Julio Cortázar

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Donald Keene (review date 10 April 1966)

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SOURCE: "Moving Snapshots," in The New York Times Book Review, April 10, 1966, p. 1.

[Keene is an American educator and critic. Below, he favorably reviews Hopscotch.]

The publication last year of Julio Cortázar's allegorical novel The Winners earned respectful reviews. Hopscotch, a far more impressive, indeed superb work should establish Cortázar as an outstanding writer of our day.

In general, Hopscotch is the story of Oliveira, an Argentinian writer living in Paris with La Maga, his mistress, and her child by another man. He falsely suspects she is deceiving him with a friend. After the death of La Maga's child, Oliveira returns to Buenos Aires, working first as a salesman, later as the keeper of a circus cat, finally as an attendant in an insane asylum.

It is difficult to describe the plot of Hopscotch, not because it is confused or vague—on the contrary, it is continuously absorbing even on the most obvious level—but because the author, whether with the voice of Oliveira, the principal character, or Morelli, a dying writer whose notebooks figure prominently at the end, seems to forbid any conventional plot summary.

We are told: "In some place Morelli tried to justify his narrative incoherencies, maintaining that the life of others, such as it comes to us in so-called reality, is not a movie but still photography, that is to say, that we cannot grasp the action, only a few of its elastically recorded fragments…. For that reason there was nothing strange about his speaking of characters in the most spasmodic way possible; giving coherence to the series of pictures so they could become a movie (which would have been so very pleasing to the reader he called the female-reader) meant filling in with literature, presumptions, hypotheses, and inventions the gaps between one and another photograph." Again, a character remarks of Morelli: "For example, the Chinese-scroll novel makes him explode. The book read from beginning to end like a good child."

The story, despite the deliberately episodic, snapshot manner, achieves dramatic intensity. The dialogue is brilliant, whether the subject is literature, love, Mondrian, jazz or the fallibility of science. Individual scenes are superbly alive. One evening, Oliveira, sure that La Maga is making love with another man, ducks into a piano recital to get out of the rain. The audience of 20 dwindles as each successively more disastrous piece is played, ending with a "Délibes-Saint-Saëns Synthesis" that leaves only Oliveira. He decides to see home the pianist, a grotesque old woman living on imaginary triumphs. After their harrowingly comic walk he returns to his apartment. Friends drift in and they converse volubly, brilliantly, everyone aware, except for La Maga, that her child has just died in the same room. The scene is a triumph not only of dramatic structure but of comic invention.

The "table of instructions" preceding the novel informs us that it may be read in at least two ways: the first is in the normal manner, to the end of Chapter 56, about two-thirds of the way through the book. The hundred "expendable chapters" appended at this point provide a second reading when inserted among the original 56 chapters in a prescribed order. "Hopscotch" not only stands up to this double scrutiny but becomes immeasurably richer; no doubt other readings would yield even further meanings.

The "expendable chapters" consist in part of narrative amplifying the incidents of the book, but more commonly of discourse on the art of fiction or of images (often in the form of newspaper articles or quotations) which invite the reader to participate in the...

(This entire section contains 1024 words.)

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experience of creating the book and to become the "accomplice or traveling companion" of the author.

At the end of our first reading Oliveira is teetering on a windowsill between life and death, sanity and insanity. When we read the book a second time, hopping back and forth from early chapters to late ones, as in the game of hopscotch, we go beyond the last numbered square of the hopscotch to the "heaven" at the top: Oliveira, recuperating at home from his plunge from the windowsill, ironically discusses the possibility of joining the "national corporation of monks of the prayers of the sign of the cross."

Hopscotch is in fact a comic novel, sometimes howlingly funny, always acutely ironic. Morelli writes: "The comic novel must have an exemplary sense of decorum; not deceive the reader, not mount him astride any emotion or intention at all, but give him rather something like meaningful clay, the beginning of a prototype, with traces of something that may be collective perhaps, human and not individual." Cortázar's intense concern with the novel certainly entails no dullness; the rapid-fire invention of the language makes every page sparkle, thanks to the translation by Gregory Rabassa, which gives a dazzling parallel in American idiom to Cortázar's stylistic magic.

Cortázar himself is an Argentinian, and no doubt many will be tempted to see in Oliveira a portrait of the author, or even of the cultured Argentinian as an expatriate both in Paris and in his own country. But Cortázar warns us in an epigraph from the surrealist poet Jacques Vaché: "Nothing kills a man like being obliged to represent a country." Hopscotch is not intended to be a treatment of a problem—whether the alienation of the South American intellectual or any other—but rather an attempt to "place a reader—a certain reader, that is true—in contact with a personal world, with a personal existence and mediation."

It is true nevertheless that the writer's nationality gives a particular coloration to the book, not merely in its mentions of people sipping maté or the savage humor directed at literary tastes in Argentina, but negatively too, in the extraordinary catholicity of learning possible only in an author whose concern for national literary traditions does not obscure a more general concern for man. It is precisely because the gauchos of the pampas and the other literary baggage of South American particularism are absent from this novel that Cortázar transcends our immense ignorance of his country to move us and make us his companions.


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Hopscotch Julio Cortázar

The following entry presents criticism on Cortázar's novel Rayuela (1963; Hopscotch). For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 2, 3, 5, 10, 13, 15, 33, and 34.

The publication of Hopscotch in 1963—and its English translation three years later—confirmed Cortázar's reputation as a major figure in the Latin American literary "Boom" of the 1950s and 1960s and established him as a writer of international stature. Noted for its experimental structure, the novel contains three parts: two traditional narratives—the first set in Paris, the second in Buenos Aires—and a collection of fragments which can, if the reader so wishes, be incorporated into a second, more complex reading. Hopscotch explores traditional novelistic problems of love and death; casts an ironic eye on the existential anxieties of Horacio Oliveira, its alienated, postwar protagonist; and questions the rational foundation of the realist novel and Western civilization. However, Cortázar complicates and enriches these themes through metafictional play, exposing the process of story-telling, and inviting reader participation both in a postmodern literary game and in the fate of his characters.

Plot and Major Characters

The first two sections of Hopscotch, "From the Other Side," and "From This Side," form a complex but otherwise traditional narrative that can be read by a "passive" reader as the story of an Argentinean intellectual expatriate in Paris who returns disillusioned to Argentina. The third section, however, titled "From Diverse Sides," comprises seventy-five optional "Expendable Chapters." These segments, which often contradict the preceding chapter as they offer new perspectives and disturb the reader with abrupt changes in tone and content, encourage readers to critically examine their reactions to the text and thus pursue a more "active" and participatory reading. Oliveira, the narrator-protagonist, is a self-absorbed, aimless bohemian who belongs to the Serpent Club, a group of friends who spend long hours in the Latin Quarter of Paris listening to jazz records and discussing art, philosophy, and such literary hypotheses as Gregorovius' dictum "Paris is one big metaphor." The club members—Babs, Ronald, Etienne, Gregorovius, Ossip, Guy Monod, Perico, Pola, and La Maga—represent numerous countries and share Oliveira's rootless and fanciful attachment to the city. In the narrative of the first 56 chapters, Hopscotch chronicles Oliveira's intellectual quest for a vaguely defined Absolute, the "kibbutz of desire"—an idealistic combination of individuality and community. In contrast to Oliveira's unhappy longing is La Maga, a mysterious and haunting character who heightens Oliveira's sense of the absurd and suggests a more authentic means of interacting with reality. Scattered among the many chapters of discussion are a number of crucial events that determine Oliveira's destiny. His experiences in Paris, partly chosen, partly governed by chance, are described obliquely, often either implied or requiring reader inference. Oliveira meets Berthe Trépat, a concert pianist whose repertoire is obscure and whose small audience shrinks until only Oliveira is left. During another evening, Oliveira discovers the death of La Maga's child Rocamadour but says nothing to comfort La Maga, who later disappears. The ambiguity of her fate—did she leave Paris or drown herself in the Seine—plays an important role in the second part of the novel, for it questions whether La Maga's appearance in Buenos Aires is some sort of fantastic event or a symptom of Oliveira's insanity. In chapter 36 Oliveira has a sexual encounter on the banks of the Seine with an indigent woman, an event which precipitates his departure from Paris. In the second section of Hopscotch, Oliveira returns to Buenos Aires, where he rejoins his friends the Travelers, Manuel and Talita, and an old girlfriend, Gekrepten. In a long chapter reminiscent of Absurdist theater, Oliveira persuades Talita to cross a precarious hand-made bridge high above the street, simply to bring him some mate. Oliveira joins Manuel and Talita in a circus, but when the circus is sold so that its owner can purchase a psychiatric clinic, all three make abrupt career changes to become warders in the asylum, and Oliveira's own faint grasp on sanity is weakened. At the close of chapter 56, Oliveira is left debating whether or not to commit suicide by jumping from a window onto the grid of a hopscotch game below. In the alternative, second reading suggested by Cortázar's "Table of Instructions," the reader begins at chapter 73, then follows the traditional chapter sequence while "hopping" back and forth to the "expendable chapters" which form the third section of the novel. It is here, in chapter 60, that the "Morelliana" (the words of the fictional author Morelli) first appear, along with further disjointed fragments of narrative; newspaper and magazine cuttings from such diverse sources as Levi Strauss's Tristes Tropiques, L'Express, and the London Observer; and quotations from such writers as Anaïs Nin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Alban Berg, Octavio Paz. Morelli, a writer often read as Cortázar's double within the novel, is knocked down by a motor car; Oliveira subsequently gains access to the writer's papers, which then become the focus of much discussion in the Serpent Club. The presence of Morelli's writing in the second reading also complicates the reader's previously comfortable relationship with the narrative; Morelli blurs the line between writer and story, and his ideas become a commentary on Hopscotch itself. The "active" reading of Hopscotch leaves the novel unresolved, with the reader instructed to shuttle back and forth between chapter 58 and 131 indefinitely.

Major Themes

The controlling image in Hopscotch of a children's game, in which the goal is to move from Earth to Heaven, is an embodiment of Oliveira's quest for an accessible Absolute. The key theme and impetus of the traditional narrative in the first 56 chapters is Oliveira's sense of exclusion from an imagined state of grace and his attempts to find, as he calls it, a "kibbutz of desire," an idealized place of community and self-sufficiency. For Oliveira, La Maga represents such a state, and Oliveira tries to create his own version through encounters with strangers such as the pianist Berthe Trépat. Oliveira's sexual transgression with the clocharde Emmanuèle—a character whose indigence essentially excludes her from the nexus of Oliveira's desire—enables him to close his quest for the mythic "kibbutz," as he finds acceptance at society's lowest depth. Manuel, Oliveira's counterpart in Buenos Aires, shares with La Maga the status of Oliveira's "double" by which he can be defined, just as Buenos Aires will be determined by its semblance to Paris. Related to this is the theme of Argentinean national identity, Latin America's ambivalent attitude toward European culture, and especially toward literary culture. Allied to his critique of the Argentinean's cultural indebtedness to Europe is Cortázar's commentary on the failings of Western rationalism, including the traditionally lucid literary narrative that Hopscotch seeks to disrupt. The "second" and optional reading introduces problems of literary and linguistic theory, making Oliveira's quest part and parcel of a writing and reading strategy. Hopscotch thus becomes for the "active" reader a self-reflexive novel which problematizes its own authorship and raises the theme of the double or multiple articulation, for in this sense the "writing" is shown to be shared between Cortázar, Morelli, and the participant reader. Another major theme is madness and the individual's relation to society. Towards the conclusion of the second narrative, Oliveira kisses Talita, believing her to be La Maga. One of Manuel's options in response to Oliveira's act is to declare him insane; and Oliveira's sanity, as he is contemplating suicide at the novel's end, is questionable. As Steven Boldy has stated: madness assumes "several connotations in the novel, where Oliveira muses on the possibility of 'joining the world, the Great Madness.' In a mad world, to go mad is to be reconciled to reality and society, to be at one with its absurd or conventional laws. It is this acceptance, of which Oliveira has always before been incapable, that his long path has prepared him to embrace."

Critical Reception

Many critics have praised Hopscotch's literary experimentalism and compared the novel to James Joyce's Ulysses (1922). While acknowledging Cortázar's debt to a more original work, commentators have found something new and more "decadent" in Cortázar's vision. Hopscotch has frequently been construed as a critique of Western rationalism, with scholars suggesting that the novel's passages of absurd humor and aimless philosophizing form a continuity with the Surrealist movement. Although some critics have been impressed by Cortázar's erudite display in Hopscotch—his knowledge of jazz, art, literature, and philosophy, as well as what they consider his conceptual tours de force—others have noted the danger of intimidating the reader. For example, the "philosophizing" in the Serpent Club has struck some critics as "tedious and verbose;" others have noted Cortázar's sensitive ear for the literary qualities of Argentinean common speech. The theme of trans-Atlantic cultural influence has been widely noted, and certain Latin American critics have focused on Cortázar's concern in Hopscotch with Argentinean national and cultural identity and the problem of exile and expatriation. For others, Oliveira's bohemian disaffiliation in Paris is a counterpart of his psychic alienation. Another set of scholars consider Hopscotch a major example of the postmodern novel, arguing that its metatextuality, its foregrounding of problems of reading and authorship, its discursive play, and its disruption of traditional narrative, all signal an important advance on the modernism of Joyce.

Carlos Fuentes (essay date March 1967)

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SOURCE: "Hopscotch: The Novel as Pandora's Box," in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. III, No. 3, Fall, 1983, pp. 86-8.

[Fuentes is a Mexican novelist, dramatist, short story writer, essayist, and critic. In the following essay, which was originally published in the journal Mundo Nuevo in March 1967 and here translated by Naomi Lindstrom, Fuentes discusses the structure and poetics of Cortázar's Hopscotch and compares the novel to James Joyce's Ulysses (1922).]

The French reader knows Julio Cortázar by way of a marvelous collection of elliptical stories, End of the Game (one of which served as the basis for Michelangelo Antonioni's film, Blow-Up), and to a lengthy allegorical novel, The Winners. The publication of Hopscotch will show that these works were warm-ups leading to this work, hailed by the Times Literary Supplement of London as "The first great novel of Spanish America." It would be fair to state that this 52-year-old Argentine novelist is writing today, from the homes he makes on the Place du Général Beuret in Paris and in a farm near Saignon, the best prose fiction in Spanish. But to restrict him to what Philippe Sollers calls "Latinocentrism" would be a serious mistake. For the U.S. critic C. D. B. Bryan, writing in The New Republic, Hopscotch is "the most powerful encyclopedia of emotions and visions to emerge from the postwar generation of international writers." To find out just how valid these statements are, the reader need only surrender to one of the richest universes in contemporary fiction: the one contained in that Pandora's box—game played out, ashes and resurrection—that is Hopscotch.

Hopscotch is a Latin American novel; it is so because it is infused with the magic atmosphere of a pilgrimage that never arrives. Before it was discovered, America had already been invented in the dream of a Utopian quest, in Europe's need to find a lá-bas, a blissful isle, a city of gold. Is it any wonder that the most significant feature of Latin America's literary imagination should be the questing after El Dorado—Carpentier,—of a patriarchal paradise—Rulfo,—of an original identity—Asturias,—or of a frozen mythification—Borges—to be found somewhere beyond the historical nightmare and cultural schizophrenia of a world dreamed up in Utopia and degraded in the epic? But, while that imagination has up to now been born of an awareness of the decomposition of history and society, Cortázar makes his pilgrimage inward, to implode in upon himself so that, with luck, he will be able to "move beyond" the figures of his literature. At any rate, Cortázar does not presume to place society at issue without having first placed reality at issue.

At the most obvious level, Hopscotch offers a structure and a story, both booby-trapped. The book is divided into three parts. The first part, "From the Other Side," is Buenos Aires and the coming together of Oliveira and Talita, La Maga's double, a circus cat keeper and later a madhouse nurse. The third part, "From Diverse Sides: Expendable Chapters," brings together a collage of quotations, newspaper clippings, signs and adds that range from academic to pop.

A "Table of Instructions" completes the structure only to begin transforming it; the novel may be read for the first time straight through, and a second following the table of instructions. But this second reading only opens the door to a third, and, we suspect, to the infinite numbers of the true reading. Cortázar, we realize, is setting forth something more than a narration. His purpose is to exhaust all the possible formulations of an impossible book: a book that would radically supplant life or, rather, would turn our lives into one vast reading of all the combinations of what has been written. An "incredible" project, as Borges would say, equivalent to imagining the total negation of the total recuperation of time.

"Would I find La Maga?" The first words of Hopscotch give us the key to this search never to be finished, "incredible," cut off before the book is written, represented by Oliveira in the ceremony of the writing of the book.

