Cortazar, an Argentinian who has been living in Paris since the early '50's, was introduced here last year with The Winners....



Cortazar, an Argentinian who has been living in Paris since the early '50's, was introduced here last year with The Winners. Hopscotch, however, which is almost twice as long, which has no narrative action whatsoever, no characters-- only voices, very articulate voices to be sure, may prompt more irritation than admiration. It is the perfect example of the anti-novel. One can suspect its aesthetic validity at the start when one is told that the first half roughly can ""be read in a normal fashion"" but that the second must be read in the numerical chapter order 73-1-2-116-etc. ending with 131. (There are two chapters 131.) A device of this sort (pagination) was used in a French novel a couple of years ago to no good end... To reduce the incoherent 560 pages most simply, the first part deals with Horacio Oliveira (""a conscious bum"") while he is in Paris, attempting to ""grasp unity in the midst of diversity."" He is living with one La Maga, and sitting around drinking, talking--about jazz, painters, empirical ontology, illusion, time, identity, the Sartrean bit or what he calls the ""giddy discontinuity of existence."" In the second part, he has gone back to Argentina, picked up with a couple called the Travelers, gone to work with Traveler in a mental clinic where they play hopscotch in a courtyard. The last part, to which the author invitingly refers as the ""Expendable Chapters,"" travel back and forth between the two worlds, padded with excerpts, letters, notes, what have you... Cortazar's command of language is fantastically plastic and is used to convey a whole flux of ideas, memories, and auxiliary associations. The density of the allusions and cultural references reminds one of Gaddis' Recognitions. Then there's the wordplay-- in French, in Spanish, and sometimes in a tongue where even pig Latin fails (""the clemise began to smother her and they fell into hydromuries, into savage ambonies"" etc.)...As someone says, ""Since nothing has any reality... we have to start ex nihil."" Having started ex nihil, one goes nowhere. That's the problem. It's no more than a stunning display of existential chaos. The book has received tremendous attention abroad.

Pub Date: April 11, 1966

ISBN: 0394752848

Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1966