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Julio Cortázar

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To purchase Hopscotch

Title: Hopscotch
Author: Julio Cortázar
Genre: Novel
Written: 1963 (Eng.: 1966)
Length: 576 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Hopscotch - US
Rayuela - US
Hopscotch - UK
Hopscotch - Canada
Hopscotch - India
Marelle - Frankreich
Rayuela - Deutschland
Il gioco del mondo - Italia
Rayuela - España
  • Translated by Gregory Rabassa
  • Spanish title: Rayuela

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Our Assessment:

A : a modern classic

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Commentary . 10/1966 Carlos Fuentes
The New Republic . 23/4/1966 C.D.B.Bryan
The NY Rev. of Books . 28/4/1966 John Wain
The NY Times Book Rev. A+ 10/4/1966 Donald Keene

  From the Reviews:
  • "Everything in Hopscotch is a ghostly double of itself: cities, characters, cultures, even the author himself. But in Latin America, fantasy is history. History as change does not exist; there is only the compulsive repetition of ritual acts. (...) In short, Hopscotch, in its depth of imagination and suggestion, in its maze of black mirrors, in its ironical potentiality-through-destruction of time and words, marks the true possibility of encounter between the Latin-American imagination and the contemporary world." - Carlos Fuentes, Commentary

  • "The story, despite the deliberately episodic, snapshot manner, achieves dramatic intensity. The dialogue is brilliant, whether the subject is literature, love, Mondrian, jazz or the fallibility of science. Individual scenes are superbly alive. (...) Hopscotch is in fact a comic novel, sometimes howlingly funny, always acutely ironic." - Donald Keene, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Julio Cortázar's Hopscotch remains one of the most influential and significant novels to appear in Latin America after the Second World War. It is, in part, notorious for its unusual presentation: it comes with a "Table of Instructions". There Cortázar announces: "In its own way, this book consists of many books, but two books above all."
       The volume itself consists of 155 chapters. Cortázar suggests that the book can be read simply from the beginning to chapter 56, where the book can be considered to end -- "the reader may ignore what follows with a clean conscience." The alternative he proposes is to begin with chapter 73 and then proceed according to a sequence listed in the "Table of Instructions". (For convenience, each chapter ends with an indication of the next that is to be read in this particular sequence.) Needless to say, this version does not end with chapter 56.
       To many readers this sounds like a contrivance that is too clever by half. Rest assured: it is not. The book allows for these -- and other -- readings. Indeed it can even be read front to back in its entirety.
       The first section -- From the Other Side -- (56 chapters in some 361 pages) is fairly straightforward. The "expendable chapters" that make up the second section -- From Diverse Sides -- are considerably shorter (99 of them in just over 200 pages) and include a variety of notes, embellishments, quotes, even an Octavio Paz poem. They can be considered as integral to the text, or merely as support for it (or, as Cortázar suggests, as entirely expendable).
       The story centers around Horacio Oliveira, an Argentine living a fragmentary life in Paris and the Buenos Aires. As Cortázar makes clear, the text does not depend on any chronological order. The many episodes from Oliveira's life can be read in any variety of sequences without altering the gist of the novel.
       Literary and philosophical meditations abound in this intellectual's story. It is a very literary novel, in every sense, and literature is central to it, from the name-dropping of countless authors to the influences various works exert. Jazz also plays a role, and politics and specifically the state of Argentina and the state of exile.
       The text is often compared to hypertext novels, in how one can jump from scene to scene, chapter to chapter. There are also other experimental games within the novel -- such as telling two tales concurrently, alternating lines between them (chapter 34, for example) -- and there are first and third person narrators, as well as the diverse quotes and notes of the second part. All of it is very polished (and most of it comes through in Rabassa's translation). Cortázar, known as a short story writer, makes the book worth reading just for the pieces. The puzzle of the whole, however, also adds to the pleasure, fun, and -- sometimes -- frustration.
       It is an incredibly rich novel, not readily reducible to plot (though a great deal happens) or language (though a great deal is done with it). Highly recommended -- try it for yourself !

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Hopscotch: Reviews: Julio Cortázar: Other books by Julio Cortázar under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentinian author Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) was born in Brussels, and lived in France from 1951 onwards. He is the author of numerous acclaimed experimental works.

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