Because only the book will allow him to get back with La Maga, that "nebula swirl," a little naive, a little perverse, continually remembered and foreseen in a present tense of literature becoming then the third death of real time. Three things are killed off in Hopscotch: the death of remembered presence, the death of foreshadowing, and the death of the written book as compensation for the absence of La Maga, the indispensable companion in the uninterrupted, desacralized childhood game. Only the couple, that "incredible" attempt to win negation and salvation, can negate and save the fatality of heaven and hell in the game of hopscotch. Oliveira is given over to exodus, to the search of the "final island" representing the lost place, to the pilgrimage toward the "kibbutz of desire" in which one can live—or believe oneself living—with substitutes for a lost unity of loving.

A novel of bridges between the lost and the salvageable, Hopscotch begins under the Seine arches and culminates atop a few rickety boards stretched between the windows of a Buenos Aires boardinghouse. Oliveira's odyssey takes him to Paris (the original model), then to Buenos Aires (the false homeland). Buenos Aires is the cave where the shadows of being are reflected. The reality of Argentina is a fiction; the authenticity of Argentina is its lack of authenticity; the national essence of Argentina is the imitation of Europe; the city of gold, the isle of bliss is nothing more than the shadow of the settlers' dream. Oliveira returns to Buenos Aires to come together with Talita, the double of the La Maga lost in Paris. But La Maga, necessarily, comes with a double of Oliveira; Traveler, who hates to be named that, since he's never traveled beyond the River Plate. Talita and Traveler, degraded reflections of La Maga and Oliveira, have the same pick-up sort of a life: expatriate.

Bohemia, intellectual tripping-out, all this becomes, in the context of the "home country," the stuff of the circus, the madhouse and the hospital. Downfall? Nothingness? Yes, but not with the tragic will of an awareness contemplating the downfall of something. The fall, in Hopscotch, is that of some Buster Keaton of the Pampas, willingly comic, buffoonish, grotesque; it's the fall of someone who has no place to fall because he never got up; it's the nothingness of the Latin American world, confronted with nothingness before being or having anything. Or, rather, after having only a dream: would I find La Maga? But did Oliveira ever meet La Maga, or does he only hope to encounter her in the words that Oliveira says and Cortázar writes?

The irony of Cortázar's spiritual journey is that, like every quest for being, it is born out of a solitary awareness that cannot be maintained in isolation. Oliveira tries every alchemy of substitution. And each one gives him a dry, tragicomic caricature of the splendorous unity he dreams of, a cuckold sex maniac alongside the desired and detested companion, La Maga. At this level, the "dispensable chapters" become indispensable. Morelli, an old, failed writer, possibly an alter ego of the writer, is the magister ludi of this cultural flea market, of this Porta Portese bazaar of ideas, cluttered with the discards of reason ("a whorehouse of virgins, as if such a thing were possible"), society ("this dead-end serving the Great Idealist-Realist-Spiritualist-Materialist Infatuation of the West, S. R. L."), history ("It may well be there's a thousand-year reign, but if we ever get there, it won't be called that anymore") and intelligence ("… the very fact of being thinking about it instead of doing it proves it's wrong"). Cortázar here sets down a true list of what not to take with you to a desert island.

But Oliveira already is, settled in with masochistic joy, on a desert island. His dream, La Maga, Madonna and lover, is gone. He cannot rely on the insubstantial shadow of the cavern, Buenos Aires. All he has left is what he drags along with him: the castoffs of rationality, the pianos stuffed with dead donkeys in Un Chien andalou. Oliveira renounces the words of this garbage heap ("To war against the word, to war, whatever it takes, even if it means renouncing intelligence"), in favor of actions. But actions must be described in the words of the author, Julio Cortázar: "The violation of man by the word, the proud vengeance of the word against its father, tainted each of Oliveira's meditations with bitter suspicion; he was forced to turn to his own enemy to gain access to a point where perhaps he could rule on his enemy's case and then move on from there—how and by what means, through what white night, or inky day?—toward a total reconciliation with himself and with the reality he lived in."

The real piecing-together of Hopscotch begins with this taking-apart of words to make up the acts the novelist will need to describe. Michel Foucault says that "Don Quixote reads the world in order to demonstrate books … the promise made by books is incumbent upon him." Cortázar shows the opposite at work. With Morelli as his spokesman, he declares his intention to make a novel, not a written one, but dis-written. To dis-write, Cortázar invents a counter-language capable, not of replacing images, but of going beyond them, to pure coordinates, figures, constellations of characters. "Trap them, grab them by the tail, squeal, you whores," Octavio Paz says of words: this is exactly what Cortázar does. With both fists, breathlessly, with erratic blasts of conceptual dynamite, rhythmic, onomatopoeic, he blows the language of his own novel sky-high and atop the total ruins flies—a blown-to-bits triumph with wings aflame—the author, the last angel of this anti-paradise and anti-hell in which God and Devil are a single paradox: the more is created, the more is damned. Hopscotch is to Spanish prose what Ulysses is to English prose.

This coming-together of actions and the counter-language capable of dis-writing them forces Oliveira into a "nonbehavior," a pointless accumulation of motions foreign to the language that traditionally has described them. The conflict leads straight to mockery, farce and absurdity. The outsize joke, worthy of Rabelais and Sterne, seizes hold of the book. Putting out the planks in Buenos Aires, where failed intentions are so numerous that failure becomes the whole point of the undertaking. The death of Rocamadour, La Maga's son, in the middle of a literary orgy. Descending into the refrigerated morgue, into the searing ice of hell. The rewriting and reordering of the world in the notebooks of the distinguished Uruguayan madman, Don Ceferino Piriz. These are profound keys of Hopscotch, of its basis in the extreme illumination of the surrealists, of its unsettled dialogue between the Bretonian sphinxes of humor and happenstance.

Marginal language and action become counter-language and action-beyond-action in Oliveira's search. The pilgrimage takes him to his own double, Traveler. And facing one's double in the flesh, there are only two responses: murder or madness. Otherwise, Oliveira would have to accept that his life, not being unique, lacks value and meaning; that another person, who is he himself, thinks, loves and dies in his stead and perhaps Oliveira is only his double's double and only living the life of a doppelganger. Oliveira attempts murder by terror. Not a true murder, since murdering one's double would be suicide, but rather a criminal "attempt" that will open the doors to madness. Or, at least, that will make others believe Oliveira mad. There, at the end, in the madhouse and hospital that are the only kibbutz chance guarantees, the virtue and the need of the Oliveiras of this world is that they can live in absurdity without justifications or contradictions. One can, in the end, multiply unreality by inventing everything the world seems to lack. Oliveira belongs to that line of genius-idiots who, from Louis Lambert to Pierrot le Fou, create the indispensable order of the dispensable. In the madhouse and the hospital, the final harbor of the Nietzsche we could all be, is located the center of the hopscotch; heaven and hell are one and freedom can be exercised starting from a perpetual clamor of something lacking, some lack of satisfaction.

"Here it is now," says Oliveira. To this being-here-now, the novelist gives only the mortal urge, the leap toward the probable island of desire become reality. True being lies elsewhere, and the novelist is the prophet who would lead us out of the captivity of discourse, history and psychology.

A contemporary grandmaster of the ars combinatoria, Julio Cortázar has written a novel faithful to the author's deep conviction: "Apart from our individual destinies, we form part of figures that we cannot know." And the constellations of Hopscotch, finally, speak to us of time and liberty. Together with Octavio Paz and Luis Bunuel, Julio Cortázar represents today the vanguard of contemporary Latin American thought and culture. With Paz, he shares the incandescent tension of the instant as a supreme high point in the tides of time. With Bunuel, he shares the vision of freedom as the aura of permanent desire, of an unauthorized dissatisfaction that is, for that very reason, revolutionary.

Principal Works

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Presencia (poetry) 1938
Los reyes (poetry) 1949
Bestiario (short stories) 1951
Final del juego (short stories) 1956
Las armas secretas (short stories) 1959
Los premios [The Winners] (novel) 1960
Historias de cronopios y de famas [Cronopios and Famas] (short stories) 1962
Rayuela [Hopscotch] (novel) 1963
Todos los fuegos el fuego [All Fires the Fire, and Other Stories] (short stories) 1966
El perseguidor y otros cuentos (short stories) 1967
La vuelta al dia en ochenta mundos [Around the Day in Eighty Worlds] (nonfiction and poetry) 1967
62: Modelo para armar [62: A Model Kit] (novel) 1968
Ultimo round (nonfiction and poetry) 1969
Pameos y meopas (poetry) 1971
Libro de Manuel [A Manual for Manuel] (novel) 1973
Octaedro (short stories) 1974
Vampiros multinacionales: una utopía realizable (short stories) 1975
Los relatos. 4 vols. (short stories) 1976–1985
Alguien que anda por ahi y otros relatos (short stories) 1977
Un tal Lucas [A Certain Lucas] (short stories) 1979
Queremos tanto a Glenda [We Love Glenda So Much, and Other Tales] (short stories) 1980
Deshoras (short stories) 1982
Cuaderno de bitácora de "Rayuela" [with Ana Maria Barrenechea] (notebooks and criticism) 1983
Nicaragua tan violentamente dulce [Nicaraguan Sketches] (sketches) 1983
Salvo el crepúsculo (poetry) 1984
El examen (novel) 1986

∗Selected stories from these collections were translated and published in End of the Game, and Other Stories in 1967; also published as Blow-Up, and Other Stories in 1968.

†Selected stories from these collections were translated and published in A Change of Light, and Other Stories in 1980.

‡This novel was written in 1950.

The Times Literary Supplement (review date 9 March 1967)

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SOURCE: "On the Hop," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 3392, March 9, 1967, p. 181.

[In the following review, the critic praises Cortázar's use of language in Hopscotch, but overall finds the novel pretentious and "constantly straining for meanings."]

Julio Cortázar is an Argentinian who, since the publication of Rayuela (or Hopscotch) in 1963, has acquired a reputation as the first great novelist of Latin America. Although this judgment is unfair to half a dozen of his contemporaries and one or two of his predecessors, his work, now widely translated, and perhaps rather too extravagantly promoted on the Continent and in the United States, certainly represents a remarkable achievement.

Señor Cortázar started as a writer of slightly Kafkaesque, slightly Borgesian short stories, most of them, on his own admission, the description of dreams in which an ordinary situation slipped almost imperceptibly into fantasy. The Winners (originally published in 1960 as Los premios) was his first novel and written in similar mood; it appeared in England in 1965 but was largely ignored by reviewers.

The hero of Hopscotch, Oliveira, an Argentinian expatriate in Paris, is amazed at the absurdity of life. The arbitrary detail of its conventional superstructure—the incredible streets, the colour and shape of the clothes, the lumps of food—seems just a little too meticulously implausible to be true. Oliveira is in fact a very prim existentialist, stubbornly refusing himself a single instant of mauvaise foi. He is tempted, of course. He could "put on a blue suit, comb his greying hair, and go to art galleries". But he resists, plays piously with bits of string or, in the morning, slaps pink toothpaste not on his teeth but on their reflection in the mirror, and laughs. When he drops something, he must pick it up, and one day he spends half an hour under the tables of an expensive restaurant, searching for a lump of sugar which has slipped from his hand. In short he is like, say, Morgan, or the hero of Alain Jossua's film La Vie à l'envers, an intransigent outsider, aware of the spiritual benefit to be derived from emptying a jampot over the concierge's head; aware, of course, of the liberating power of laughter and outrage.

After an exotically uprooted period in Paris, he returns to Buenos Aires, and his ship is met by Traveler, a childhood friend. Traveler seems to be Oliveira's double, or at least what Oliveira might have been if he had donned a blue suit and stayed at home in the Argentinian background of plotting generals, vacuous patriotism and faked culture. In Paris Oliveira has had two love affairs, one magical (the girl was called La Maga and they would meet at random in the street or better on the Pont des Arts), one commonplace. Traveler's wife, Talita, is commonplace and Argentinian, but occasionally Oliveira sees in her some of the magic he had known in Paris, and she becomes La Maga, the double who went to Paris and stood on the Pont des Arts.

One day, Oliveira, Traveler and Talita get jobs in a mental hospital and Oliveira and Talita/Maga embrace triumphantly in the morgue. But Oliveira suspects that Traveler may want to kill him, and he sets up a system of defence in his bedroom to forestall the aggressor. With the help of an amiable lunatic, he collects all the wash-basins in the hospital, fills them with water, and places them on the floor anticipating with relish the aggressor's curse when his socks get soaked. He completes the operation by setting up a labyrinth of strings. The outside world, Argentina, the conventional structure of life, will be kept at bay.

If the novel were left at this rather dotty, basically humorous level, it would be far better than it is; it would make its point because, when the defences are set up and the solipsist sits solemnly on the windowsill waiting for the attack, the reader is firmly on his side. Unfortunately there is a great deal of pretension in Hopscotch which tends to undermine much of its effect.

First, Oliveira's amorous exploits in Paris are just a bit too exotic, and their description is often very poor sub-Durrell. Moreover, the endless "intellectual" exchanges of Oliveira and 'his friends, juggling with "primordial winds" and "syncretisms" which seem to have no clear relevance, are frankly very much the kind of hazy Argentinian "intellectualism" which Señor Cortázar claims to deplore. If the conversations are meant to convey that "western dialectics" are inconsequential, Señor Cortázar must produce far more authentic "dialectics" than these. The force of his case against dialectical apprehension lies in Oliveira's antics, not in his rather fake-oriental pronouncements. Señor Cortázar is also determined to impress us that he is amazingly well read, and the names of about 100 authors and artists are paraded in Hopscotch, like in those tiresome Jean-Luc Godard films where the sky is "very Paul Klee" and the girl's eyes are Velazquezian.

Hopscotch can be read in two ways. The first fifty-six chapters can be read sequentially and (according to Señor Cortázar's coy directive) "the reader may ignore what follows with a clean conscience". The reader is, however, invited to have a second go, "beginning with chapter 73 and then following the sequence indicated at the end of each chapter". The sequence for, say, the first ten chapters on second reading becomes: 73-1-2-116-3-84-4-71-5-81. That is to say, chapter 73 (second half) directs us to chapter 1 (first half) and at the end of chapter 1 we are instructed to move to chapter 2, then 116, then back to 3, and so on. We are asked, therefore, to reflect on the fact that the chronological sequence established on first reading is (like history) a cheap Occidental simplification in the face of a more meaningful structural continuum. Fiction, anyway, is presumably memory, and memory works by chaotic juxtaposition. A sequence is, of course, arbitrarily imposed by any mise-en-page, but events only follow each other there because they have to when translated into sentences.

Señor Cortázar is very interested—and he has every right to be—in structures and patterns. He sees human beings not as characters in a conventional sequence (his characterization is deliberately superficial) but as constellations in a vast structure outside time. His characters are involved in a sort of ritual dance. The more meaningless the dance, the more pleasing the patterns. In the "expendable" chapters, which should be incorporated into the second or alternative reading, absurd, eccentric tit-bits are collected (law reports, an elaborate plan to rationalize the world, a letter to The Observer on the scarcity of butterflies) and mingled with the narrative as simply part of a composite aesthetic structure. The expendable chapters also attempt to offer something of a new perspective to the original narrative, in Proustian manner, for there is a good deal of fresh background information on the characters in them. Oliveira's second love affair in Paris, for instance, only hinted at on first reading, is dealt with more roundly. Also a great deal of reflexion on the novelist's art is introduced, just in case we miss the point of Señor Cortázar's eccentric quest.

Unfortunately. Señor Cortázar is not content merely to present some sort of abstracted aesthetic pattern, but is constantly straining for meanings which this pattern is not adequate to embody. The game of hopscotch not only symbolizes the abstract dance of human beings. The hopper's arrival at the last square or "heaven" is called upon to symbolize some sort of mystical truth, an ultimate meaning beyond the false superstructure of society. The game of hopscotch is in fact a highly unsatisfactory mandala.

Part of the excellence of Hopscotch lies in its use of language, in its experiments with many different, some very original, types of Spanish carefully juxtaposed: the spirit of Argentina, for instance, is nostalgically conveyed in the Paris scenes by the occasional use of Buenos Aires dialect, for which Señor Cortázar has a very good ear. The translation, which is sometimes very clumsy indeed, does not, possibly could not, capture these modulations.

Julio Ortega (essay date 1969)

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SOURCE: "Hopscotch," in Poetics of Change: The New Spanish-American Narrative, translated by Galen D. Greaser, University of Texas Press, 1984, pp. 42-53.

[In the following essay, which was originally published in Ortega's La contemplación la fiesta (1969), Ortega explores themes of nonconformism and chance in Hopscotch.]

Hopscotch, Carlos Fuentes has stated, is to prose in Spanish what Ulysses is to prose in English. This comparison is possible because Hopscotch, first published in 1963, summarizes the new or current tradition of modernity in the Latin-American novel, a tradition that in the opinion of Octavio Paz is one of renewal. Hopscotch starts from the crisis of the novelistic genre as a representational system and from the baroque transgression of its Latin-American axis. Its foundation is another novel, one that begins when this book is closed.

