Hopscotch is divided into three sections: “From the Other Side,” “From This Side,” and “From Diverse Sides.” At the beginning of the novel Cortázar offers a “Table of Instructions” for reading the novel and suggests that while Hopscotch consists of many books, it most importantly consists of two books. He invites the reader to choose between, first, a traditional reading of chapters 1 through 56 (the first two sections) and, second, a more unconventional reading that begins with chapter 73 and proceeds in hopscotch fashion through a sequence of at least 153 brief chapters.
The traditional reading revolves around Horacio Oliveira, an unemployed Argentine intellectual in his forties, living first in Paris and then in Buenos Aires around 1950. He and his bohemian friends—a Russian, a North American couple, two Frenchmen, a Chinese, and a Spaniard—form a group, called the Serpent Club, that spends hours discussing art, literature, music, and philosophy, and listening to jazz recordings in smoke-filled rooms. The novel, however, focuses on Oliveira’s persistent and anguished self-analysis; he agonizingly questions his every thought, emotion, word, and action. A product of Western civilization, Oliveira constantly rationalizes and drowns in his own well of dialectic possibilities. Oliveira is aware of the absurdity of daily life but is not yet sure of how to contend with it. He searches, feeling alone and condemned to conformity....
(The entire section is 604 words.)