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Thread: Julio Cortázar: Hopscotch

  1. #1
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    Argentina Julio Cortázar: Hopscotch

    I was looking at Hopscotch today during a wander around the book shops. I'd heard of it before, but never really knew much about it, so took the time to have a quick scan of the blurb and whatnot. Apparently it's two novels in one, in a way. You can read the chapters in order, up to a point, and go away happy at having read the book...or you can follow a supplied sequence of chapters, thus hopscotching through the book, taking in the chapters that the other narrative deemed expendable.

    Interesting premise. Obviously it works. But I was wondering who here has read it and which of the two plots they found best. Do they complement each other, or are they independent, even if they do overlap in a number of chapters?

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    The "second" book has no plot. It's not a plot inside the plot so much as an essay inside the novel. I read it as per Cort?zar's suggested order. It's a fantastic book.

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Hmmm, perhaps I should have bought it. It was certainly intriguing to have a quick thumb through it.

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    "Rayuela" is one of the greatest books of the 20th century, concerning Latinamerican Literature. Nowadays we read and see a lot of metaliterary stuff that comes directly from the line drawn by Joyce, Cort?zar and some others. Though I recommend it, Cortazar's short stories are his best works, by far; for me his best novel is "El examen" (I guess is not traceable in English).

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    I have this book in my backlog list , having bought this almost 5 years back. Not sure, why I haven't picked it up for reading. Thanks for this thread and I will move it up in my priority.
    Jayan



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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Guillaume Barkero:

    Final Exam - Julio Cortzar

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Ericz: thanks for the tip! (one non-translated-into-English Cort?zar novel would be a nice finding...)

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    Argentina Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Aside from saying that sadism (and, most especially, sexual sadism) is not a personal turn-on for me, I'd prefer to not elaborate upon my reasons for not liking Hopscotch. Actually, I stopped reading it about 1/3 of the way through. I am not doubting Cortazar's brilliance. The book just very much offended me. In fact, I'm going to borrow a line from Dorothy Parker to sum up my feelings on it:

    "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be
    thrown with great force."

    I have read other things by Cortazar--namely, short stories. Some of them are good, some are strange. It's rather like watching a string of films from the French New Wave movement--some of them can be exquisitely innovative, whereas others are downright bizarre.

    To those who are Hopscotch fans, I offer no words of criticism. There is room in this world for both you and me.

    Best,
    Titania

    "There's no such thing as chance;
    And what to us seems merest accident
    Springs from the deepest source of destiny."
    ~Johann Friedrich von Schiller
    "All men have the same defect: they wait to live, for they have not the courage of each instant.
    Why not invest enough passion in each moment to make it an eternity?" ~E. M. Cioran

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    I would very much like you to elaborate on what offended you actually. Your comment is a tad cryptic.
    Tabula Rasa, litblog (in French)

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    Argentina Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Fausto,
    In order to respond fairly to your inquiries, I would need to own a copy of the book.
    Unfortunately, I don't. However, I will get it out of the library as soon as I can. Then I shall address your questions more specifically.

    I believe Hopscotch was on your list of 50 favorite books. And so I hope I won't offend you if I offer my genuine "take" on the book once I procure a copy. If there would be any change of starting an argument, I'm willing to leave the entire subject alone. Although there is such a thing as "healthy debate," it would be my preference to maintain an atmosphere of amiability.

    Please do remember that, being a woman--and one with feministic tendencies, at that--I am not going to see things in the same light that you might. Obviously, we would have drastically different
    vantage points.

    ~Titania

    "In the fields of observation chance favors only
    the prepared mind."
    ~Louis Pasteur
    "All men have the same defect: they wait to live, for they have not the courage of each instant.
    Why not invest enough passion in each moment to make it an eternity?" ~E. M. Cioran

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    I'm interested in literature. Vantage points do not interest me as much as the written word, so if your distate is linked to a perceived world-view incompability rather than an assessment of literary qualities, I'm not going to be receptive, that's for sure. I won't bite, though.
    Tabula Rasa, litblog (in French)

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    I have always enjoyed Cortazar, and I consider Hopscotch to be a major work. Even more interesting, however, are his short stories and poetry. Unreasonable Hours (short stories) and Save Twilight (poetry) are two small volumes that include some of his lesser known works; both are worth reading. I don't know if they are currently in print, but they can probably be found on Amazon.