The various readings demanded by Hopscotch are a game between the narrators, the characters, and the reader, or more accurately, this work is the repeated beginning of a game rather than its development or conclusion. Cortázar thus prolongs the reading, because this novel questions literature, the reader, and itself. The repeated beginning of the game implies its regeneration. Hopscotch is like the fluttering of a verbal phoenix.

At a certain point, the characters disclose that they are also readers of the novel. Through their reading in the texts of Morelli, these characters read themselves:

"It isn't the first time that he's referred to the erosion of language," Étienne said. "I could mention several places where characters lose confidence in themselves to the degree in which they feel they've been drawn through their thought and speech, and they're afraid the sketch may be deceptive."

In another passage Morelli states that the character he wants for his novel is the reader.

The characters are thus readers and the reader is a character because the narrator wants to identify his searches with ours in an esthetics of defectiveness. Oliveira, addressor and addressee of the writing, constructs (from a first and third person point of view and from an insistent present) a past time in order to reconstruct himself in the fact of writing as reading. In the same way that he reads the world, Oliveira reads himself. But this yearning, this erratic and solitary drama, is an exploration of memory in a present time that gives way to the past and soon forces him to abandon this convocation from the perspective of the "I." He is forced to drop the point of view of the addressor because, groping about in the void that he at the same time wants to populate, he betrays himself in a mirror; under the different masks there is but a single face. To avoid this betrayal of a self-evident and perhaps false image, the addressor becomes the addressee, leaving the ambiguous pretext of the colloquy to the empty "you" personified by La Maga and making himself speak in terms of the image in the mirror, now in the third person.

The obvious verbal impregnation between the paragraphs in which Oliveira is addressor and those in which he is addressee again implies a continuous regeneration of the writing. Oliveira seems to carry on his multiple monologue in this third person, even in the dialogues with his friends of the Club, and La Maga's dialogues are just brief interruptions in Oliveira's verbalism. La Maga's letter to Rocamadour (that little paper boat floating throughout the book) is also sustained by Oliveira's reading, as are Morelli's texts. Likewise, the hyperbolic, loquacious dialogue between Oliveira, Traveler, and Talita is dictated by a sort of raised voice, by a reading aloud, in a broader space that Oliveira himself establishes. All this serves to mask the only narrator of the novel, Oliveira, who writes in the pluridimensional present of the novel after his personal story has ended and begins now as narrative.

Since the reader is also a character, the reading itself will be paradoxical. To start, Cortázar notes that there are "female-readers" and "male-readers." The former are interested in a passive reading, while the latter prefer to make the text through their reading. The former are the traditional readers of the traditional closed novel, while the latter are the new readers, the characters sought by the open novel. The reading of this novel is paradoxical because it imposes at the same time its narrative sequences—it is a novel after all—and the speculations of its literary and existential debates. Fiction is posed as debate, and this debate, in turn, is posed as figure. These levels thus function as signs. In their simultaneity, the ideas, episodes, and figures are transformed into the signs of a character (Oliveira), a spiritual situation (the search for an independent and common unity in which the experience of a narrator becomes the paradigm of the choices of every man), and an age, because through its conflicts and disruptions this novelistic adventure underscores the insertion of language in history.

The steps by which the reader becomes a character of Hopscotch are initiatory because the novel is always on its first page; it is constantly beginning again, continuously questioning itself. In this case, to read is to travel, to play at the game of reading, to invent a rite.

The "Table of Instructions" of this reading mechanism invites us "to choose" one of two possibilities: to read the book in a normal fashion, stopping with chapter 56, at the close of which there are three little stars that indicate the end, or to begin with chapter 73 and follow the sequence indicated at the end of each chapter. This second reading sequence imitates the game of hopscotch because in the reading we are jumping from chapter to chapter, from square to square, playing in the gridded figure of the novel. The dash in front of the number at the end of each chapter is obviously a minus sign; the reading is thus also a subtraction.

If we choose the first reading sequence we find that the novel is divided into three parts. The first part, "From the other side," refers to Paris, and the second part, "From this side," is set in Buenos Aires. Here the novel "ends." The third part is entitled "From diverse sides: expendable chapters," and in the "Table of Instructions" Cortázar suggests that the reader can ignore it without feeling remorse. Let us assume that a reader, as a character, decides to consider expendable these "expendable chapters." On the "last" page of his reading this reader will find Oliveira balancing himself on the edge of a high window and looking down into the courtyard of a psychiatric clinic at Traveler and Talita (all three of them work in this asylum, which is their ironic context). The two figures below look at him and talk to him from the hopscotch:

Talita had stopped in square three without realizing it, and Traveler had one foot in six … and there was some meeting after all, even though it might only last just for that terribly sweet instant in which the best thing without any doubt at all would be to lean over just a little bit farther out and let himself go, paff the end.

The last game in Oliveira's search begins and ends in the precarious square formed by the frame of the window of a room in which he has locked himself, declaring what amounts to both a comic and metaphysical war. Hopscotch—which acknowledges the labyrinth of the game in order to reunite "heaven" and "earth" as squares of a single figure—is both an innocent and deadly game. Its innocence stems from the possibility of playing the game in a committed manner starting from an intellectual questioning, which is what Oliveira represents, because he is also a typical character who feels he must come to grips with the hell of western contradictions and attempt to resolve them within the contradictions themselves. That is why in this first ending Oliveira sits in the window and acts out his personal drama through the farcical context of his potential suicide, dramatized by his reflective and humorous detachment from his own quests and his paralyzing analysis of them. This window is his square in a game of hopscotch that makes him its victim. For Oliveira, the uniting of heaven and earth, man and woman, La Maga and himself, the other side and this side, truth and appearance, in short, the uniting of our multiple contradictions, is a game that can only be final, suicide, directly or symbolically.

The best thing without any doubt at all would be to lean over just a little bit farther out and let himself go, paff the end.

At the level of the narrative, Cortázar's "paff" may be suggesting, in the same farcical vein tapped by Oliveira, the character's suicide or his grandstanding play. Perhaps Oliveira has let himself fall toward the ground, where his double, Traveler, and La Maga's double, Talita, (doubles by contradiction rather than by similarity, in other words, doubles by analogical opposition) stand in their squares trying to calm him. The phrase "paff the end" can suggest this suicide, but it can also suggest that, paff, the novel or the first reading has ended. Cortázar refers to the novel as a "metaphysical slap," as a slap to the reader, of course. Hence this "paff" is also the slap the narrator gives the reader, brother and accomplice in the end, to seal their pact.

The slapped reader has two choices. He can put down the book or take a chance with the third part, the "expendable chapters." In terms of this first reading of the novel, which follows the normal sequence, these chapters are another reading. The novel thus contains one and a half readings. In this third part the reader meets Morelli, who invites him to criticize what he has read, and recovers Oliveira. In these chapters a prior time in Paris is prolonged and a later time in Buenos Aires fades, suggesting another resurrection of Oliveira, who in fact starts the writing from this point.

In the second reading sequence suggested for this novel the reader must contend with more complex levels: the expendable chapters are included in the narration. The first reading is more novelistic, while the second is more critical, but between them they constitute the birth and transfiguration of the novel, its formulation and its sacrifice. Hopscotch is a metaphor because it joins two realities in a single figure; it becomes, in fact, a metaphor of itself.

The first chapter of this second reading introduces us to the deconstruction and construction sought by the novel. These operations mutually provoke and recognize each other in the same space. Oliveira is the speaker in the following passage:

How often I wonder whether this is only writing, in an age in which we run towards deception through infallible equations and conformity machines. But to ask one's self if we will know how to find the other side of habit or if it is better to let one's self be borne along by its happy cybernetics, is that not literature again? Rebellion, conformity, anguish, earthly sustenance, all the dichotomies … what a hammock of words, what pure-size dialectics with pajama storms and living-room cataclysms. The very fact that one asks one's self about the possible choice vitiates and muddies up what can be chosen … Everything is writing, that is to say, a fable. But what good can we get from the truth that pacifies an honest property owner? Our possible truth must be an invention, that is to say, scripture, literature, picture, sculpture, agriculture, pisculture, all the tures of this world. Values, tures, sainthood, a ture, society, a ture, love, pure ture, beauty, a ture of tures … Why surrender to the Great Habit?… We burn within our work, fabulous mortal honor, high challenge of the phoenix … within, maybe that is the choice, maybe words envelop it the way a napkin does a loaf of bread and maybe the fragrance is inside, the flour puffing up, the yes without the no, or the no without the yes, the day within Mani, without Ormuz or Ariman, once and for all and in peace and enough.

This confession is also the multiple beginning of the novel, in other words, a genuine program. Here language evolves in a debate on thought, art, society and culture in a collage of our time assimilated verbally in such a way that the possibility of choice can begin to shape a character and form a new perception. This is the approach of a chronicle. Whatever the anecdote or the narrative pretext, the narrator follows the same point of view that establishes a cross section in that undifferentiated landscape in relation to which the anecdote is questioned. This is why the narrator speaks of "the principle of indetermination, so important in literature" and why he says about Morelli that "[he] wanted his book to be a crystal ball in which the microand macrocosm would come together in an annihilating vision." Indetermination as an esthetics implies the rejection of any prior determination and the free advance of the narration in this macrocosm occupied by a microcosm, and vice versa. This porous and erratic space is also indeterminate because it is not resolved, because it does not require solutions. Hence Oliveira speaks of "that which is defective," of that lack of awareness which is also, in the instances when he does not abuse the landscape of that chaos, another possibility of knowledge.

Returning to the lengthy passage quoted above, we find written beauty being questioned and threatened by the two areas into which the narrator has divided this chaos: "infallible equations" and "conformity machines." Between these two realities, it states, "we run towards deception." The threat to writing is also a threat to the adventure that the character has begun. The deception is encountered in technology and in the established routine of everyday life and its orders, as well as in literature, because of the hoax which is at the bottom of everything discursive. However, to question literature is also to lay bare the third area, the area of chance in which the character places himself in order to confront the simple dualities of our time, the "purse-size dialectics" to which he refers. What remains of all this is the passion of the work, the conflagration in a chosen city, a conflagration invented by language to destroy all dichotomies. Beauty, the ultimate value, requires this critical survey in order to return to it as a possibility. The entire novel is this survey and this possibility.

Cortázar turns time and again to the subject of "the Great Habit," repeatedly satirizing the everyday routine, the established orders, and conformity. This repetition can also be paradoxical. The characters are aware of this reiteration, but this does not stop them from criticizing "futurism" for the umpteenth time or from talking about "form and substance." Could it be that Oliveira is afraid that he himself may derive from one of the established orders, be it called the family, work, or history? His open rebelliousness, a form of his will to search, the scheme of his will to unity, is perhaps related to the liberations sought by Surrealism, but above all it is related to the individual and anguished rebellions of the second postwar period. "I don't like technology any more than you, it's just that I feel the world has changed in the last twenty years. Any guy who's past forty has to realize it," Oliveira says, yielding a datable debate. Oliveira's filiation is curiously visible in his nonconformist insistence, in his loquacious need to challenge the established order, which is why his discourse is paradoxical. His tautological lumping of habits and technologies in order to reject them indicates that his relations with them involve more than a simple rejection. His satirical attitude toward a brother who chastens him and toward old people, bosses, or simple women, etc., also indicates the irritated presence of a defense mechanism in Oliveira, who is also the product of a traditional Buenos Aires full of aunts from whom he has fled.

Nonconformity is essential to Hopscotch as the reflection of a central rebellion, in spite of the reiterations that link it to the partners of the novel of the artist as hero. In addition, this rich debate signals the context in which Oliveira defines his response: the possibilities of chance.

"Would I find La Maga?," Oliveira asks himself. He wonders because this possibility is left to chance, to a frustrated chance, now that writing reconstructs the past. Oliveira's encounters with La Maga were chance encounters; he would happen to see her on a bridge, at places staged for passing encounters, in a no-man's land. On such occasions:

She would smile and show no surprise, convinced as she was, the same as I, that casual meetings are apt to be just the opposite, and that people who make dates are the same kind who need lines on their writing paper, or who always squeeze up from the bottom on a tube of tooth-paste….

But now she would not be on the bridge…. In any case, I went out onto the bridge and there was no Maga…. We each knew where the other lived … but we never looked each other up at home. We preferred meeting on the bridge, at a sidewalk café, at an art movie, or crouched over a cat in some Latin Quarter courtyard. We did not go around looking for each other, but we knew that we would meet just the same.

Chance is thus the sign of these encounters and also their order, because chance underscores the mutual freedom of the characters, their will to nonconformity, the magic of the world in the instant of the encounter, the love contained in the rite. This is why Oliveira says:

even now, Maga, I wondered if this roundabout route made any sense, since it would have been easier to reach the Rue des Lombards by the Pont Saint-Michel and the Pont au Changes. But if you had been there that night, as so may other times, then I would have known that the roundabout made sense, while now, on the other hand, I debase my failure by calling it a roundabout.

Chance gains meaning in communication, but it awkwardly loses it in solitude. This response through chance to the established routine also requires gratuitousness and insignificance, giving a value to what is useless:

I took advantage of such moments to think about useless things, a practice I had begun some years before in a hospital and which all seemed richer and more necessary every time since…. The game consisted in bringing back only the insignificant, the unnoticed, the forgotten…. It was about that time I realized that searching was my symbol, the emblem of those who go out at night with nothing in mind, the motives of a destroyer of compasses.

"The disorder in which we lived … seemed to me like some sort of necessary discipline," Oliveira also says, bringing to mind Rimbaud's sacred disorder, evoked in another part of the novel as a sign or mirror. Like Rimbaud, Oliveira also leaves a written testimony of his season in hell, because he seeks unity in the resolution of contradictions and dichotomies. The only difference is that Rimbaud's poetic rebellion, which demands subversion, has become in the novel a discursive rebellion demanding criticism, which is why Oliveira insists on a caricature of himself:

… it occurred to me like a sort of mental belch that this whole ABC of my life was a painful bit of stupidity, because it was based solely on a dialectical pattern, on the choice of what could be called nonconduct rather than conduct, on faddish indecency instead of social decency.

Oliveira recognizes the fragmentation of his own marginal image. The dualisms he struggles against persist in him to the point of determining his response (chance) starting from the problematic context of society (the established order). La Maga, "always fumbling and distracted," is Oliveira's opposite, a pole that in revealing itself also reveals him in his polarity; in other words, it reveals that he also is a term of a duality. "Knowing that … it was always easier to think than to be, that in my case the ergo of the expression was no ergo or anything at all like it," Oliveira says, because he plays at being La Maga's pole.

And I felt antagonism for all these things when I was with La Maga, for we loved each other in a sort of dialectic of magnet and iron filings, attack and defense, handball and wall….

It grieved me to recognize that with artificial blows, with Manichaean beams of light, or desiccated, stupid dichotomies I could not make my way up the steps of the Gare de Montparnasse where La Maga had dragged me to visit Rocamadour. Why couldn't I accept what was happening without trying to explain it, without bringing up ideas of order and disorder, of freedom and Rocamadour?

Here love reveals the other dichotomies, straining them and making them more poignant. Love thus becomes one more struggle, an inevitable frustration. "Maybe one had to fall into the depths of stupidity in order to make the key fit the lock to the latrine or the Garden of Gethsemane." Oliveira says, announcing at the outset his own course between liberation from those dichotomies and the drama of that liberation. "I would have to get so much closer to myself, to let everything that separates me from the center drop away," he says. The anxiety for an "axis" that he senses in this exorcism, the search for a center of gravity, is also the yearning for a dreamed paradise, for an identity within the surrounding plurality. This is also the dream that Morelli announces for the literature that really matters.

The adventure of destroying the self in order to reconstruct it, the old scheme of "sainthood," also demands the rejection of a world corrupted by definitions, by dualistic simplifications:

… black or white, radical or conservative, homo- or hetero sexual, the San Lorenzo team or the Boca Juniors, meat or vegetables, business or poetry.

And the method for this destruction seems to be "the road of tolerance, intelligent doubt, sentimental vacillation." On one hand Oliveira sees the paradigm of "the struggle for struggle's sake," of "the handsome saints, the perfect escapists," and on the other hand he realizes that "if lucidity ends up in inaction, wouldn't it become suspect? Wouldn't it be covering up a particularly diabolical type of blindness?" Caught between these extremes, between the lines of the dualism that again confronts him, Oliveira strikes out on his own, marching toward his thunderous failure—the discursive scheme of his figure requires likewise its own parody—when the square in the game of hopscotch, which attempts to reconcile the extremes of the figure, turns out to be the window of a vaudevillian asylum. After this failure, resurrection insinuates itself slowly and gravely, crepuscular in some way. The last pages of Oliveira's story are also closer to the first page, because we should not forget that he writes the novel to read himself in the various masks of writing.

