects of the Narrative StructureI didn't want to write a Hopscotch review that ignored the psychological effects of zig-zagging through a text according to an unpredictable, non-linear program. The first thing I noticed was that flipping through the book after every chapter (and many chapters are quite short) obviously disrupts the reading experience. It's more difficult to get into the swing of things if one is constantly paging around, which makes Cortázar's occasional longer chapters, with their concentrated bursts of narrative brilliance, that much more striking. On the flip side, finding a new location after almost every chapter also forces the reader to pause for a few seconds and think about the chapter she's just read. As I spent more time with Hopscotch, I came to an appreciation of this built-in period of contemplation. I found myself thinking about connections I might not have considered without the break, which made me a more female—excuse me, I mean ACTIVE—reader.After I'd been reading a while, two more things hit me: constantly paging back and forth means both that the reader has no idea how far along she is in the novel, and that, insofar as normal "book time" still exists within the first 56 chapters, it moves incredibly slowly. For every ten pages one moves forward in Chapters 1-56, after all, one actually reads twenty. The end effect combines a feeling of frenetic back-and-forth with the sensation of impossibly slow-motion movement, like in those dreams where you're attempting to run against a tremendous, invisible resistance. Not only that, but the reader has little concept of event sequences. In most books, I can read a scene that reminds me of another passage earlier in the novel, think to myself "Oh, that was about 50 pages ago," or "Oh, that was before X event and before Y," and locate it successfully. In Hopscotch I found myself taking copious notes in the back of the book, cataloging all the passages I loved and hated, out of the fear that if I didn't note them down I would likely never be able to find them again. It strikes me that this effect also mirrors the world of dreams, in which locations and events switch places or fail to turn up where they ought to be, and time plays tricks on the dreamer. So too, the book messes with our sense of completeness: usually, one reads every page in a book, starting with the first and ending with the last--after which, one has read the whole thing. According to Cortázar's schema, though, there could easily be a chapter adrift in the text, unconnected with the overarching order of chapters, and the reader wouldn't necessarily realize she'd missed anything. In fact, that chapter is #55. If you're not paying attention (or insufficiently compulsive), and you're reading the "hopscotching" version of the book, you will miss Chapter 55 completely. Given the novel's preoccupation with Oliveira's and La Maga's compulsions, it's undeniably clever, if arguably obnoxious, of Cortázar to replicate the same behaviors in his readers.Cortázar also uses his non-linearity to mimic psychological states in his characters and readers. Take Horacio's reaction to the disaster that befalls La Maga: leading up to the event, the chapters alternate fairly regularly, with one or two "expendable" chapters for every one "regular" chapter. There is then a long (and extremely uncomfortable) "regular" chapter (#28), followed by a barrage of 22 "expendable" chapters that send the reader flying back and forth between #154 and #63 before finally returning to #29. Similarly, within the narrative at that point, Horacio himself abandons La Maga to go on a week-long bender, and our "return" to Chapter 29 coincides with Horacio's return to their erstwhile apartment.Similarly, Cortázar uses the structure to deprive the reader of any definitive "ending" to the novel. Normally, one can't help but privilege the final line of a book: it's the last, strongest impression, the one we remember as we walk away. But in the case of Hopscotch, where should that privilege settle? On the final page of the physical book, which one reads when one is only about halfway done? With the final page of Chapter 56, which ends the standard chapters? Or with the infinite recursive loop between Chapters 58 and 131, which ends the hopscotching version of the book? I admire Cortázar's commitment to exploring all the possibilities of this new format he invented, even if I wouldn't want to adopt it as the new default. Some people (frustrated by the stoned high-school student sections I wrote about on Thursday) recommend taking Cortázar's first recommendation on reading this book over his second: to read only the standard chapters, skipping the expendable chapters and the more experimental hopscotching chronology. I disagree. They're often irritating, but in the end I found that Cortázar's odd structural choices really did enforce and deepen my experience of his novel's themes. The "adrift" Chapter 55 alone, when compared with the more fleshed-out version of the same events one gets in the expanded version, convinced me that I made the right choice, at least for myself.And in the end...After all that, I really have no summation to offer. The disappointing things in this novel did not cancel out the inspiring things, nor did the fascinating things make up for the offensive things. Obviously, I needed to spend an entire week of blogging to fully appreciate, exorcise, and process the reading of this book, and I will say this: it was unforgettable.

Jennifer (JC-S)

‘There is no such thing as a general idea’. ‘Hopscotch’ is a series of journeys through interconnected lives. It is simultaneously a reminder that we each read the same words and form different conclusions.I have read ‘Hopscotch’ twice: following the instructions provided by Mr Cortazar. I will read it again in the future when I will try to be less concerned about where I am going and more interested in why I am undertaking the journey.None of the characters appealed to me and yet I found myself caring about the paths they took and the choices they made. The death of the child, Rocamadour, was so harrowing that I almost stopped reading. But I did not. I wanted to see if somehow this event would change the lives that La Maga and Oliviera chose. By then, of course, it was too late. ‘Everything is writing, that is to say, a fable.’So what is this book about? Who is the narrator? Which points of view does the reader obtain? Is there order in this chaos? Do any of these questions have answers, and are the answers relevant? There is nothing neat about ‘Hopscotch’. The endings are ambiguous, the characters are self-absorbed and the reader is invited to make choices. The novel comes to life and the reader becomes a part of it as the ultimate destination is driven by the choices made.This novel made me uncomfortable. Yet, simultaneously, I am awed by the skills of the writer able to create such a world, invite me into it and leave the choices thereafter entirely to me. I agree with those who consider this amongst the best novels written this century. But don’t take my word for it: read it for yourself. A word of warning: Do not attempt if you lack balance. You may fall.