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    Argentina Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Fausto,
    A point could be argued here that a reader's vantage point is connected to the literary qualities within a work.

    I'll give an example. The day before yesterday I was reading a critical essay on sexuality in Victorian literature. The critic who wrote this essay perceives issues of lesbianism in Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre. Is that not just his opinion? I would say so. In fact, I think his conclusions in this regard probably have a great deal to do with his general "world-view."

    However, I have no problems with separating Hopscotch's literary merit from my own feelings about the work. I am capable of being very analytical (believe it or not) and I can also be highly objective. But please understand that I am not going to be influenced by anyone else's opinion on the book. It doesn't matter to me if a million critics consider it to be one of the masterpieces of world literature. It matters little to me that Pablo Neruda (a poet whom I happen to admire) is famously quoted as saying: "People who do not read Cortazar are doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease." I honestly just don't care.

    The reason I'm re-reading the book is because a) I like you and respect your intelligence and b) I want to make sure I can separate my own likes/dislikes from my critical opinions. Plus, I figure if I can re-read Dreams of My Russian Summers for Thomas Saliot, I can re-read this for you. And it won't do me any harm. It's not as if it's Paulo Coelho .

    Anyway, I ordered it yesterday from the library. So, I'm assuming I'll be able to start reading it during the next few days.

    Best,
    Titania

    "Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins.
    Which of the two has the grander view?"
    ~Victor Hugo
    "All men have the same defect: they wait to live, for they have not the courage of each instant.
    Why not invest enough passion in each moment to make it an eternity?" ~E. M. Cioran

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Titania, I am curious about your criticism, too.
    Hopscotch/Rayuela is one of my favorite books, and (or even though?) I identify as a feminist also. The novel definitely isn't unproblematic re: gender (the female reader, for one), but I didn't read the novel - or Oliveira - as especially sadistic. I don't know if you were referring to something more specific, though.

    I agree re: vantage point, and think that it is possible to acknowledge how one's background or vantage point shapes an assessment of the literary qualities of a work (or the definitions or weight of those qualities) without reducing literature to mere fodder for ideological sermonizing (ahem). [Edited to say, I was also thinking of vantage point not just of gender but also in relation to debates over realism and representation and the purpose of the novel ...]
    Last edited by amanda; 16-Oct-2008 at 02:19.

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    Argentina Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Amanda (Fausto, you may also find this post of some interest),

    Hello! Glad to become acquainted with you. It's interesting that, being a feminist (I believe this is how you see yourself) that you didn't notice the sadistic way that Oliviera treats La Maga. Of course, I don't know how long ago you read this book. I just got my copy of it from the library today (bravo!); thus, I am able to elucidate a little bit on my previous comments by using passages directly from the book:

    From Chapter 5:

    :.....he (Oliveria) bothered La Maga in a long night which
    they did not speak much about later. He turned her into Parsiphae
    (queen of Crete in Greek mythology who has sex with a bull and becomes the mother of Minotaur), he bent her over and used her as if she were a young boy, he knew her and demanded the slavishness of the most abject whore, he magnified her into a constellation, he held her in his arms smelling of blood, he made her drink the semen which ran into her mouth like a challenge to the Logos......he wore her out....

    Cortazar goes on to write:

    "Later on Oliviera began to worry that she would think herself
    jaded.....(she was) terribly mistreated that night...."

    Then....

    ".....La Maga was really waiting for Horacio (Oliviera) to kill her and (that) hers would be a phoenix death...."

    I'm sorry, but does this relationship really sound normal to you?
    Don't you think it's sadistic when a man forces a sexual act on a woman?? It's obvious the scene I've just shared is one in which anal rape takes place. La Maga obviously didn't wish to take part in anal sex. Doesn't sound like she wanted to swallow Oliviera's semen, either.