The path, the search for unity, is developed here in reverse. Between the "latrine" and the "Garden of Gethsemane" Oliveira states he is falling into the depths of stupidity, in the traditional line of knowledge that promises wisdom in suffering, the path towards the end of night, confession as the exorcism, etc. A quotation from Lezama Lima says: "Analyzing this conclusion once more, from a Pascalian point of view: true belief is somewhere in between superstition and libertinism." Morelli also notes a quotation from Pauwels and Bergier suggesting "that binary reasoning might be replaced with an analogical consciousness which would assume the shapes and assimilate the inconceivable rhythms of those profound structures." We are also told that:

It was curious that Morelli enthusiastically embraced the most recent working hypotheses of the physical and biological sciences, he presented himself as convinced that the old dualism had become cracked in the face of the evidence of a common reduction of matter and spirit to notions of energy.

Superstition and libertinism combined are thus Oliveira's analogical method for making stupidity a signifier capable of overcoming the dualisms already questioned in the doubts about the Cartesian schemes.

Oliveira begins by speaking of truth as invention, of beauty that is a truth threatened by the delusion of seeing itself. His adventure is the victim of this delusion when he is overcome by the threat of the unresolved dualisms and loses La Maga; in other words, he loses Paris, where to extend one's hand was to establish the reading of the world, where the bridges invented chance as communion. Oliveira returns to Buenos Aires, where he meets Traveler and his wife, Talita. Traveler, who has never been away from Buenos Aires, is also Oliveira's double, but he is an antagonistic double, a caricatured pole; and Talita is also a lighter double of La Maga. Oliveira forces in vain the relationship with his two friends, seeking to repeat in this world of allegories, where conversations always seem to be referring to an empty space, the truth he lived in Paris, that no-man's land that was a place of encounters. Oliveira's adventure has become a laughable, farcical posturing in Buenos Aires. A loquacious joker, this circle reveals him now in the pilgrimage of the artist through culture, in his sacrifice in a metaphysical rebellion, recovered also in the structure of the novel that returns him to the initial moment of the writing.

That is why this novel, concerned with beauty as the ultimate value and with truth as total communication and with unity of narrator and reader, at this level also becomes a moral novel. Its persistent assault against the established routine, against the "Great Habit," has to do with its ethical rebellion, with its will to break away. In the first of the two epigraphs to the book, "Abbot Martini" speaks of "this collection of maxims, counsels, and precepts," of a "universal morals," and of the "spiritual and temporal happiness of men of all ages"; and in the second one humorist César Bruto says, "I start gettin nutty ideas like I was thinkin about what was forein and diffrent … [and] I jes hope what I been writin down hear do somebody some good so he take a good look at how he livin and he dont be sorry when it too late." These epigraphs suggest the ethical concern of the novel, no matter how much Cortázar, forced to take a position of detachment by his fear of established literature, resorts to humor, just as he resorts to variations of phonetic writing as another form of detachment.

Oliveira is seen by Morelli as "the nonconformist": "This man moves within the lowest and the highest of frequencies, deliberately disdaining those in between, that is to say, the current band of the human spiritual mass." As we have already seen, the nonconformist Oliveira responds through chance; chance is his style, his lack of measure and his way of measuring. This is why we sense also an opposition between Oliveira and Morelli, who is more systematic. Oliveira's enormous frustration stems not only from his opposition to La Maga and from his tautological intellectualism, but from the broken line of a search that never becomes elective—although it claims to be so at the level of creation—because it lacks a center of gravity and a free perspective in relation to the rhetoric of culture. Hence every event is determined for him simply by chance, even when this chance enables him to see beauty in the world or leads him to the parodies of humor. And from that fertile gratuitousness he can disintegrate infinitely the established reality, as well as the reality that is yet to be discovered, and even himself. Oliveira thus gives the impression of being a hollow character. He places himself in all points of view, and the naïve abuse of his own image makes him imagine different masks, but it limits any transformation. Perhaps we can assume that Oliveira reconstructs himself after the episode in the hospital window, that his contradiction is also an insertion into history, into a traditional feeling of experience, into the will to transcend, and that he is a farcical figure of the culture of the 1950s, of the Latin-American adventure in that particular context. In any case, the fall is the allegorical theme of the novel, and resurrection is its return to the source in the ritual of writing, in the leap to form.

The wisdom of Morelli, whose accident (chance) would seem rather to be part of his own games, matches against that disintegration the possibility of subtracting through language a reality that is in itself excessive, because artistic form subtracts that accumulative verbalism. Of course, Morelli's secret hedonism is also a kind of skepticism, if for no other reason than that his age or his margination doom him inevitably to culture. Morelli is a theoretician of new departures because he is also a theoretician of decomposition, of a multiple crisis. In the center of that crisis this mask is a skeptical project.

The pervasive presence of chance, which is the nucleus of the character, also appears to be the mechanism of the novel itself. This is why Hopscotch constantly breaks it geometry, its field; its formalization is fragmented by the underlying presence of chance events that do not seem to be part of any sequence. In Hopscotch, therefore, the form is a rebeginning while the writing is fluctuating and accumulative. In any case, the disintegration that chance fosters in the character and the diversity of volumes it fosters in the form are also at the center of the problems posed by Hopscotch, which poses these problems not in order to solve them, but in order to destroy itself by destroying them, revealing them in that reformulation, and reemerging in its beauty and depth through the many books that it becomes, through the slap that wants to change the reader by rebelling him in its rebellion.

Further Reading

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Francescato, Martha Paley. "Bibliography of Works by and about Julio Cortázar." In The Final Island: The Fiction of Julio Cortázar, edited by Jaime Alazraki and Ivar Ivask, pp. 171-99. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978.

Chronological listing of works by and about Cortázar.


Amaral, José Vázquez. "Julio Cortázar's Hopscotch and Argentinian Spiritual Alienation." In The Contemporary Latin American Narrative, pp. 157-65. New York: Las Americas Publishing Co., 1970.

Compares Hopscotch to James Joyce's Ulysses and argues that themes of failure and national tragedy are at the heart of Cortázar's novel.

Boldy, Steven. "Rayuela." In The Novels of Julio Cortázar, pp. 30-96. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Analyzes the major themes in Hopscotch. Boldy considers the significance of Paris and Buenos Aires, addresses the doppelganger theme, explores relationships between key characters, and considers the novel's ambiguous ending.

Brotherston, Gordon. "Intellectual Geography: Julio Cortázar." In The Emergence of the Latin American Novel, pp. 81-97. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Focuses his discussion on the character Oliveira and the theme of identity in Hopscotch. Brotherston claims that "Hopscotch eclipses all Cortázar had written before it;… [and] stands as a point of reference for what has come afterwards."

Garfield, Evelyn Picon. "Rayuela (Hopscotch)." In Julio Cortázar, pp. 90-115. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1975.

Thematic and stylistic overview of Hopscotch.

Safir, Margery A. "An Erotics of Liberation: Notes on Transgressive Behavior in Hopscotch and Libro de Manuel." In The Final Island: The Fiction of Julio Cortázar, edited by Jaime Alazraki and Ivar Ivask, pp. 84-96. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978.

Considers the theme of redemption through erotic transgression in Hopscotch, focusing on Oliveira's sexual encounter with Emmanuèle in Chapter 36.

Yurkievich, Saúl. "Eros ludens: Games, Love and Humor in Hopscotch." In The Final Island: The Fiction of Julio Cortázar, edited by Jaime Alazraki and Ivar Ivask, pp. 97-108. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978.

Argues that themes of play, love, and humor in Hopscotch are liberating elements that counter the constraints of Western civilization.

Zamora, Lois Parkinson. "Art and Revolution in the Fiction of Julio Cortázar." In Writing the Apocalypse: Historical Vision in Contemporary U.S. and Latin American Fiction, pp. 76-96.

Comments briefly on Hopscotch, arguing that the novel is Cortázar's attempt to transcend the "boundaries of narrative genres and conventions."


Weiss, Jason. "The Art of Fiction LXXXIII: Julio Cortázar." The Paris Review 26, No. 93 (Fall 1984): 173-91.

Comments on the writing of Hopscotch.

Wolfowicz, Eugenia. "Julio Cortázar: A Conversation." Antaeus 60 (Spring 1988): 243-51.

Remarks briefly on the autobiographical elements of Hopscotch.

Julio Cortázar with Evelyn Picon Garfield (interview date 10-13 July 1973)

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SOURCE: An interview in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. III, No. 3, Fall, 1983, pp. 5-21.

[An American educator and critic, Garfield has written extensively on Cortázar and Latin American literature. In the following excerpted interview, which was conducted in Saignon, France in July 1973 and first published in Garfield's Cortázar por Cortázar (1978), Cortázar discusses the writing of Hopscotch, addressing the novel's themes, its appeal to younger readers, its optimism, and its place in Latin American literature.]

[Garfield]: With Historias de cronopios y de famas (Cronopios and Famas) and Rayuela, you begin to alter reality, to search for authenticity in life and literature, utilizing a good dose of humor and optimism.

[Cortázar]: In the case of my books, altering reality is a desire, a hope. But it seems important to point out that my books are not written nor were experienced or conceived under the pretense of changing reality. There are people who write as a contribution to the modification of reality. I know that modifying reality is an infinitely slow and difficult undertaking. My books do not function in that sense. A philosopher develops a philosophical system convinced that it is the truth and will modify reality because he supposes he's right. A sociologist establishes a theory. A politician also pretends to change the world. My case is much more modest. Let's say Oliveira is speaking: let's return to one of the constant themes in Rayuela. I am firmly convinced, each day more profoundly, that we are embarked on the wrong road. That is to say that humanity took the wrong path. I'm speaking, above all, of Western man because I know little about the Orient. We have taken an historically false road that is carrying us directly into a definite catastrophe, annihilation by whatever means—war, air pollution, contamination, fatigue, universal suicide, whatever you please. So in Rayuela, above all, there is that continuous feeling of existing in a world that is not what it should be. Here let me make an important parenthetical statement. There have been critics who have thought Rayuela to be a profoundly pessimistic book in the sense that it only laments the state of affairs. I believe it is a profoundly optimistic book because Oliveira, despite his quarrelsome nature, as we Argentinians say, his fits of anger, his mental mediocrity, his incapacity to reach beyond certain limits, is a man who knocks himself against the wall, the wall of love, of daily life, of philosophical systems, of politics. He hits his head against all that because he is essentially an optimist, because he believes that one day, not for him but for others, that wall will fall and on the other side will be the kibbutz of desire, the millennium, authentic man, the humanity he's dreamt of but which had not been a reality until that moment. Rayuela was written before my political and ideological stand, before my first trip to Cuba. I realized many years later that Oliveira is a little like Lenin, and don't take this as a pretense. It is an analogy in the sense that both are optimists, each in his own way. Lenin would not have fought so if he had not believed in man. One must believe in man. Lenin is profoundly optimistic, the same as Trotsky. Just as Stalin is a pessimist, Lenin and Trotsky are optimists. And Oliveira in his small, mediocre way is also. Because the alternative is to shoot oneself or simply keep on living and accepting all that is good in life. The Western world has many good things. So the general idea in Rayuela is the realization of failure and the hope to triumph. The book proposes no solutions; it limits itself simply to showing the possible ways of knocking down the wall to see what's on the other side.

You've said that in Rayuela there is no theory or philosophy that attempts to change reality; nevertheless, one of the ways to do just that is not with philosophy but by means of the experience of an anguished man who doesn't accept reality as it is. That serves much more as a model for youth than a textbook in philosophy.

I'm going to tell you something I've already said to others. When I wrote Rayuela I thought I'd written a book for people my age, of my generation. When the book was published in Buenos Aires and read in Latin America, I was surprised to receive letters, hundreds of letters, and of each one hundred, ninety-eight were from very young people, even from adolescents in some cases, who didn't understand the whole book. At any rate, they had reacted to the book in a way I'd never imagined when I wrote it. The great surprise for me was that people of my age, my generation, did not understand anything. The first criticism of Rayuela was indignant.

They didn't understand Historias de Cronopios y de famas either.

Of course, not at all. But Rayuela means more to me, in a certain sense, than the cronopios. The cronopios are a great game for me, my pleasure. Rayuela is not; it was a sort of metaphysical commitment, a kind of personal probe, besides. And then I discovered that Rayuela was destined for youth and not men of my age. I never would have imagined that when I wrote it. Why? Why was it the young who found something that impressed them, that made an impact on them? I believe it's because there is no lesson in Rayuela. Young people don't like to be given lessons. Adults accept certain ones; youngsters don't. There they found their own questions, the everyday anguish of adolescence and early youth, the fact that they don't feel comfortable in the world they live in, their parents' world. And notice, that when Rayuela was published, there were no hippies yet, no "angry young men." At that moment Osborne's book appeared. But there was a generation that began to look at their parents and say to them, "You're not right. You're not giving us what we want. You are passing on an inheritance we don't accept." Rayuela only had a repertory of questions, issues, and anguish that youth felt in an amorphous fashion because it was not intellectually equipped to write about them or think of them and it found a book that contained them all. Rayuela contained that whole world of dissatisfaction, of a search for the "kibbutz of desire," to use Oliveira's metaphor. That explains how the book was important to the young people rather than to the old.

It is for that very reason that the book acts as a "traveling companion," a kindred soul. That's why it seems so optimistic to me.

Of course, I also feel that way, although there are those who see only negative aspects in it. Oliveira is very negative, but he is so because deep down he's searching for the kibbutz.

The book is not negative. There is no way that Oliveira can leap from the window onto the hopscotch board.

He doesn't leap. No, no. I'm sure he doesn't.

Me, too.

Of course, completely sure.

Knowing that, how can one say the book is pessimistic?

But there are critics who have said that the book "ends finally with the suicide of the protagonist." Oliveira does not commit suicide.

He is not capable of doing that, but he is capable of living.

He ends up discovering to what extent Traveler and Talita love him. He cannot kill himself after that. He was waiting for Traveler because he thought Traveler was coming to kill him. But the conversation they have proves to him that it isn't so. Besides, Talita is downstairs. The enemies are the other stupid ones like the hospital director. Oliveira doesn't jump, he remains at the window thinking that all that's left is to simply jump, but I know he does not do it. But I couldn't say it, Evie.

No, to say it would destroy the book.

Destroy everything. To say he doesn't kill himself is to destroy the book. The idea is that you or any other reader must decide. So you decide, the same as I, that Oliveira does not commit suicide. But there are readers who decide he does. Well, too bad for them. The reader is the accomplice, he has to decide. Of course, it is a very optimistic book. Yes….

Contrary to what some novelists experience, it seems the final pages of a novel are not difficult for you to write.

Only the beginning is difficult for me, very difficult. Proof of the matter is that some of my books didn't really begin where they finally do for the reader. Rayuela, for example, began in the middle. The first chapter I wrote was about Talita aloft on the boards. I hadn't the least idea of what I'd write before or after that section. The beginning of a book is always very difficult for me. For example, I began 62: modelo para armar (62: A Model Kit) three times. It was the hardest book for me to write because the rules of the game were very tough and I wanted to respect them. I didn't have much freedom in that book. I had another kind of liberty that appeared later on, but not at the beginning. I must have mentioned what happened with "El perseguidor" ("The Pursuer"). It was practically a miracle that story was written. It would have been finally logical for it to have been lost forever. I'll tell you the story. In Paris, when I read the news of Charlie Parker's death, I discovered that he was the character I'd been looking for. I'd thought of a painter, a writer, but that wasn't appropriate because I wanted the character of the pursuer to have a very limited intelligence, a little like Oliveira also, that is an average man, even a mediocre man, but down deep not really mediocre because he has a kind of personal grandeur or genius. An intellectual character starts at once to think brilliantly, like a Thomas Mann character. When Charlie Parker died, I realized (knowing about many aspects of his life) that he was my character, a man of limited mental capacity but with a sort of genius for something, in this case, music. I invented his metaphysical search. So I sat down at the typewriter to write and turned out the whole part that begins when Bruno goes one night to the hotel to talk with Johnny. Then I had a mental block. I didn't know what to do. So those fifteen or twenty pages remained shoved away in a drawer for months. I went to Geneva to work for the United Nations, and those pages were among the papers I took with me. All alone in a pension one Sunday, bored, I began to look at those papers. "What the hell is this?" I said to myself. I reread those fifteen or twenty pages all at once, sat down at the typewriter, and in two days I finished the story. But I could have lost those pages. That should answer your question a little about beginnings and endings. The endings are not difficult for me; they almost write themselves. There's a kind of pace. The whole ending of Rayuela that takes place in the insane asylum was written in forty-eight hours in an almost hallucinatory state—if I must say so myself….

When you write, how do you choose the genre?

