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Julio Cortázar: Rayuela (Hopscotch)

First of all, you can, according to Cortázar, read this novel in two ways. The first is the conventional way – start at the beginning and go through to the end, or at least to the end of Chapter 56. The second way is to start at chapter 73 and then jump to the chapter indicated at the end of each chapter, which is rarely the next one in conventional alphabetical order. Got that? I tried the second way.

Maybe I should have tried the first way because, frankly, I did not get any pleasure out this book. The hero, Horacio Oliveira, seems to spend his time wandering around Paris (and also Buenos Aires), smoking drinking, partying, jazz, girlfriend problems (she disappears). Yes, it is all very bohemian and there is a fair amount of humour and lots of learned discussion about learned subjects, particularly jazz. And yes, it is meant to show that life, like this novel, is a bit of a mystery and we are all trapped in a labyrinth which this novel, with its unconventional page numbering, is. But, when it comes down to it, it is not a very enjoyable novel. Critics who write about it tend to focus heavily on the two ways of reading, going into some detail about this, but do not seem to come up with any valid reason for choosing either way, except to point out that it is symbolic of our complex life. Oh, yawn. Stick to Borges.

Publishing history

First published in Spanish by Editorial Sudamericana 1963
First published in English by Pantheon Books 1966
Translated by Gregory Rabassa