    Let's contrast this scene to one in D.H.Lawrence Lady Chatterley's Lover, another scene in which (discreetly) anal sex evidently transpires:

    "....Though a little frightened she let (note: let implies she had a choice) him have his way, and the reckless, shameless sensuality shook her to her foundations, stripped her to the very last, and made a different woman of her. It was not really love (but thankfully, it was apparently not rape, either). It was not voluptuousness. It was sensuality sharp and searing as fire, burning the soul to tinder.....She had often wondered what Abelard meant, when he said that in their year of love he and Heloise had passed through all the stages and refinements of passion (perhaps no one on this list is aware of it, but Abelard and Heloise had a very "experimental" relationship, sexually speaking). The same thing, a thousand years ago: ten thousand years ago! The same on the Greek vases, everywhere! The refinements of passion, the extravagances of sensuality!....."

    It may not be blatantly obvious that these passages are referring to anal sex. But take a look at this essay on Lady Chatterley's Lover written by Doris Lessing:

    Books news, reviews and author interviews | guardian.co.uk | Books | guardian.co.uk

    Go to this link and put the name Lessing in the search engine.

    A direct link (which may or may not work) is here:

    Doris Lessing on Lady Chatterley's Lover | Books | The Guardian

    Whether or not anal sex is a turn-on for you (just for the record, it isn't for me), I still think you must admit it ought to take place between two consenting adults.

    Amanda, I haven't any idea what your relationships with men have been like. And honestly, the details of your sex life aren't ANY of my business. But I do hope you realize that men who force sexual acts on women are sadists. It isn't normal or natural for a man to use a woman like a whore. Even whores shouldn't be used in that fashion.

    In regard to Hopscotch, I'm going to give it another read. However, my opinion regarding the sadism in the book will not alter no matter
    how many times I read it (or how many other opinions I hear).

    Best,
    Titania

    PS At the risk of offending someone on this list, I am speaking much more explicitly on this subject than I would like to. You'll note in my first posting regarding Hopscotch I clearly stated that I had "personal reasons" that "I'd rather not go into" for disliking the book. But, since you and fausto have requested that I be more specific, I am merely acquiescing to your (and his) wishes.

    "In high art and pure science detail is everything."
    ~Vladimir Nabokov
    "All men have the same defect: they wait to live, for they have not the courage of each instant.
    Why not invest enough passion in each moment to make it an eternity?" ~E. M. Cioran

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Is this relationship presented as being acceptable or normal in the book?

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Hello, Friends.
    I don't agree with many of Harold Bloom's statements, but I found a very valuable point of view in Western Canon: appreciating literary works based upon their literary merits or not to appreciate them at all. I tell you: I'm a Latinamerican, and I recognize that Cortazar is better read in his maternal language, because his prose (Rayuela is a good example) and its rythm are unique, recognizable from Onetti's, Borges', Carpentier's and from many others. Cortazar's account of endless jazz-blues sessions and his "fluid" and melancholic views of the landscape of Paris resist any political/ideological interpretation. That is my point of view, I say.

    (But, as I said before, his short stories -almost any of his collections- are his best works)

    Warm regards.

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    Argentina Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Jayaprakash,
    I don't have a memory of the relationship being depicted as particularly abnormal. However, I haven't read even 1/3 of the book. In fact, I pretty much stopped reading after the scene I posted parts of to this list popped up. I just have a problem with men using, mistreating, or otherwise violating women, particularly when the women who are treated badly allow themselves to continue being hurt. Maybe this really is "a woman's thing"?? Though if it is that, why was Hopscotch one of Amanda's favorite books?

    One reason I'm re-reading (if it's proper to call it that--remember I didn't read much of it before) Hopscotch is to have a clear and unbiased view of the entire work. There is much talk here about literary merit. However, when I discreetly mentioned the sexual sadism in the book, I was asked to basically explain myself (strange when people only want to hear comments about "literary merit"). I will state that La Maga (the girlfriend of Oliviera, whom he rapes) does not end the relationship after he abuses her. I don't think she makes a very big deal of it. Clearly, she doesn't enjoy it (though how could she, unless she's completely masochistic?) I know that a good writer isn't supposed to pass judgement on his characters. Yet, from the tone Cortazar takes about the relationship, I don't think we're supposed to see Oliviera as a bad man simply because he rapes his girlfriend.

    I can just see men reading Hopscotch, thinking, "Yeah, I can treat a woman like this if I want to. Why not? It's not like anything terrible will happen if I do."