I don't. Before I begin, I have a general idea of what I want and I know automatically it has to be a short story. Or I know it is the first step towards a novel. But I don't deliberate over it. The idea from which the short story is to be born already has the shape of a short story, its limits. Even long stories like "Reunión" ("Meeting") or "Las babas del diablo." I knew they were not novels but short stories. On the other hand, I sense at times that some elements begin to coalesce: they are much broader and more complex and require the novelistic form. 62 is a good example of that case. At first I began with a few very confused notions: the idea of that psychic vampirism that is later translated into the character of Helene. The idea of Juan as a character. Immediately, I understood that that was not a story, that it had to be developed as an extended novel. And that's when I thought of chapter 62 in Rayuela and said to myself that this was the opportunity to try to apply it in practice to see if it could work. To try to write a novel in which psychological elements did not occupy center stage but rather the characters would be dominated by what I called a "figure" or a constellation. And they would react by doing things without knowing they were moved by other forces.

If you could save only five books from a fire that would consume all other books in the world, which ones would you pick?

That's the kind of question you cannot answer while the tape recorder is on.

Should we turn it off?

No, because then the answer will be too pat, too well thought out. You say books, I don't know; I think, for example, that one of the five works that I would like to save is a poem, a poem by Keats. Do you understand?


One of them.

Which one?

Any one of the ones I love, the great odes: "Ode on a Grecian Urn" or "Ode to Nightingale" or "To-Autumn," the great moments of Keats's maturity. And while we're talking about poetry, I'd like to save the Duino Elegies by Rilke. But five is an absurd number.

I know it's an absurd number and it's very difficult, but I'd like to know now, right now.

OK. There's a book of prose that I'd save, Ulysses. I think Ulysses is somehow the sum of universal literature. That would be one of the five books. I really should have punished you for this kind of question. Do you know how Oscar Wilde answered? They were more generous with him. They asked which ten books he would save. And Oscar Wilde answered, "Look, up till now I have only written six."

You're very humble to have not included any of your books.

I don't have to, I always carry them within me.

And what about Marx?

I was thinking of literature. Of course, when you said books, I should have thought, from the historic point of view, of course, Marx and Plato's dialogues.

You already have four of five. And now I'm almost ashamed to ask if you would have chosen the same books ten years ago when you wrote Rayuela?

Yes, except perhaps for Marx. Because when I wrote Rayuela, problems of an ideological or political nature didn't interest me as they did afterwards. Perhaps the only exception would be Marx….

Many consider Rayuela to be the height of your work and that after such a book it would not be possible to achieve anything better. Now, after having written more works and after about ten years, what would you say about that comment?

It's not the kind of comment I like very much, because deep down, everything is a question of perspective. Ten years from the time when Rayuela was published (today makes exactly ten years), it is already a big boy. I agree with the critics. If you were to ask me, "Which of your books has meant more to you?" I would answer Rayuela. But the world is moving along at a vertiginous pace and I would like to know if twenty years from now literature will still be written on this planet or if it will be substituted by some audio-visual system. I don't know. I'd like to know what the perspective will be twenty years from now. I've read a lot of comparative literature from years ago and I've seen to what extent the critics have erred in their assessment of books by certain authors. Five or ten years after the publication of a book, they thought book H was a masterpiece and all the others by that author were inferior. But twenty-five years later, book H went downhill and another, by that same author, that seemed less important, suddenly took on new significance. So there is relativity and a changing perspective. But, now, ten years after, yes, I believe Rayuela is the best. If I had to take one of my books with me to the desert island, I'd take along Rayuela.

Rayuela rather than the short stories?

Yes, yes. Well, if you take the short stories in their entirety as a sort of a great cycle … no, I'd take Rayuela!

You're less fantastic than I had thought, Don't comment on that!

No. No comment.

What influence has Rayuela had on Latin American writers?

I'm not afraid to say things that many of my fellow writers will immediately interpret as proof of my vanity because in Latin America one of the many taboos that still must be conquered is false modesty. It's supposed to be good manners to be modest, and of course, to refrain from saying certain things clearly. I'm not modest nor am I vain. But I have a good idea of who I am and of what I've accomplished. So I can say that Rayuela has profoundly altered a good part of Latin American fiction in the last ten years. The impact was enormous on the young people who began to write in those years. The influence has been good and bad. The negative repercussions were like those from the Borges' imitators. Many little "rayuelas" have been published all over the place, consciously or unconsciously, using procedures like those in Rayuela. Most of it is very mediocre. On the other hand, there was another kind of influence, a sort of liberation from prejudices, from taboos on the level of language. Adan Buenosayres by Leopoldo Marechal had already been a great liberator of the Argentinian language. I feel that Rayuela has also contributed a lot to that. It has made people take off their tie to write.

It has also been mentioned that the best parts of Rayuela are found in specific episodes that are almost like short stories. I call them "happenings" in my book about you and surrealism. They are the chapters like the one about Rocamadour's death. Do you think your long apprenticeship as a short-story writer served you well in these scenes or is there another reason for their success?

Probably my profession as a short-story writer was valuable in the sense that it enabled me to narrate a long episode that had certain unity. But contrary to the many readers who have a passion for these chapters in Rayuela and who remember them most, I like them least, because Rayuela was purposely designed to destroy that notion of the hypnotic story. I wanted a reader to be free, as free as possible. Morelli says it all the time, that the reader has to be an accomplice and not a passive reader ("lector hembra"). In those chapters I allowed myself to be carried away a little by the drama, by the narration; I betrayed myself. I realized later on that the readers had become hypnotized by the intensity of those episodes. I would prefer those chapters didn't exist in that way. My idea was to make the action progress and to stop it exactly at the moment in which the reader would be trapped, in order to then give him a kick so as to make him return objectively to view the book from the outside, from another dimension. That was the plan. Evidently I was not totally successful. But from that point of view, I like those chapters the least.

Nevertheless, you told me that the chapter about Talita balancing on the boards was the first one that you wrote.

Of course, and the explanation is quite simple. It was the first one because at that moment I hadn't the slightest idea yet of what the book would be like later on nor what my intentions would be. Morelli had not yet been born. He arrived later. Then I began to write a novel.

Now that you've mentioned the "lector hembra," the passive reader, would you like to repeat what you told me last night?

Yes, I ask you women to forgive me for having used such a "machista" expression so typical of Latin american underdevelopment. And you ought to put that in your interview. I did it innocently and I have no excuses; but when I began to hear opinions of my friends who are women readers, who insulted me cordially, I realized that I had done something stupid. I should have written "passive reader" and not "female reader," because a woman doesn't have to be continually passive; she is in certain circumstances, but not in others, the same as a "macho."

Alfred J. Mac Adam (essay date 1977)

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SOURCE: "Julio Cortázar: Self-Explanation & Self-Destruction," in Modern Latin American Narratives: The Dreams of Reason, University of Chicago Press, 1977, pp. 51-60.

[In the following excerpt, Mac Adam analyzes Hopscotch, focusing on its significance in the history of the Latin American novel.]

Julio Cortázar's Rayuela [Hopscotch], the work that put both its author and Spanish American literature into a position of prominence in Western culture, is a deliberately essayistic text. It attempts to enact a coming to grips with the problem faced by all authors, the relationship between what the author talks about and how he talks about it…. [Rayuela] dramatizes the problem any author faces when he writes—which elements he will select and which reject, and how he will use those he selects, whatever elements his culture supplies to him. At the same time, Cortázar represents the same sort of problem, the dialectical or nondialectical relationship of "tradition and the individual talent," on a philosophical level by creating a protagonist who tries to evade a life of preordained patterns.

The metaphorical relationship between Rayuela's two sides, the conscious mirroring of the ethical and the esthetic, is further complicated by the protagonist's also being his own narrator. This is, the text simultaneously writes and "unwrites" itself as it grows. A word might be said about the two reading methods offered to the reader at the beginning of Rayuela: the reader may choose to follow either the "Tablero de Dirección" or to read the text as an ordinary book (or, if he disdains both options, invent his own reading method). If he chooses the short reading, he omits the chapters designated "From Other Sides/Omissible Chapters." Immediately the reader is challenged by the text: to choose the easy, "feminine" (in Cortázar's terminology) route or to choose the complex, possibly baffling route seemingly suggested by the text itself. This is a kind of existentialist "either/or" tempest in a teapot which plays not only on the reader's self-esteem but also on his snobbery (who would admit to having chosen the feminine plan and abandoned a third of the book?). Notwithstanding this crux, it is advisable to read the book both ways and then experiment, simply to see how Cortázar's sense of composition works, how what is disarticulated neatly in the long reading is rather ambiguously articulated in the short reading.

Articulation is indeed the dominant metaphor in Rayuela: how a character imagines his life to be defective because the pieces do not cohere as he would like, and how Cortázar would like to break down a traditional plot by fusing it with meditations on narrative problems. It is rather like a cubist still life in which we see all sides of a given object at the same time, something impossible except in the work of art. But let us note at the same time that Cortázar's experiment is not without precedents. Saporta's Composition No. 1 and Huxley's Eyeless in Gaza are also forays into new forms of discourse. What we have in Rayuela is a melange derived from Breton's Nadja, Sartre's La Nausée, Beckett's Murphy, with a touch of Celine's Voyage au bout de la nuit, reworkings all of the story of the soul's journey to enlightenment, of the same kind we find in Apuleius's Golden Ass or Bonaventura's Itinerarium Mentis in Deum. Cortázar, following Breton and Sartre, develops this model on a less obviously religious plane (although it is nevertheless a religious plot) and combines it with esthetic speculation. To what end? The clearest object in view is the reader himself, whose views on literature and life Cortázar has long been trying to change.

Cortázar's dissatisfaction with the status quo, or what he imagines the status quo to be, of occidental narrative, what he consistently calls "the novel" has been long lived. In fact, his earliest utterances on "the novel" are testimonies of this dissatisfaction. But there is more to the situation than esthetic impatience. In reality Cortázar is a genuine sufferer from what Harold Bloom has called the "anxiety of influence." Simply stated, this anxiety, which Bloom sees operative in all modern poetry, is caused by the unavoidable influence of the poets of the past on the creative ability of later writers. There is no moment of their work which is not warped by a backward glance at their "forefathers," and the result of this constant rear-guard action is "a history of anxiety and self-saving caricature, of distortion, of perverse, willful revisionism without which modern poetry as such could not exist" (italics in original). Modern writers, to rephrase Bloom's thesis, are born with oedipal problems which they resolve in the ways just described.

Without seeing Cortázar in the light of the anxiety of influence theory, it is difficult to understand just what it is he finds so oppressive about the literature, specifically the narrative literature, of the past. What he calls the traditional novel is something that exists, if at all, only marginally in English and American literature and seems peculiarly French. In fact, Cortázar's attitude as an avant-garde writer seems almost to be a serious rendition of the ironic distinctions Borges makes between French and English literary history in "The Paradox of Apollinaire." In that essay, Borges notes that French literature seems to be a product of French literary history, that instead of being written by people, it consists of "schools, manifestos, generations, avant-gardes, rearguards, lefts, rights, cells, and references to the tortuous destiny of Captain Dreyfus." Cortázar too looks at the novel (without ever distinguishing between the major genres) in the same way. There are good writers, of whom he approves, and bad ones, whose work he attacks. The major object of his literary assaults is the mythical "traditional novel," analogous to the one Ortega attacks in The Dehumanization of Art. It is clear that Cortázar needs a straw man so that he can overcome his anxiety of influence, just as he needs a mythical "good-father" author, one, naturally, he creates himself, the novelist Morelli in Rayuela.

The creation of a "father" by an author is an act which ought to have elicited a torrent of critical speculation. The opposite is in fact true, and the sad reality of most Cortázar criticism is its pious repetition of what the author or his surrogate (Morelli) says about literature. Criticism becomes repetition. Morelli does have, however, a significance beyond Cortázar's own immediate need for a master. He is the master absent from Hispanic culture in general (especially since Spanish Americans, like their Peninsular counterparts, scrupulously avoid reading Brazilian or Portuguese authors, thereby excluding Machado de Assis or Eça de Queiroz from their spectrum). The single Spanish author who might, through sheer output, have vied for such a place of honor, Pérez Galdós, is held up to ridicule by Cortázar. In chapter 34 of Rayuela, the protagonist, Horacio Oliveira, reads a passage from Lo prohibido, and the text is so arranged that one line of Galdós is followed by a line of Oliveira's thoughts. The juxtaposition is ironic, and Galdós suffers, perhaps unjustly, in the process.

The creation of Morelli is important also because Cortázar not only shows him as a text (the characters comment on his works) but also as a character. One thinks of Plato's relationship with Socrates, the often commented control the younger philosopher had over his master when he turned him into a character. Perhaps Cortázar is showing something more than he realizes: if Morelli is a master, he is more like Cortázar himself than any living figure. And if this is true, he is relegating himself to the position of innovator, one who writes for the history of literature, and not necessarily to be read. To a certain extent this is true. Rayuela has aged, not so much in its abstract sense as an experiment with discourse, but in its style and its cultural accouterments. It is in this sense a rather banal Summa of the early 1950s, existentialism-cum-mysticism. Borges's remark in the Apollinaire essay about the fact that, although Apollinaire and Rilke are of the same generation, Rilke's work seems fresh while Apollinaire's has become a collection of period pieces, holds true for Cortázar as well. To write in order to change the "now" of literature is to situate oneself prominently at the beginning of another "now."

It is therefore in a double perspective that we should consider Rayuela: what it did as a phenomenon in literary history remains; what its accomplishments are as a work of art remain to be seen. Above all else, Rayuela altered the sociological status of the Spanish American writer. The Spanish American writer of the 1960s became almost as great a celebrity as his political counterparts. To be sure, writers of an earlier generation, such as Neruda or Borges, were famous, as were such poets as Octavio Paz or César Vallejo, but the publication of Rayuela inaugurated a period of wide dissemination and, more importantly, of wide exposure of writers to a primarily Spanish American public. Cortázar's text was an international Latin American success and broke down barriers which long kept, for example, Mexican readers from sharing reading experiences with Argentine readers.

A serious obstacle fell, the idea that in order to be understood by the Spanish speaking world in general a writer had to use a kind of B.B.C. Spanish. Rayuela is an Argentine book in the way Cabrera Infante's Tres tristes tigres is a Cuban book or Guimarães Rosa's Grande Sertão: Veredas is a Brazilian book. This is a step perhaps difficult to understand for an Anglo-American audience. Faulkner was not, we assume, afraid of not being understood by Scotch readers. Something may be lost, but how much more was lost when writers had to become grammarians to produce a work of art? No longer would a writer hesitate to use either localisms or street talk of any sort.

The relaxation on the linguistic level has its counterpart on the sexual plane as well. Cortázar's characters talk about sex, practice it with an almost Henry Miller-like verve, and regard it as a part of everyday life. This frankness was not common in the Spanish American world before 1963. There were exceptions of course, but, again, Cortázar's text made sex into a subject for all Spanish American writers, a matter which no longer had to be treated elliptically. That this corresponds to a change in the attitude of the reading public (and is not therefore a cause per se) is a matter for consideration. It would seem, as Emir Rodríguez Monegal states in his study of the "Boom," that Cortázar and the social change mutually complemented each other.

Important for the non-Latin American reader of Cortázar is the kind of culture Cortázar displays. Borges and Bioy Casares had spattered their texts with allusions and quotations, but Cortázar carries this display of cultural material to an absurd point. Like a baroque writer of the seventeenth century, Cortázar stuffs his text with references; his characters talk about religion, philosophy, art, literature, and history in a professional way, as if their lives were spent in galleries and libraries. At the same time, this manifestation of culture, though accomplished by an international cast, seems very Argentinian, indeed, very Latin American. To "know" French, English, and American literature is not rare in Latin American middle-class life, and an educated Argentinian would not shock his friends by referring to Baudelaire. At the same time, this same person would be familiar with his own literature, so that Cortázar can refer to Raymond Roussel, Musil, and Roberto Arlt in the same passage without hesitating. It is this, for us, bizarre mixture—which we find in Borges as well—that makes Rayuela seem so dazzling. At the same time, the tendency toward the encyclopedic is typical of satire, so that in a sense culture and genre complement each other in a quite natural way.

The idea that culture is nothing more than a skin, a surface that desensitizes and isolates the bearer, is taken up in Rayuela during the Parisian phase of Horacio Oliveira's life. The myriad possibilities that present themselves to Oliveira, the conflicting religions, philosophies, and literary schools are proof to him that he will not find what he wants through them. This situation is Augustinian in origin in that illumination, the kind of ontological security Oliveira seeks, is something given, not something acquired. In other terms, Oliveira is seeking grace, which cannot be acquired through works alone. The Paris section of his life is therefore a progressive discarding of his cultural baggage, a separation from his milieu, which includes his friends and his lover Maga, the Nadja of Rayuela.

