Critical Evaluation

Julio Cortázar was a major figure in what became known as the “boom” period in Latin American literature. A small group of writers, among them Jorge Luis Borges from Argentina, Alejo Carpentier from Cuba, Mario Vargas Llosa from Peru, José Donoso from Chile, Gabriel García Marquez from Colombia, and Carlos Fuentes from Mexico brought Latin American literature to international prominence within a span of less than thirty years in a literary flowering that had not been matched in Spanish literature since the “Siglo de Oro,” the golden seventeenth century.

Hopscotch, Cortázar’s second and most influential, best-known work, may well have had more of an impact on Latin American literary history than any other novel of the “boom” period because of its revolutionary and iconoclastic structure. It quickly became a best seller in many languages, and it received more critical attention than any of Cortázar’s other works.

Cortázar’s work is a product of the two schools of writing that dominated Buenos Aires during the period between 1920 and 1940: the Florida group, with its European type of intellectualism, polished style, and universal themes; and the Boedo group, with its realistic scenes, urban themes, and unkempt style. Cortázar’s fiction, however, remains universal, dealing with the search for self-identity, the fantastic that lurks beyond everyday reality, and the relationship between human beings and society. For Cortázar, the fantastic represents an alteration in the laws that govern an ordered reality according to the Western notion of logic and reason. Cortázar initially creates realistic settings and conventional characters in familiar situations, but he soon traps the reader by strange, even nightmarish, events that threaten the established order.

In Hopscotch, the author revolutionizes the conventional modes of novelistic expression and strives for a new mode of consciousness. That is the real subject of the book. Cortázar demonstrates that the so-called real, concrete world is only one side of a coin whose opposing side is the fantastic, the repressed, the hidden, the taboo. Like the Surrealists, Cortázar ventures to the darker, ignored, and repressed side of human nature: obsessions, desires, and states between dream and wakefulness. He did not consider those darker dimensions to be...

(The entire section is 969 words.)