    And yes, people really do oft-times base their actions on those of their favorite characters from books and films. I once knew a man who, from watching so many movies where a woman said "No" when she really wanted sex, had developed the idea that "No" from a woman really means "Yes." But maybe this isn't an uncommon male viewpoint?? (sorry if I sound cynical, but I honestly don't know quite what to think these days).

    But back to this book.....

    I'm not terribly anxious to read Hopscoth, even though it's considered to be a grand "masterpiece" and what-not. I can separate literary qualities in a book from personal opinions. But if you'll note, those who want mere literary criticism nonetheless seem to want me to elucidate on my comments about sexual sadism.
    It's like the comedian, Bill Cosby, said: "I don't know what the secret to success is. But the secret to failure is to try to please everyone." I feel almost like I can't win here. Surely the people here don't think I'm incapable of writing a critical review of a book.
    However, if they're going to inquire into my personal feelings, I have every freedom to share those, too. And it really does make me unhappy to read books in which women are mistreated by men without those men having to pay any consequences.

    But speaking strictly of literary merit....I'm not overly impressed by Cortazar's writing. So far, I don't see much (read: any) artistry in it.
    He's no Marquez or Calvino, that's for sure. But don't let my views turn you off. By all means, if you want to explore Hopscotch, go ahead. I do think Cortazar's short stories are better than this
    novel--speaking completely from a literary standpoint, mind you. Of course, one must keep in mind that he's a highly experimental writer. So, you never can be sure exactly what you're going to get (some good, some bad, some mediocre).

    ~Titania

    "I could not have gone through the awful wretched
    mess of life without having left a stain upon the
    silence."
    ~Samuel Beckett
    "All men have the same defect: they wait to live, for they have not the courage of each instant.
    Why not invest enough passion in each moment to make it an eternity?" ~E. M. Cioran

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    Default Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    It's certainly a quandary how to react to behaviour we find wrong in a novel and not solely a woman's thing. I know that, much though I enjoy On The Road I also felt that none of the Beats were really qualified to be in adult relationships with actual women. And the scenes in the Mexican brothel kinda turned my stomach.

    While I do judge a book on its literary merit I also read it for what it says about the author and his milieu, things the author is not always aware of. Isn't it fair to comment on both aspects?

    Latly, I know I feel bad when people try ascribe perverted motives to my reading choices, but it is true that things we read can impact what we do. Another quandary.

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    Argentina Re: Julio Cort?zar: Hopscotch

    Jayaprakash,
    Thank you for your words of empathy. How refreshing to find another man who is capable of being deeply influenced by what he reads! I'm glad to hear it is truly not a "woman's thing."

    And yes, I agree that literary criticism can include both judgements about a work's literary merit and personal opinions. Earlier in this same thread, I mentioned an essay I had recently read on sexuality in Victorian literature and how the critic perceived elements of homosexuality in Jane Eyre. I don't know whether or not you've read Jane Eyre, Jayaprakash, but let me just say I think it is a bit outlandish for someone to decide, simply because Jane Eyre has a certain fondness for a schoolgirl friend, that Jane is a lesbian. Yet doesn't this particular critic have every right to express his feelings, whether they are based in reality or not? Perhaps he saw different aspects of the novel than I did--maybe he read "between the lines" and I didn't. I think his opinions are absurd, but that in NO way means he isn't entitled to them.

    And if this well-respected critic can publish a literary essay in which his personal views are included, am I not entitled to the same, without being crucified for allowing my own "world view" to get in the way of my literary assessment??

    Unfortunately, I'm unable to say whether or not I share your feelings regarding On The Road because I've never read it. The only Keroauc I've read is Maggie Cassidy, and I don't remember it well enough to have a credible opinion on the relationships within the novel.

    Anyway, thanks again for validating my remarks. I like you, Jayaprakash, I really like you--even if you did read Venus in Furs .

    ~Titania

    "Experience is the name everyone gives to
    their mistakes."
    ~Oscar Wilde
    "All men have the same defect: they wait to live, for they have not the courage of each instant.
    Why not invest enough passion in each moment to make it an eternity?" ~E. M. Cioran

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