This renunciation is accomplished through a series of parallel deaths, suicides, and sacrifices which make most of the characters in Paris doubles for Oliveira. The death of Rocamadour, Maga's child, the event which precipitates Oliveira's banishment from Paris, is the symbolic death of Oliveira's humanity, the side of him that arouses pity in others. At the same time, Morelli is dying in a hospital, and another of Oliveira's lovers, Pola, is dying of cancer. These deaths underline the mind-body dichotomy which puts arbitrary limits on the protagonist's search, and, at the same time, they make him aware of his need to die in one sense in order to be reborn. Again, the text is a chronicle of how an individual passes from one state to another: in Machado, Brás Cubas is reborn in his text; in Bioy a man dies so that a text may be born; and here in Cortázar a fictitious but exemplary life is transformed into words on a page.

Oliveira's most significant renunciation, the one of which he repents almost immediately, is his giving up Maga, the women he loves. This enactment of the idea that one always destroys what one loves most is extremely important to Oliveira because it makes manifest his desire for salvation, no matter what the cost. Again, the parallel to Augustine in this sundering of personal ties to the world in order to save one's soul is clear. Since Maga cannot give him what he wants (although she seems to possess it), she must be sacrificed. In the same way, when he feels his enlightenment is at hand, Oliveira does not hesitate to use his friend and spiritual double, Traveler, as a means to reach it. Whether he does in fact reach his goal is not clear, but it is the goal that justifies the process and the sacrifices.

There is certainly nothing new, either in content or in style, in Oliveira's history. We must then turn to the other side of the text in order to see what made it so explosive. And, again, if we look carefully here, we shall see that the interpolation of material alien to the protagonist's story (though related to it thematically) is not new at all. The kind of moralizing digressions in Mateo Alemán's Guzmán de Alfarache or Defoe's Robinson Crusoe parallel the various sorts of interpolations Cortázar utilizes. His book does not disorder plot, not even the epic sense of beginning in medias res; it simply makes the straight line into an arabesque.

Plot may be understood either as an element of the work of art or as an aspect of the psychology of composition. In the first sense, plot is the arrangement of events; strictly speaking, their arrangement to show causality. This does not, as Aristotle or Borges would have us believe, mean that paratactic texts like the Golden Ass or the Lazarillo de Tormes are not "plotted." They obey a different order, one in which causality is generally removed from the realm of ordinary human logic and left in the hands of fate or a divinity. They follow a process of accumulation which leads to some sort of culminating moment, a hierophany in the Golden Ass, an ironic discovery of identity in the Lazarillo. We might also note that in La Nausée, the same sort of trajectory is found.

Rayuela displays two sorts of organization, the type we see in Sartre's text, and another, one in which the reader "sees" the author selecting those elements which will constitute the book's "best of all possible worlds." Oliveira's story is that of Roquentin; the text's own "story" is its assimilation of all sorts of heterogeneous material (newspaper clippings, almanac quotations, passages from other literary texts). The reader may not be "correct" in his utilization of the materials Cortázar has brought together under the one roof of the text, correct here being merely an approximation of the author's own wishes. But these wishes are irrelevant because the mere act of assemblage suffices as prima facie evidence of a wish to create an order. Despite the ironic quotation from Bataille's Haine de la poésie (chapter 136) about the author's own inability to explain why he brought together certain materials, the fact remains that the materials have been gathered. They are now in the hands of the reader, whose reading will connect the pieces. All plots are "replotted" by the reading, which accounts for all loose ends.

Cortázar seems to have overlooked this aspect of reading in his desire to work some sort of disordering magic on the reader's sensibility. Like the surrealists, whose work he has long admired, he forgets that interpretation is a weapon which turns the text against its creator. Like the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the work, once in the world, acquires characteristics unimagined by the creator. It may horrify or delight him, but it will no longer be his property. What Cortázar wishes, therefore, is not something an artifact can give: he wants to change his reader, but he uses a tool that the reader will twist into something different. Whatever changes occur in the reader as he reads will be modified when the work is reconstructed in memory. There it will be organized and transformed, turned into an image of the reader's, not the artist's, mind.

What happens to Rayuela reminds us of what has happened to the didactic satires of the eighteenth century. When we read Swift or Voltaire, it is obvious we are not reading them as their original readers did. We see simultaneously more and less in both texts than did their age. Does Voltaire really teach us anything? Perhaps, but the thrust of his philosophical arguments is meaningful only to those readers who can reconstruct the extratextual milieu that surrounded Candide when it first appeared. Gulliver's Travels (which even had a different title) is more a hallucinatory experience for today's readers, more an anatomy of the soul than a satire directed against specific targets. The error of Cortázar's didacticism is its naïve faith in the ability of the work of art to retain his intentions when placed in alien hands. To be sure, Rayuela should be read as one of Stanley Fish's self-consuming artifacts: "A self-consuming artifact signifies most successfully when it fails, when it points away from itself to something its forms cannot capture. If this is not anti-art, it is surely anti-art-for-art's sake because it is concerned less with the making of better poems than with the making of better persons," but the question of whether Cortázar's enterprise is worth the trouble or not remains unanswered. To read him fairly we must forget the banality of his ideas and consider the goals he sets both for himself and for us.

He fails, perhaps, but there is grandeur in his failure. The experiment with narrative, the attempt to point out what might be done with narrative, and the risks involved—all of this constitutes a noble endeavor. Whatever else Rayuela may have done, it certainly made the Latin American literary world aware of new possibilities. A good example of the kind of book Latin America was prepared for by Rayuela is Cabrera Infante's Tres tristes tigres. This is in no way a suggestion that Cabrera Infante is a follower or imitator of Cortázar. Far from it. And yet, when we realize that Tres tristes tigres is an assemblage, a kind of verbal scrapbook, then we must inevitably recall Cortázar's art of assemblage in Rayuela.

Rayuela must also be remembered whenever language, narrative structure, or the depiction of the artist within the work of art are discussed. Rayuela is a point of crystallization for so many subjects that one is tempted to set it at the head of a movement. This of course would be a falsification. Authors like Machado de Assis, Bioy Casares, Roberto Arlt, Juan Carlos Onetti, and Felisberto Hernandez, dead, forgotten or simply ignored for one reason or another, all did what Cortázar did. His importance lies in having done it all at the moment when he was able to make a huge impression on a new generation of readers and writers. Drawing lines between the writers of different generations is not difficult, especially in Latin America where two genres, satire and to a lesser extent romance have held such sway. That is, since most writers are working within the confines of a single genre, the essential traits of that genre soon begin to be common currency. What Rayuela is, then, is not so much an innovation as a gathering place in which an entire catalog of innovations is put on display.

Jaime Alazraki (essay date 1978)

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SOURCE: "Introduction: Toward the Last Square of the Hopscotch," in The Final Island: The Fiction of Julio Cortázar, edited by Jaime Alazraki and Ivar Ivask, University of Oklahoma Press, 1978, pp. 3-18.

[Born in Argentina, Alazraki is an American educator and critic who has written extensively on Latin-American literature. In the following excerpt, he discusses philosophical themes raised in Hopscotch and compares the novel to Cortázar's short story "The Pursuer."]

Cortázar's fictional world,… rather than an acceptance, represents a challenge to culture, a challenge, as he puts it, to "thirty centuries of Judeo-Christian dialectics," to "the Greek criterion of truth and error," to the homo sapiens, to logic and the law of sufficient reason and, in general, to what he calls "the Great Habit." If Borges's fantasies are oblique allusions to the situation of man in a world he can never fully fathom, to an order he has created as a substitute labyrinth to the one created by a divine mind, Cortázar's stories strive to transcend the schemes and constructs of culture and seek precisely to touch that order Borges finds too abstruse and complex to be understood by man. The first stumbling block Cortázar encounters in this quest is language itself: "I've always found it absurd," he says [in Luis Harss and Barbara Dohmann's Into the Main stream, 1967], "to talk about transforming man if man doesn't simultaneously, or previously, transform his instrument of knowledge. How to transform oneself if one continues to use the same language Plato used?" He found a first answer in surrealism. As early as 1949 he defined surrealism as "the greatest undertaking of contemporary man as an anticipation and attempt toward an integrated humanism." Cortázar saw in surrealism not a mere literary technique or a simple esthetic stand, but a world view or, as he said in the same article ["Irracionalismo y eficacia," Realidad (September-December 1949)], "not a school or an ism but a Weltanschauung." When surrealism settled for less than "an integrated humanism," Cortázar confronted some of its inconsistencies through the pages of Hopscotch. One of its characters, Étienne, says in chapter 99:

The surrealists thought that true language and true reality were censored and relegated by the rationalist and bourgeois structure of the Western world. They were right, as any poet knows, but that was just a moment in the complicated peeling of the banana. Result, more than one of them ate it with the skin still on. The surrealists hung from words instead of brutally disengaging themselves from them, as Morelli would like to do from the word itself. Fanatics of the verbum in a pure state, frantic wizards, they accepted anything as long as it didn't seem excessively grammatical. They didn't suspect enough that the creation of a whole language, even though it might end up betraying its sense, irrefutably shows human structure, whether that of a Chinese or a redskin. Language means residence in reality, living in a reality. Even if it's true that the language we use betrays us …, wanting to free it from its taboos isn't enough. We have to relive it, not reanimate it.

The second obstacle Cortázar stumbles upon in this search for authenticity is the use of our normative categories of thought and knowledge, our rational tools for apprehending reality. He believes in a kind of marvelous reality (here again the affinity with surrealism is obvious). "Marvelous," he explains, "in the sense that our daily reality masks a second reality which is neither mysterious nor theological, but profoundly human. Yet, due to a long series of mistakes, it has remained concealed under a reality prefabricated by many centuries of culture, a culture in which there are great achievements but also profound aberrations, profound distortions."

Among those distorted notions which obstruct man's access to a more genuine world, Cortázar points a finger to our perception of death and to two of the most established concepts in the Western grasp of reality—time and space.

The notions of time and space, as they were conceived by the Greeks and after them by the whole of the West, are flatly rejected by Vedanta. In a sense, man made a mistake when he invented time. That's why it would actually be enough for us to renounce mortality, to take a jump out of time, on a level other than that of daily life, of course. I'm thinking of the phenomenon of death, which for Western thought has been a great scandal, as Kierkegaard and Unamuno realized so well; a phenomenon that is not in the least scandalous in the East where it is regarded not as an end but as a metamorphosis. [Harss]

As much as Cortázar sees the East as an alternative to this preoccupation with time and space, he also realizes that it cannot be an answer for Western man, who is the product of a different tradition, a tradition one cannot simply undo or replace. If there is an answer to the questions of time and space, it lies in a relentless confrontation with them in a manner similar to the struggle Unamuno memorably represented in the fight between Jacob and the Angel. "Rayuela [Hopscotch] like so much of my work," Cortázar says, "suffers from hyperintellectuality. But, I'm not willing or able to renounce that intellectuality, insofar as I can breathe life into it, make it pulse in every thought and word" [Harss]….

Cortázar likes to think that with his novels, and more specifically with the long story "The Pursuer," he begins to unloose the stylistic perfection with which his stories are knitted. He also believes that with this change he moves to a new stage in his development as a writer.

When I wrote "The Pursuer," I had reached a point where I felt I had to deal with something that was a lot closer to me. I wasn't sure of myself any more in that story. I took up an existential problem, a human problem which was later amplified in The Winners, and above all in Hopscotch. Fantasy for its own sake had stopped interesting me. By then I was fully aware of the dangerous perfection of the storyteller who reaches a certain level of achievement and stays on that same level forever, without moving on. I was a bit sick and tired of seeing how well my stories turned out. In "The Pursuer" I wanted to stop inventing and stand on my own ground, to look at myself a bit. And looking at myself meant looking at my neighbor, at man. I hadn't looked too closely at people until I wrote "The Pursuer." [Harss]

But, of course, the new linguistic mood he finds in this long story, and later in his subsequent novels, is not the deterioration of his previous style but a new form of expression which tackles more effectively the nature of his new concerns. Cortázar defines those new concerns as "existential and metaphysical" as opposed to his esthetic pursuits in the short story.

The truth is, though, as Cortázar well knows, that his short stories and his novels are motivated by a common search, by a quest for authenticity which is of one piece in both genres. Otherwise, how does one understand his own definition of Hopscotch [in La vuelta al día en ochenta mundos] as "the philosophy of my stories, as an examination of what determined, throughout many years, their substance or thrust"? Hopscotch articulates the same questions around which the stories are built; but if the novel is a reflection, an effort to brood upon those questions, the stories are narrative translations of those same questions. Hopscotch traces the mandala through which the characters of the stories are constantly journeying. Those characters do not speculate or intellectualize; they simply deliver themselves to the passions and games sweeping their lives, moved and battered by forces they don't understand. Hopscotch seeks to understand those forces, and as such it represents the intellectual bow from which the stories were shot. The proof that this is indeed the case lies in the fact that some of the central inquiries found in Hopscotch were already outlined in the early essays and reviews Cortázar wrote before and during his writing of the short stories. His tales were fantastic responses to those problems and questions which occupied his mind at the time and which eventually found a masterful formulation in Hopscotch. It goes without saying that Hopscotch's hyperintellectual ponderings alone do not explain the stories; Cortázar combined his intellectual spurs with his own passions and phobias, and the latter are as enigmatic to him as to the reader.

If Horacio Oliveira seeks through the pages of Hopscotch a second reality which has been covered by habit and culture in our present version of reality, and Johnny Carter in "The Pursuer" perceives through intuition and artistic imagination dimensions of reality which have been buried by conceptualization, the characters of the stories also find their ultimate realization on a fantastic plane that is the reverse of that stiff reality to which habit and culture have condemned them. In "Lejana," for instance, one of Cortázar's earliest short stories, the protagonist searches for a bridge at whose center she hopes to find that part of her self rejected and suffocated by family, friends and environment. She does find it, as a beggar waiting on a Budapest bridge, a beggar in whom she recognizes her true self, a sort of double whose reality bursts from her imagination, like a fantastic event, onto a historical plane. Similarly, the protagonist of "The Pursuer," a jazzman modeled after saxophonist Charlie Parker, searches for "a reality that escapes every day" and that sometimes presents itself as "holes": "In the door," he explains, "in the bed: holes. In the hand, in the newspaper, in time, in the air: everything full of holes, everything spongy, like a colander straining itself…." Those holes, invisible or covered for others, are for Johnny the residence of "something else," of a second reality whose door Johnny senses and seeks to open: "It's impossible there's nothing else, it can't be we're that close to it, that much on the other side of the door … Bruno, all my life in my music I looked for that door to open finally. Nothing, a crack…." What is behind that door is a world that Johnny sees only on one occasion, through his music, but whose substance one glimpses throughout the narrative. A good example is the biography of Johnny written by Bruno: very well informed, very complete, very successful, but with one omission—the biographee. Or as Johnny puts it, "It's very good your book…. You're much better informed than I am, but it seems to me like something's missing…. Don't get upset, Bruno, it's not important that you forgot to put all that in. But Bruno,… what you forgot to put in is me."

Cortázar has acknowledged that Johnny Carter is a first draft of Horacio Oliveira, a precursor in that search which takes the protagonist of Hopscotch into a revision of the very foundations of Western culture—its writers and artists, its music and language, its philosophy and ethics, its religion and science—a task Oliveira undertakes together with his friends of the Serpent Club with the casualness and poignancy that makes fiction more credible and convincing than pure intellection. [In his The Undiscovered Self, 1957] Jung has said of Freud that "he has given expression to the fact that Western man is in danger of losing his shadow altogether, of identifying himself with his fictive personality and of identifying the world with the abstract picture painted by scientific rationalism." This is also Oliveira's concern; but to show that man has become "the slave of his own fiction, and that a purely conceptual world progressively replaces reality," as Jung has said of the products of man's conscious activity, Cortázar proceeds to disassemble that fictitious apparatus manufactured by culture to show that it has become a substitute of reality, a mask that must be removed if man is to regain touch with the real world and with himself. In this sense, Hopscotch is a devastating criticism of rationalism:

… this technological reality that men of science and the readers of France-Soir accept today, this world of cortisone, gamma rays, and the elution of plutonium, has as little to do with reality as the world of the Roman de la Rose … Man, after having expected everything from intelligence and the spirit, feels that he's been betrayed, is vaguely aware that his weapons have been turned against him, that culture, civiltá, have misled him into this blind alley where scientific barbarism is nothing but a very understandable reaction.

