Translated by Gregory Rabassa, winner of the National Book Award for Translation, 1967
Horacio Oliveira is an Argentinian writer who lives in Paris with his mistress, La Maga, surrounded by a loose-knit circle of bohemian friends who call themselves "the Club." A child's death and La Maga's disappearance put an end to his life of empty pleasures and intellectual acrobatics, and prompt Oliveira to return to Buenos Aires, where he works by turns as a salesman, a keeper of a circus cat which can truly count, and an attendant in an insane asylum. Hopscotch is the dazzling, freewheeling account of Oliveira's astonishing adventures.
About the Author
JULIO CORTÁZAR was born in Brussels to Argentinian parents in 1914, was raised in Argentina, and in 1952 moved to Paris, where he continued to live for the rest of his life. He was a poet, translator, an amateur jazz musician as well as the author of several novels and volumes of short stories. Ten of his books have been published in English: The Winners, Hopscotch (which won the National Book Award), Blow-Up and Other Stories, Cronopios and Famas, 62: A Model Kit, A Change of Light, We Love Glenda So Much, and A Certain Lucas. He received the Prix Médicis Award (France, 1974) and the Rubén Darío Order of Cultural Independence (Nicaragua, 1983), among other accolades. Considered one of the great modern Latin American authors, he died in Paris in February 1984.
Read an Excerpt
By Julio Cortazar
PantheonCopyright © 1987 Julio Cortazar
All right reserved.
"I touch your mouth. I touch the edge of your mouth with my finger. I am drawing it as if it were something my hand was sketching, as if for the first time your mouth opened a little, and all I have to do is close my eyes to erase it and start all over again, every time I can make the mouth I want appear, the mouth which my hand chooses and sketches on your face, and which by some chance that I do not seek to understand coincides exactly with your mouth which smiles beneath the one my hand is sketching on you.
You look at me, from close up you look at me, closer and closer and then we play cyclops, we look closer and closer at one another and our eyes get larger, they come closer, they merge into one and the two cyclopses look at each other, blending as they breathe, our mouths touch and struggle in gentle warmth, biting each other with their lips, barely holding their tongues on their teeth, playing in corners where a heavy air comes and goes with an old perfume and a silence. Then my hands go to sink into your hair, to cherish slowly the depth of your hair while we kiss as if our mouths were filled with flowers or with fish, with lively movements and dark fragrance. And if we bite each other the pain is sweet, and if we smother each other in a brief and terrible sucking in together of our breaths, that momentary death is beautiful. And there is but one saliva and one flavor of ripe fruit, and I feel you tremble against me like a moon on the water."
Excerpted from Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar Copyright © 1987 by Julio Cortazar. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc.
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What People are Saying About This
My problem continues to be, as you must have sensed upon reading [Hopscotch], a metaphysical problem, a constant state of being torn between the monstrous error of being what we are as individuals and as peoples of this century, and a glimpse of the future in which human society will consolidate into that archetype of which socialism gives a practical and poetry a spiritual vision. From the moment I became aware of the essential human act, that search has been my commitment and my duty.
Anyone who doesn't read Cortázar is doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who has never tasted peaches. He would quietly become sadder...and, probably, little by little, he would lose his hair.
A work of the most exhilarating talent and interest.
"Cortazar's masterpiece . . . the first great novel of Spanish America."
—The Times Literary Supplement
"The most powerful encyclopedia of emotions and visions to emerge from the postwar generation of international writers."
—The New Republic
"A work of the most exhilarating talent and interest."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The reader can become complacent in the non-stop hopscotch, or can find it rather irritating and become traversed in the daunting task that often times forces him to read a single-page chapter, skipping back three hundred seventy six pages to read a mere two pages before fast forwarding another four hundred and fifty five for what seems a pointless four paragraphs then backtracking five pages for two sentences. It is not without purpose though, as the further along the reader hops, the more the reader understands why he jumped from one square to the next. The author is allowed a new type of control but also an exploration of his own novel through this game of hopscotch. The illogical continuation becomes logical because the reader is not expecting a logical connection therefore never knows what to expect, and becomes trapped in a constant anticipatory state. This in itself is an existential feeling, a theory Horacio Oliveira returns to often in his debates with his other bohemian friends and members of The Club. The reader quickly recognizes the playful spirit of the author; and laughing along with the author¿s practical joke can become as thrilling as a rollercoaster ride of constantly flipping from the `expendable chapters¿ back to the pre-expendable aka chapters from `the other side¿. However, the longer the reader spends in the expendable chapters (post chapter 56) the more accepting he becomes of the surreal and eventually melts into the dream landscape that is illustrated so gloriously by Cortazar himself, achieving the writers grand aspiration of painting with words. The reader escapes the Rembrandt of pre-56 and becomes confronted with a Magritte in the post-56. In a typical René Magritte painting, conventional objects are placed in an unorthodox context, for example, a steam train races out of a fireplace towards the unknown in his painting ¿Time Transfixed¿. During the odyssey through the deserted desert of the expendable chapters, after short newspaper clippings, the odd Octavio Paz poem, numerous existential quandaries, and possibly a dream explanation or a sexual encounter, the reader will finally be rewarded with the return to the `reality¿ of pre-56. While hopping back, he takes off his sand-drenched combat boots, puts on his lumberjacket and is transplanted back as a bohemian in Paris during the late 1950¿s to a place where a pot of strong yerba mate is being procured by a familiar thin figure who poses as his muse, at which time the reader may or may not notice a sick infant sleeping nearby. ¿Perhaps that is why he chose the novel form for his meanderings, and published in addition what he kept on finding or unfinding.¿ (Cortazar p. 441) The reader has two options: to accept this constant travel between dimensions or to shut the book entirely, stand up, sit down and realize that the he is no longer Horacio Oliveira, Morelli, The Traveler, or Julio Cortazar but he was simply a reader seized in an expendable universe. ¿Only by living absurdly is it possible to break out of this infinite absurdity.¿(Cortazar p. 111)
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 an otherwise 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.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 often 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 fun as hell.
i am surprised more people have not written a review on this book. this book: WOW. Everyone needs to read this book. it will definitely expand your consciousness and open your world. this book is simply amazing. it will blow your mind. by the title hopscotch Cortizar is offering you the opportunity to read his novel by skipping around chapters, like from chapter 83 to 7, etc. or you can read it in the conventional style. there are traces of existentialism and what seems all doctrines under the sun. there are chapters 40 pages plus and some reduced to a few sentences in length. there is this one chapter that has two stories in it where the first line skips a line. so line one and three are together and then 2 and 4 and together so forth and so on. the novel takes you through a group of intellectuals in paris and their thoughts they have. some things are disturbing. some beautiful. some just off the wall. if you like philosophy intermixed with fiction, read this sucka! you'll like it.
Hopscotch is the best book I`ve ever read, and I did it three times.After reading it I became La Maga, it was 4 years ago, and I tried to think in her way, and find her places in Paris, sometimes I still feel I`m her.If u love Hopscotch don`t u loose a photography book:El Paris de Rayuela, by Hector Zampaglione.