Jim's Reviews > Hopscotch

Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar
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May 27, 11

bookshelves: argentina, 20th-century-lit
Read from May 16 to 27, 2011

There are two novels inside Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch: a more or less continuous story that starts with chapter 1 and ends with chapter 56, and a much longer book that skips around back and forth, starting at chapter 73 and ending at chapter 131, with frequent detours between chapters 1 and 155. And that's just where the confusion begins. This is quite frankly a difficult novel which grows ever more difficult as it lurches toward a conclusion.

It tells the story of Horacio Oliveira, an Argentinian expatriate living in Paris. We see him interact with his lover, La Maga, and a rather snarky group of intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals that calls itself the Club. La Maga is the mother of a young baby she calls Rocamadour who dies of a fever during a Club get-together at her flat. Only Horacio fails to attend the funeral, and La Maga promptly disappears.

After looking for her, Horacio returns to Buenos Aires to his friend Manu Traveler and his wife Talita, who work for a circus. His behavior becomes ever more bizarre, which is not aided by the circus selling out to another buyer and the whole crew buying into a local insane asylum. The last couple of chapters in chapter sequence 1-56 become ever more obscure, with talk of rulemans (?) and Heftpistoles (?) and networks of colored threads and basins full of water. Don't ask me to explain: I'm nowhere near knowing even how the story ends.

And yet, there is something here, especially in the French sequences. It is very evident that Cortazar, who himself was born in Belgium and lived most of his life in Europe, was a deracinated individual who owed much of his culture to Argentina, yet was neither fish nor fowl in his personal life.

I am a great admirer of Cortazar's short stories, especially those collected in Blow Up and Other Stories and All Fires the Fire. They are much more tightly controlled.

Will I ever undertake to read the entire hopscotching chapter sequence of Hopscotch? Perhaps. But for now I think I'll give it a rest.
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05/16/2011 page 43
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