As in "The Pursuer," in Hopscotch reality lies also somewhere behind: "Behind all that (it's always behind, convince yourself that this is the key idea of modern thought) Paradise, the other world, trampled innocence which weeping darkly seeks the land of Hurqalyoea." How does one get there? How does one reach that center, the "kibbutz of desire" which Oliveira seeks? In his short stories the road is a fantastic event; the conflict between a hollow reality and one which, like an epiphany, reveals to the characters a time outside time and a space that transcends geometric space, resolves itself in metaphors that by defying physical laws appear as fantastic occurrences. In "The Pursuer" Johnny Carter peeps through those "holes" of a second reality via his jazz music; the artistic phenomenon becomes what it has always been—"a bridge toward true reality," in Nietzsche's dictum—but now Johnny transports his visions to the trivial act of riding a subway and indicts the fallacy inherent in our concepts of time and space. In Hopscotch our logical order of reason and science is described as totally absurd: "Reason is only good to mummify reality in moments of calm or analyze its future storms, never to resolve a crisis of the moment…. And these crises that most people think of as terrible, as absurd, I personally think they serve to show us the real absurdity, the absurdity of an ordered and calm world." Oliveira muses on this absurd world when he concludes that "only by living absurdly is it possible to break out of this infinite absurdity." Hopscotch offers an answer different from the one found in the short stories and even in "The Pursuer," where Johnny, as much as he lives a life which in Bruno's eyes can only be described as "absurd," engages in a life style of a musical genius who indulges in his allotted share of "absurdity"; it is music which in the end provides for Johnny a bridge to those "holes." The characters of Hopscotch, on the other hand, are unprofessional, simple, though extremely well-read and informed people who, as much as they live a bohemian life, share the pettiness and trivia of plain people.

Thus the solution Hopscotch presents to Cortázar's basic quest for authenticity is a kind of existential absurdity, a solution that also had a very strong appeal to surrealists since Mallarmé's Igitur: "Igitur is a person 'who feels in himself, thanks to the absurd, the existence of the Absolute.' After him the Surrealists will enlarge and maintain the domain of the absolute through this very same type of cult of the absurd which will tend to become the basis of artistic creation and a means of liberating art from the finite or natural aspects of things and beings." [Anna Balakian, Surrealism: The Road to the Absolute, 1959]. It is in this context that some of the most momentous chapters of Hopscotch should be read: the concert by Berthe Trépat, the death of Rocamadour, the encounter with the clocharde, the episodes of the board, the circus and the mental clinic. These seemingly preposterous situations impress us as absurd because they run against the grain of our accepted order, which for Oliveira has become absurdity at its best. For him, reason contains a sophism as huge as the world it has created, and logic leads to a gargantuan and catastrophic nowhere. To pull out from this dead end, Oliveira embarks on feats and situations which, though they offer him on one hand a route to further exploration of that dead end, act on the other hand as a modified virus of the same disease which hopefully will immunize him. And although Hopscotch presents no answers, no prescriptions for guaranteed salvation, it offers a possibility of reconciliation. Toward the end of his absurd odyssey Horacio meditates on the significance of his friend Traveler's last efforts to lend him a helping hand. Horacio seems to have reached the last square of his hopscotch:

After what Traveler had just done, everything had something like a marvelous feeling of conciliation and that senseless but vivid and present harmony could not be violated, could no longer be falsified, basically Traveler was what he might well have been with a little less cursed imagination, he was the man of the territory, the incurable mistake of the species gone astray, but how much beauty in the mistake and in the five thousand years of false and precarious territory, how much beauty in those eyes that had filled with tears and in that voice that had advised him: "Throw the bolt, I don't trust them," how much love in that arm that held the waist of a woman. "Probably," Oliveira thought while he answered the friendly gestures of Dr. Ovejero and Ferraguto,… "the only possible way to escape from that territory is to plunge into it over one's head."

Julio Ortega (essay date Fall 1983)

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SOURCE: "Morelli on the Threshold," in Poetics of Change: The New Spanish-American Narrative, translated by Galen D. Greaser, University of Texas Press, 1984, pp. 54-9.

[In the following essay, which was first published in the Fall 1983 issue of The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Ortega discusses the novel's paradoxical form and the significance of Cortázar's "mythical author" Morelli.]

Hopscotch is many books in one, and one of these many books concerns Morelli, the author, or better still, the persona whose questioning of literature is also the convocation of another literature that implies this novel itself, along with its critical foundation and poetic open-endedness.

In "chapter" 22, Horacio Oliveira witnesses an accident in which a man is struck by a car on a Paris street. This man, who Horacio and Étienne visit in the hospital, turns out to be Morelli, a writer who the speakers of Hopscotch have read at length and who, as the central image of a marginal literature, rejects through the demands of his reformulating work the established literary currents. The speculation of the speakers of this novel, their need of a new formal system for a more radical poetic option, is generated in this questioning. [In an endnote, Ortega states: "Chapter 99 of Hopscotch, in which the characters discuss Morelli's ideas and projects after reading the Morelliana in chapter 112, is the key to understanding the importance of this author in the speculative debate lived by the novel's speakers. Cortázar's ideas, potentiated in a paradigm of his own radicalism in Morelli, are discussed by his own characters, which implies that they have read or are reading the novel itself as the author writes it. In this game of mirages and redoublings the novel comments on itself."]

Morelli's activity redoubles the formulation of the novel itself. In it, this apocryphal author lives the richness of a convergence of transgressions. The characters read his notes, they read the same novel that writes him, and thus witness the nucleus of a critical operation whose sign is the possibility of another novel, of another reader.

Several authors, several personae, Morelli is first of all the kind of writer one would like to glimpse on the threshold of his workshop. This nostalgic movement, which comes to us from the biography of the literary renewal that developed in the 1920s, is linked to another movement; Morelli is also the tacit writer who acts behind every major work, presupposing the fervor and abyss of a language of which we see the final product, rather than the vertiginous origin.

Through Morelli this origin is established in Hopscotch in its dazzling plurality, showing itself in the excess of its critical drama, implying the energy of its broad formal modification. But Morelli is even more. He is the mythical author, or the author as myth, of a literature that at times is able to reveal, in the self-referencing of its questioning, its ludic and critical reason, its interrogating fiction. [In an endnote, Ortega adds: "A new exchange in this hall of mirrors emerges from the possibility that Morelli himself may be the 'author' of Hopscotch, its metaphor. Morelli is writing a novel and when Oliveira and Etienne visit him in the hospital he asks them to take back to his apartment a quinternion ('number 52 and put it in its place between 51 and 53,') which we immediately suspect involves Hopscotch in a self-reference. Morelli indicates also that the character he is interested in is the reader. And, in fact, the characters are readers of his work. A paradigm of the change itself that Cortázar is setting in motion, both authors coincide in a direct reference to Hopscotch, to attempt the novel as a subtraction, which is what the numbers at the end of each chapter indicate."]

It is not mere coincidence that the center of change in Hopscotch, the possibility of a verbal liberation that occupies and foretells itself—a center around which, in fact, our own literature has revolved, revealing to us its diverse matter in the testing of its transgressions—is the space that provokes Morelli. Provoked by this space of change, Morelli's game and drama, in other words, the formal discontinuity and the critical response, develop in turn the debate of the poetics of a novel that reconstructs itself starting from its negation as a novel.

Pierre Menard, the infinite author of the Quixote, might have been the paradigm of a literature that, with Borges and his poetics of "extenuation," we know reiterates itself in an ars combinatoria that makes us parties to the fiction of his myth. One generation later Morelli is perhaps another paradigm, because with Cortázar we have gained a literature that reconstructs itself and is liberated in the other figure it initiates, in the changed reader. [In an endnote, Ortega states: "Menard/Morelli. 'Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,' implies that literature has already been written, that the great authors already exist, and that the only thing which remains is to gloss these books and thus be those authors. This is a central idea in Borges; the themes are repeated, it is unnecessary to forge new metaphors. Morelli, on the other hand, wants to destroy literature and reinvent the use of the word, to rescue the mediating and analogical power of language and to modify not an abstract man, but a concrete reader. Morelli is marked by the modern critical foundation (Baudelaire, Mallarmé), but also by the great period of the crisis of naturalism (surrealism, Joyce, Pound) and lives the beginning of a literary reformulation, the utopia of a primordial language able to identify the certainty and celebration in poetry. But to systematize his creed would be to lose sight of its center, the speculation about change, revolving in search of a new language."]

A mythical author, or, the myth of the author, Morelli is thus a blank space, the generating center of the other novel that lives behind this one—because in writing Hopscotch Cortázar not only acted critically, in the vortex of his disruption, questioning the naturalistic tradition of his genre, but also questioned his own departure, his own tradition of change, establishing at the center of this redoubling of his writing the subtracted or despoiled space that Morelli and the Morellianas deduce. We could say that Cortázar attempts to establish the blank space of Mallarmé within the antirationalistic and nondualistic exploration of surrealism, but this formula might be incomplete, because, by being a generator of analogies, Morelli's blank space acts in the face of the profuse reality of the contemporary culture and situation, attempting a broad series of negations in its need to reevaluate the norms in a world that devalues all norms. Consequently, Morelli redirects those "forces … that advance in quest of their rights to the city" and also suggests the "punishment for having remembered the kingdom." A convergence of poetry and criticism, his sign is mediation.

Metaphorically, the speakers in Hopscotch also read in Morelli their own author, in the sense that Cortázar invents in Morelli the literature that invents him. This metaphorical level is not accidental. Whereas the three stages of dialectic thought imply a rationalistic and successive scheme, the three levels of "metaphoric thought" postulate a poetical and instantaneous conversion. Analogical language, which Borges attributed in "The Aleph" to mystics, pertains in fact to formal structures; the instant that coalesces the three sides of the "metaphor" or the various levels of the "figure" is no longer successive but simultaneous. The three "sides" of Hopscotch, which is a metaphor, are thus only one, which is why this reading by "leaps," like the game of hopscotch, renders better the multiplicity of that coalesced instant. The keenness of a speculative energy functions as the other side of the same imaginary form. As it shapes itself, the novel not only creates its critical dimension but also prolongs the communication of a poetic knowledge that can no longer be reduced to finalist categories or even to enlightening postulates, as some of the critics have wanted to believe. This poetic knowledge again legitimizes the notion of a reality whose center has been promised to us. Not by chance, the purpose of Morelli is to name once again, to recognize "the name of the day." This is the paradisiacal yearning of the novel: the search for the "Adamic language," for a language revealing the world and stating us, recovering in its genuine speech a common destiny. [In an endnote, Ortega adds: "'Metaphoric thought.' I am referring, obviously, to the classic scheme of the metaphor—two terms that provoke a third term—and not to the phrase called 'metaphoric,' which is a more or less fortunate comparison from which Cortázar wants to eliminate the inevitable link as, a link that in Lezama Lima, however, sets in motion the delta of complementary phrases which soon free themselves from their grammatical generator and become autonomous. On 'the demon of analogy,' see Cortázar's essay 'Para una poética' (La Torre, no. 7 [Puerto Rico, July-September 1954]), which indicates some of the author's possible sources on this subject, especially the anthropological studies by Lévy-Brühl. See also the remarkable essay by Octavio Paz, 'La nueva analogía' (Los signos en rotación [Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1971]); along with the fundamental essays by José Lezama Lima in Introducción a los vasos órficos (Barcelona: Barral Editores, 1970)."]

The speakers seek in Morelli, as they do in Zen, this central speaker, but Morelli in turn writes "as if he himself, in a desperate and moving attempt, had pictured the teacher who was to enlighten him." Hopscotch imagines itself in the novel written by Morelli; the readers reconstruct themselves in the options of Hopscotch. Mediation—the initiations of the despoilment—sets in motion that search for an axial need, which literature reconvokes here starting from the roman comique, from the agony of questioning and the morals of nonconformity, from a defectiveness measured by reference to a surmised fulfillment.

In the initiation of the hopscotch, in this game of stages devised to conjugate in a single liberating movement the "earth" and "heaven" of an inherited code that must be changed, in this ironic and obsessive game, the novel jumps through Morelli's square—or Morelli's square infers the possibility of destroying the rules in order to rewrite them. The importance of the novel in Morelli, of the Morelli space in Hopscotch, is the seditious task of modifying through the new game of forms the density of a culture—the contemporary dark forest—that deceives through its partial solutions, and of taking the step that follows the restraint of the "blank page" and the lack of restraint of the vases communicants.

Among the many books contained in Hopscotch, the Morellianas are, then, the reading of one of them, the access toward its center, although clearly their reverberations can only be followed in the edifice itself of the novel.

The notion of change generated by Hopscotch begins with a poetic diction, which is resolved in an open prosody, and exchanges the traditional canons of "composition" for the aleatory possibility of "figures" in an analogical system. In the transformations of this system, which seek to modify the "purpose" itself of the genre, Morelli's book undoubtedly has a convocating role, not only because it links us to a debate that transcends the situation of our literature, but also because it commits our reading of the literary "prospects," establishing in that verbal profusion the standard of a radicalized demand with which we have won the right to a new freedom in the circulation of reading.

This Morellian reading thus proceeds from Hopscotch and returns to it. It is a spectrum of that novel, one of the several possibilities of choosing pages, convergencies, or places presented by every text that interacts with the center of a change. This also proves the plurality of a work whose reading, at the beginning of our creative maturity, prior to Lezama Lima's Paradiso and shortly after the Borgian library, begins another cycle of transformations in our literature. The other texts with a bearing on Cortázar's poetic narrative, La vuelta al día en ochenta mundos [Around the Day in Eighty Worlds] and Ultimo round, comment, I believe, on this modification starting from Cortázar's workshop, another spectrum of Morelli's workshop. Their tone is different, but their intent is similar; they refer other phases of critique (the questioning response) and of a celebration (the play of meaning) and their convergence in fervor and irony.

Hopscotch does not seek its center in a new "literary theory" but in a poetics of exclusions and integrations fulfilled in the possible entity of a language and an inquiry that alter the notion of what stands for real. This action—and the word action is reiterated for a reason—begins as a displacement, because this poetics (critique and the open desire for a revealing language) makes our absences clearer by communicating them with the irruption of a full presence. This demand enables us, at the same time, to see Cortázar in the light of the interrelationships he nurtures and liberates.

On the other hand, the text "Algunos aspectos del cuento," a memorable talk given by Cortázar in Havana, helps us recover the tacit level found throughout these pages: that a literature of change establishes its own tradition, and that this movement begins with an acute consciousness of formal freedom, starting from which a short story or a novel first gain their specificity. It is after this fulfillment that Morelli speaks, on the threshold of another.

Scott Simpkins (essay date 1990)

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SOURCE: "'The Infinite Game': Cortázar's Hopscotch," in The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, Vol. 23, No. 1, Spring, 1990, pp. 61-74.

[In the following essay, Simpkins discusses reader participation and authorial control in Hopscotch.]

Every text can be played according to the reader's desires, but Julio Cortázar's Hopscotch specifically invites reader participation in its production. Intensely preoccupied with the reader's role in the text's creation, Cortázar offers an alternative plan, a "Table of Instructions," at the onset of the novel to encourage the development of multiple interpretations—the "many books" he ostensibly hopes the reader will find. The reader is urged to either follow the book as it is laid out, or to pursue the "second" book, the one suggested by Cortázar's alternative chapter arrangement. While readers can choose to deal with the novel in other ways as well, their inclusion in the assembly of the novel undeniably reveals a gaming instinct, an attempt to engage them in textual play which takes full advantage of "misreadings" usually discouraged by authors. Moreover, comments on the aesthetics of the multiple found in Hopscotch itself—especially those by an author named Morelli who argues for the reader's participation as the author's "accomplice"—reinforce this sentiment.

The reader is essential for such gaming and Hopscotch is an especially good example of textual play as it so clearly illustrates the concepts of "writerly" [see Roland Barthes, S/Z: An Essay, 1974] or "open" [see Umberto Eco, The Role of the Reader, 1984] texts in which the reader, in effect, is acknowledged as the text's final author. Yet, while seeming to encourage us to read the novel in more than one way (through his "Table of Instructions"), Cortázar actually attempts to guide the reader's "writing" of his text, perhaps inadvertently drawing our attention to his uneasiness with this appropriation of his role as textual director.

Cortázar even provides critical terms for the issue of reader participation in the novel. His differentiation between the "female-reader" and the "male-reader," for instance, serves as a useful beginning for such discussion despite the unfortunate sexist designations of his terms. [In an endnote, Simpkins notes that in an interview with Evelyn Picon Garfield, Cortázar remarked that "I ask pardon of the women of the world for the fact that I used such a 'machista' expression so typical of Latin American underdevelopment … I did it innocently and I have no excuse. But when I began to hear the opinions of my friends, women readers who heartily insulted me, I realized that I had done something foolish. I should have put 'passive reader' and not 'female reader' because there's no reason for believing that females are continually passive. They are in certain circumstances and are not in others, the same as males."]

The female-reader desires an already finished text that requires no participation in its production. This reader, in effect, acquiesces when confronted with the task of reading, desiring instead the convenient commodity of a completed text. There is no gaming for this reader; indeed, the author has won even before the game begins.

But the male-reader faces the text head on, eager for an energetic encounter whose outcome is by no means forgone in the author's favor. In fact, authors can never win this game against male-readers; they are given only one move—the "initial" text—while the male-readers have a limitless number of moves to play what one of Cortázar's characters, in a slightly different context, refers to as "the infinite game."