Carmen

Sem saber muito bem como explicar, apaixonei-me por este livro, logo nas primeiras páginas, apaixonei-me pela Maga.Usei a chave de leitura sugerida no início e fui saltando de capítulo em capítulo, do fim para o princípio, para o meio, mesmo até ao capítulo que não existe, ao que se lê em linhas alternadas, o que não se percebe só se imagina, ri e abanei por demasiadas vezes a cabeça, reconhecendo um louco.No entanto, perdi-me nele muitas vezes, perdendo-me dos racionícios filosóficos do autor, menosprezando as incursões na crítica literária e as considerações sobre o mundo amplamente discutidas no Clube da Serpente. Amei e odei Horacio, confundi-me com Traveler, procurei a Maga por todas as páginas até à última, incapaz de lhe aceitar qualquer destino indiciado, desejando por mais umas linhas tê-la no meu livro.

Kotb

Rayuela ti cambia. Può piacere come inquietare, eppure è praticamente impossibile arrivare alla fine del "gioco" senza sentire che ciò che abbiamo appena letto mette in serio dubbio molte delle nostre certezze. Il potenziale destabilizzante di un libro come questo è sconfinato. All'improvviso tutto quello che ci circonda diventa una palestra dell'"assurdo", la quotidianità, la routine perdono qualsivoglia significato: la semplificazione offertaci dalla "società" è solo un illusione.La particolare via d'uscita offertaci dalla parabola di Horacio Oliveira conduce inequivocabilmente alla pazzia (ovvero al suicidio metafisico). E terminato il libro non si capisce a chi spetti infine la definizione di folle.

Nathaniel

As Cortazar's Table of Instructions will inform you, "Hopscotch consists of . . . two books above all." Do not read the second one. A reader can volunteer to be launched after nearly every chapter of the relatively conventional narrative contained in chapters 1-56 (the first book) into a grab bag of unimpressive quotations from good authors, awful literary theory attributed to "Morelli" and scattered narrative chapters that the plot can do without. This disruptive method of reading "Hopscotch" is most tolerant of its experiment with form, most in harmony with the psyche of the novel's protagonist and, perhaps, most in line with the author's intentions. It is how I read the book and I enjoyed it soooo much less because of that decision. The desultory and labyrinthine experience of integrating all of the scraps from the cutting room floor into the midst of a sometimes thought-provoking and well-crafted narrative, robs Cortazar's novel of its grace and is likely to rob many readers of their patience. It is an unusual sensation to be in the middle of a book and to have absolutely no idea how many pages separate you from the ending; just as it is unusually frustrating to lose your place when it means scanning back and forth through twelve jumpy chapters to find it. Perhaps the experience is meant to be more like life than reading.Every time that I realized that the upcoming appendix-chapter that was about to draw my attention away from Horacio's existence was classified as "Morelliana" I sobbed inwardly and throttled imaginary songbirds. If you feel indulgent towards self-important amateurs who sit around and ramble about matters that have been written about with intelligence and skill, or if you like it when young novelists try to propound grand theories of aesthetics based mostly on the strength of their pride, you *may* have patience for Morelli's contributions, which, unfortunately, make up somewhere near half of the extra chapters. "What Morelli is looking for is to break the reader's mental habits." Thanks, I got it and I also understand that a reader can use Morelli as a lense to gain some insight into Cortazar's novel and into the sort of milieu that his characters inhabit. It's just that Cortazar is actually a gifted story-teller with a poet's attention to memorable and overlooked detail whose work draws no strength from these digressions.To a degree, Horacio and his buddies suffer from a similarly vapid chattiness. If I had to spend an evening with his Club in Paris, I don't think I could become drunk enough to find them unpretentious. Their self-congratulatory rambling seems, in fact, to infect the book as a whole, and the more I look back on this novel, the less I like it. Perhaps if Cortazar had been twenty something, if this was his "Stephen Hero," his degree of unfounded pedantry would be excusable. But he was forty and should have known better than to foist a bunch of used up ideas on people.If this review seems harsh, it is because after reading "Autonauts of the Cosmosphere" I had very high hopes for Cortazar's other works.On the bright side: "Hopscotch" is sometimes comical and sharply phrased. It is interesting to watch Horacio struggle amongst his associates to satisfy himself with a small cast of women, even if those women suffer from the sort of wide-eyed, uninitiated magical simplicity that gets really old in the hands of the surrealists and their devotees. At least, the chapters set in an Argentinian mental hospital are a pleasant digestif.

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