J. Cortazar, Hopscotch & Blow Up

“Nothing is lost if one has the courage to proclaim that all is lost and we must begin anew”. Rayuela (Hopscotch) (1963)

Julio Cortázar, born Jules Florencio Cortázar (August 26, 1914 – February 12, 1984), was an Argentine novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Known as one of the founders of the Latin American Boom, Cortázar influenced an entire generation of Spanish-speaking readers and writers in the Americas and Europe. He has been called a “modern master of the short story.”

“And after doing all they do they rise from their bed, they bathe, powder and perfume their persons, they dress, and gradually return to being what they are not” – from: Un tal Lucas (1979)

In 1951, Cortázar, who was opposed to the government of Juan Domingo Perón, emigrated to France, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. From 1952 onwards, he worked for UNESCO as a translator. The projects he worked on included Spanish renderings of Robinson Crusoe, Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel Mémoires d’Hadrien, and stories by Edgar Allan Poe. He also came under the influence of the works of Alfred Jarry and the Comte de Lautréamont, and wrote most of his major works in Paris.

Cortázar wrote numerous short stories, collected in such volumes as Bestiario (1951), Final del juego (1956), and Las armas secretas (1959). English translations by Paul Blackburn of stories selected from these volumes were published as Blow-up and Other Stories by Pantheon Books (1967). The title of this collection refers to Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blowup (1966), which was inspired by Cortázar’s story “Las Babas del Diablo” (literally, “The Droolings of the Devil“, an Argentine expression for the long threads some spiders and insects leave hanging between the trees), which was in turn based on a photograph taken by Chilean photographer Sergio Larraín during a shoot outside of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Hopscotch (Spanish: Rayuela) is a novel by Argentine writer Julio Cortázar. Written in Paris and published in Spanish in 1963 and in English in 1966.

“I imposed the false order that hides the chaos, pretending that I was dedicated to a profound existence while all the time it was the one that barely dipped its toe into the terrible waters” Horacio – Main Character

Hopscotch is an introspective stream-of-consciousness novel where characters fluctuate and play with the subjective mind of the reader, and it has multiple endings. This novel is often referred to as a counter-novel, as it was by Cortázar himself. 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

Horacio (the main character) drifts from city to city, job to job, love to love, life to life, yet even in his nomadic existence he tries to find a sense of order in the world’s chaos. He is always isolated.

At one point in the novel Horacio witnesses a car accident. It is said of the victim that “he doesn’t have any family, he’s a writer.” Horacio is stunned by the way violence brings the community together. Medics rush to the scene in an ambulance and speak “friendly, comforting words to him.” Violence and conflict continually bring characters together in Hopscotch

Since Cortázar’s death in 1984, there has been a great deal of ambiguity regarding the classification of the ‘novel without genre.’ Works such as William S. Burroughs’ 1962 novel, The Ticket That Exploded, and Thomas Pynchon’s V., published the same year as Hopscotch, have earned similar reputations.

Written in an episodic, snapshot manner, the novel has 155 chapters, the last 99 being designated as “expendable.” Some of these “expendable” chapters fill in gaps that occur in the main storyline, while others add information about the characters or record the aesthetic or literary speculations of a writer named Morelli who makes a brief appearance in the narrative. Some of the ‘expendable chapters’ at first glance seem like random musings, but upon closer inspection solve questions that arise during the reading of the first two parts of the book.

An author’s note suggests that the book would best be read in one of two possible ways, either progressively from chapters 1 to 56 or by “hopscotching” through the entire set of 155 chapters according to a “Table of Instructions” designated by the author. Cortazar also leaves the reader the option of choosing his/her own unique path through the narrative. Several narrative techniques are employed throughout the book, and frequently overlap, including first person, third person, and a kind of stream-of-consciousness. Traditional spelling and grammatical rules are often bent and sometimes broken outright. A few chapters purport to be written by other authors, and there is even a whole section taken almost verbatim from another novel that may or may not exist in actuality.

Horacio’s life seems hopeless because he has deemed himself a failure. La Maga’s life seems hopeless because she has never worked to resolve the issues of rape and abuse in her childhood. Traveler’s life seems hopeless because he has never done what he wanted to do, and even the name he’s adopted teases at this irony. But none of these people are considered by outward society to be failures. They are stuck where they are because of their own self-defeating attitudes.

“The snail lives the way I like to live; he carries his own home with him.” Cortazar


2 thoughts on “J. Cortazar, Hopscotch & Blow Up

  1. Pingback: Hopscotch turns 50, but The Pursuer hasn’t aged a day | The Drugstore Notebook

  2. Hi,
    I love the idea of hopscotch. Is there any way that i can get a better resolution picture of hopscotch to be able to print it ?

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