Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. France’s capital city is Oliveira’s residence during the 1950’s. Julio Cortázar’s depiction of Paris focuses on the indolent, mostly nocturnal lives of a group of expatriate intellectuals and artists who call themselves the Serpent Club. They meet at the apartment of La Maga, Horacio’s lover, to drink, listen to jazz, and discuss philosophy and the arts. Within this cramped set of rooms, Horacio confronts the incongruity between his friends’ esoteric musings and harsh physical reality in the sudden death of Rocamodour, La Maga’s neglected infant son. Despite the group’s emotional intensity, Horacio regards his relationships with its members as transitory and contingent, as exemplified by his games of chance encounter with La Maga in the Parisian streets.

For Horacio, “Paris is one big metaphor,” which he tries to decipher as a means of attaining a new kind of clarity, the “heaven” associated with the novel’s recurrent game of hopscotch motif. Despite his efforts to focus single-mindedly on his existential project, the city sometimes throws random encounters in his path that force him to acknowledge his bond to humanity; for example, both the old man run down in the street and the pathetic pianist Berthe Trépat draw him out of his solipsism temporarily.

*Buenos Aires

*Buenos Aires. Argentina’s capital is Horacio’s native city, to which he returns after deciding...

(The entire section is 580 words.)