Certainly, authors can employ strategies that attempt to wrest this control from the male-readers, but the success of such ploys is never more than illusory because these readers always have the final word, so to speak. Accordingly, notes to the reader, prefaces, introductions, a "Table of Instructions" in Cortázar's case—all attempts to control the male-reader's power, fail inevitably in the same manner that the initial control of the reader—the "main" text—fails. For the author remains perpetually unable to exert any final, authoritative power. That power rests in the hands of the male-reader.

And that is where the real game begins.

Faced with this dilemma, and undeniably placed on the losing side, authors such as Cortázar offer new projects for possibly gaining a stronger position in this field. A conscious gaming of the text, a plan to guide the male-reader's activities, offers a potential solution in this vein. Consider Cortázar's "Table of Instructions," a veritable key to such a plan. As part of a "cooperative game theory" based on the "formation of coalitions," to borrow Herbert De Ley's terms [in "The Name of the Game," Substance 55 (1988)], the Table is designed to initiate the play of the novel with a step toward balancing the impact of both the author's and the reader's moves.

In the authorial voice, with all the attendant reverberations of power, he begins by constructing a facade of textual possession. "In its own way, this book consists of many books," he writes, "but two books above all." Note that Cortázar initiates the persona of literary novelty here, positing a type of text which invites play rather than shunning the reader's ruinous (mis)interpretations. Unlike other books, he says, this one tries to be more than one—as though any other outcome were possible. Cortázar endeavors to make the inherent seem as though it were an elected choice. Because male-readers wreak havoc with texts, why not project a stance which appears to construct and invite this event? This is a crafty move by Cortázar. Without it, the text (which can never be entirely "his" text anyway) would be vulnerable to innumerable misreadings that would dilute the authorial presence, a form of possession that is always at stake during such undertakings. But with the gesture of the "Table of Instructions," Cortázar guides the male-reader's free generation of the text. Or, rather, he creates the illusion of being able to do so, since it is a naive act of faith to believe that the author can wield any calculable influence on readers once the text is in their hands. This illusion, however, is a shrewd "strategy," in A. J. Greimas's use of the concepts as "a competence in interpreting the opponent's performance so that the subject may relate the acts and intentions of his adversary and assume a global representation of his knowledge, will, and power to act" ["About Games," Substance 25 (1979)]. In this regard, Cortázar is creating a ploy to dupe the reader into believing that the two together will create their novel, not the author's novel.

Strategy is also competence at manipulation. Programs constructed by the subject are not all destined to lead straight to the goal. They often consist in "making believe" that one desires a certain objective and in making the opponent act accordingly. The opponent is then forced to act within and to the benefit of his enemy's more general program. [A] game of chess then becomes only a pretext. It forms the referential level on which there develops a cognitive activity of the second degree: a game of cunning and deceit.

Therefore, as Greimas concludes, "The efficacy of the player's programming depends, in final analysis, as much on the manipulations of his opponent's knowledge as on the actual moves which he constructs."

Cortázar continues his directive ploy by decreeing that "The first" of the books "can be read in a normal fashion," and "The second should be read by beginning with Chapter 73 and then following the sequence indicated at the end of each chapter." Not willing to abandon the reader in the event of "confusion or forgetfulness," he provides a list of chapter numbers outlining the second arrangement and points out that "Each chapter has its number at the top of every right-hand page to facilitate the search." Under the guise of encouraging a free reading of the text, he clearly tries to program the multiple readings, effectively maintaining a semblance of control over the male-reader's practice. If he is gaming, he certainly is stacking the deck in his favor.

Yet, can it be that Cortázar is playing a different kind of game with the reader here? Considering what his characters say in the novel, it appears that this is exactly what is happening. From the first page to the last (if these terms still apply in this case), he promotes a literary enterprise that runs counter to the reader manipulation that most authors can only hope for.

Evidently the reader is the sole agent for authors who want to make the most of a bad situation, namely, the myriad problems that accompany inherently polysemous texts. By shifting the arena of textual generation to include the reader as part of the authorial entity, Cortázar tries to turn this no-win situation into an acceptable equilibrium of a "saddle point." Obviously, the best example of this is Morelli's comments on the "reader-accomplice," even though similar statements appear earlier in the novel (earlier, that is, depending upon the order in which the reader deals with the text). In chapter 9, Oliveira praises Paul Klee for being "modest" about artistic possession of his paintings "since he asks for the cooperation of the viewer and is not sufficient unto himself." Once more, however, the reference to autotelic (or authortelic) texts offers the possibility that this situation can exist, in the same way that the "Table of Instructions" implies that the author can viably instruct the reader.

At the close of the shorter version of Hopscotch, Oliveira builds a web of string and thread in a room because it "made him happy," he says, and

nothing seemed more instructive to him than to construct for example a huge transparent dodecahedron, the work of many hours and much complication, [and] to bring a match close to it later on and watch how a little nothing of a flame would come and while Gekrepten wr-ung-her-hands and said that it was a shame to burn something so pretty.

He found it "difficult to explain to her that the more fragile and perishable the structure, the greater the freedom to make and unmake it…. He liked everything he made as full of free space as possible, the air able to enter and leave, especially leave; things like that occurred to him with books, women, obligations…."

Ostensibly, Oliveira offers a paradigm for approaching Hopscotch with this observation, nothing the pleasure that accompanies intentional outside influences on the text. This becomes more apparent when the comments by Morelli among the "Expendable Chapters" are taken into account. [In an endnote, Simpkins adds that in The Novels of Julio Cortázar, 1980, Steven Boldly "notes that Oliveira's 'strings, the same that he uses in his mobiles, are an image of the open logic of the novel, of the mysterious relations between disparate objects and people.'"]

In chapter 62, the narrator notes that "At one time Morelli had been planning a book that never got beyond a few scattered notes" and offers an overview, apparently by Morelli, on this book which would be like

"a billiard game that certain individuals play or are played at, a drama with no Oedipuses, no Rastignacs, no Phaedras, an impersonal drama to the extent that the consciences and the passions of the characters cannot be seen as having been compromised except a posteriori. As if the subliminal levels were those that wind and unravel the ball of yarn which is the group that has been compromised in the play … as if certain individuals had cut into the deep chemistry of others without having meant to and vice versa, so that the most curious and interesting chain reactions, fissions, and transmutations would result."

This would yield a novel in which "'standard behavior (including the most unusual, its deluxe category) would be inexplicable by means of current instrumental psychology'." "'Everything would be a kind of disquiet,'" he concludes, "'a continuous uprooting, a territory where psychological causality would yield disconcertedly….'" Morelli's comments on this antiliterature aesthetic prompt much of the discussion about the reader's participation in the final construction of this type of novel. Moreover, this attitude is also expressed by characters who discuss Morelli's viewpoints. "'What good is a writer if he can't destroy literature?,'" Oliveira says. "'And us, we don't want to be female-readers, what good are we if we don't help as much as we can in that destruction?'"

In a statement on the roman comique, Morelli argues that "'the usual novel misses its mark because it limits the reader to its own ambit; the better defined it is, the better the novelist is thought to be.'" He contrasts this with "'a text that would not clutch the reader but which would oblige him to become an accomplice as it whispers to him underneath the conventional exposition other more esoteric directions.'" It is at this point that Cortázar's directions at the beginning of Hopscotch assume a new significance. They are, it now seems clear, such whispers, esoteric directions for constrained—but not constraining—productions by the male-reader. Morelli continues: his novel would contain "'Demotic writing for the female-reader (who otherwise will not get beyond the first few pages, rudely lost and scandalized, cursing at what he paid for the book), with a vague reverse side of hieratic writing.'" This confirms Cortázar's surreptitious plan to maintain a position of advantage over the reader in this textual game in which the text is "'out of line, untied, incongruous, minutely antinovelistic (although not antinovelish)'." He attempts to wrest control from the reader under a guise which promotes exactly the opposite activity.

Accordingly, even though novels such as Hopscotch are usually viewed as exemplary open works designed to engage the reader in the endless play of signification, in this case it appears that Cortázar is merely erecting a facade, a textual ploy utilized to lull the reader into a false sense of equal participation. If readers traditionally read a text any way they want to, Cortázar has beat them at their own game by making them produce the text the way he wants them to even though they remain unaware of this. He implies, for instance, that Morelli's novel would challenge the Western premises of reader subservience. In contrast to the romantic or classic novel, Morelli proposes to elevate the reader as an "'accomplice,'" "'a traveling companion'" so that "'the reader would be able to become a co-participant and cosufferer of the experience through which the novelist is passing at the same moment and in the same form'." In this situation, the reader will be provided with

"something like a facade, with doors and windows behind which there operates a mystery which the reader-accomplice will have to look for (therefore the complicity) and perhaps will not find (therefore the cosuffering). What the author of this novel might have succeeded in for himself, will be repeated (becoming gigantic, perhaps, and that would be marvelous) in the reader-accomplice. As for the female-reader, he will remain with the facade and we already know that there are very pretty ones among them…."

It seems that Morelli—and apparently by extension, Cortázar—favors active readers because they can boost the signifying potential of a text by contributing forceful reconstructions to it. The author's influence upon the reader is a substantial portion of this activity, too, as the text serves to bridge thought between them. Morelli observes that "'the true character and the only one that interests me is the reader, to the degree in which something of what I write ought to contribute to his mutation, displacement, alienation, transportation'." This is the stance Morelli offers—"'to break the reader's mental habits,'" as one character describes it.

Regardless of the way Hopscotch is read, it is obvious that Morelli's game is essentially Cortázar's game, despite the distinct shortcoming that such a stance presupposes. When Morelli is instructing Oliveira on collating the notes for Morelli's novel before depositing it at his publishers, for instance. Oliveira is reluctant to undertake the task. "'What if we should make a mistake … and get things all mixed up,'" he asks Morelli. "'Who cares,'" Morelli replies. "'You can read my book any way you want to'." Clearly this is one of those "'winks at the reader'" that Morelli says are essential for good storytelling. And, even more clearly, we see Cortázar engaging in those same kinds of winks.

Yet the motivation for this seemingly good-natured abdication of authorial power needs to be more closely examined. Cortázar's extensive protests regarding his lack of desire for controlling the reader assume a suspicious hollowness after awhile, perhaps betraying his actual desire to remain the "leader" in the game of Hopscotch. [In an endnote, Simpkins adds: "I am using the term 'leader' in Martin Capell's sense as a designated captain for the overall game. However, Capell comments that 'Group formation is ordinarily characterized by a leader to whom more or less power over the members is given; in return, he is bound to treat them all with impartial or equal care.' Obviously, this is not the case with Cortázar's manipulation of the reader in Hopscotch." See Martin Capell's "Games and the Mastery of Helplessness" in Motivations in Play, Games and Sports, edited by Ralph Slovenko and James Knight, 1967.] The text, in this sense, initiates an agon between the readers and Cortázar (through his characters and directions) while simultaneously serving as a site for disavowing this same activity. In other words, by pretending to waive his control over the reader, Cortázar tries to deceive the reader into following his guidance to the text. Thus, if the reader is an accomplice with the author (to incorporate Cortázar's term), the author nonetheless remains the leader of the group. "Accomplice," therefore, suggests the connotation of "accessory" rather than a participant of status equal to (or greater than) the author. In effect, those who adhere to Cortázar's purported plan of open interpretation are actually involved in a game of follow the leader. And Cortázar cannot conceal, despite his numerous efforts to do just that, who that leader is. For he is practicing the same form of reader guidance that essentially all authors practice: the attempt to establish a heavily orchestrated linkage between the author and the reader via the text.

Many readers apparently fail to recognize Cortázar's maneuver here, which attests to its success. Luis Harss and Barbara Dohmann, for instance, remark [in their Into the Mainstream: Conversations with Latin-American Writers, 1967] that "There is something healthy, in a communal art, about the novel that establishes its own premises." "Like the French anti-novelists," James Irby remarks [in "Cortázar's Hopscotch and Other Games," Novel: A Forum on Fiction 1, No. 1 (1967)], "Cortázar wants to involve his readers creatively in [the combination and rearrangement of its parts] so as to renew fiction as an instrument of perception." Some readers even accept his machinations as a necessary condition. While acknowledging that Cortázar creates an "overt, challenging and even cruel relationship to his reader," Sara Castro-Klarén argues [in "Ontological Fabulation: Toward Cortázar's Theory of Literature," in The Final Island: The Fiction of Julio Cortázar, edited by Jaime Alazraki and Ivar Ivask, 1978] that he is attempting to force his readers to contend with the recognition that our "being is inescapably invention." After providing a list of the game elements in the novel, Saúl Yurkievich asserts [in "Eros ludens: Games, Love and Humor in Hopscotch" in The Final Island] that "all are effects of … the playful attitude of the author, who wants to overwhelm his reader so that the latter undertakes Hopscotch playfully, so that he reproduces it by playing" (emphasis added). The healthiness, the discovery of self-identity, the "reproduction" of the author's imaginative construct—all of these elements point to an underlying game of manipulation which, through Cortázar's facade of equanimity, has gone largely unnoticed.

The portrayal of maladroit readers in the novel further reinforces Cortázar's uneasiness as he endeavours to coerce the reader into playing his game. [In an endnote, Simpkins adds: "Although this would obviously have no affect upon an ignorant reader, Cortázar remarked during an interview that in his reading of the novel, Oliveira does not commit suicide. (The issue is left undecided at the end.)… Cortázar explicitly portrays the reader who disagrees with the author's interpretation as someone to be pitied, perhaps implicitly revealing the desire for authorial control discussed in this essay."] After finishing this novel, nobody wants to be a female-reader, and once again this is a crucial point of Cortázar's plan. Cortázar is operating very much like Wordsworth who, in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads, claims that he is urging his readers to approach the poems on their own terms while he surreptitiously presents his own guide to the appropriate reading of them.

In an intriguing essay on chapter 34 of Hopscotch ["Rayuela, Chapter 34: A Structural Reading," Hispanofila 52 (September 1974)] J. S. Bernstein notes that the substance of its interlinear arrangement is essentially that of a reader commenting rather derisively upon an author's text (in this case, a section from Galdos's novel, Lo prohibido).

It is a commentary … which, by denigrating its Galdosian source, calls the reader's attention conspicuously to itself. The commentary is hostile and the interlineated text hardly reverential at all. Only to the extent that Cortázar chose Galdos, and not some other writer, can we say that he pays homage. But it is a homage paid to a sacrificial victim, a homage which exalts the victim only in order to heighten the majesty of the act of slaying him.

It seems unlikely that Cortázar would introduce this portrayal of an inconsiderate reader without some purpose in mind. Considering his valorization (through his characters and his Table) of the aggressive reader, it may seem at first that he is demonstrating the liveliness with which a reader may approach the text. Yet, the inherent viciousness, combined with the evidence of anxiety regarding the author's lack of reader control, suggest that Cortázar may well be attempting to illustrate the danger of taking this active form of reading too far. Those who fail to show reverent consideration for the author's project (i.e., the finished text) are viewed as cruel parasites who mangle the text and drain off its vital fluids, casting aside its desiccated husk once the gorging is over.

It is this sense that role of the "Table of Instructions," as a heuristic for reading the overall text, becomes evident. In game theory terms, it functions as a "bargaining" device for Cortázar, a "negotiation" which mediates between reader-response anarchy and the dictatorial author (not Cortázar!) who desires ultimate control over the final production of the text. The "pay-offs" for a game of this nature would result from a correlation between the relatively flexible guidance provided by Cortázar and an empathetic construction of the text by the reader. [In an endnote, Simpkins notes: "These game theory terms are taken from L. C. Thomas, Games, Theory and Applications, 1984."] To further employ gaming nomenclature, the Table serves as a type of "preplay jockeying" which gains its strength from the "power of disclosing one's strategy" [R. Duncan Luce and Howard Raiffa, Games and Decisions: Introduction and Critical Survey, 1957].

But if the reader wants to engage Hopscotch at a high level of gaming, this Table has to be approached warily because it is possible that Cortázar is, in reality, providing a false disclosure with this directive, thereby attempting to mislead the reader who then plays into his hands unwittingly. It serves as a move by Cortázar which assumes the equivalence of placing a chess opponent in "check." If the reader acquiesces—even aggressively, then this move becomes "checkmate" and Cortázar wins. ("Aggressive acquiescence" describes reading the novel actively, yet according to Cortázar's rules.) If, however, the reader can deliver a counter-move to the move of the Table, then play continues. With such a move, the infinite, or non-zero-sum, component of the game is activated.

In fact, Cortázar has engendered this situation himself simply by promoting the myth that authors can effect significant control over their readers—even if this control is the type of passive (in)direction offered in the Table. As Alfred MacAdam notes [in Modern Latin American Narratives: The Dreams of Reason, 1977], regardless of the directions for decoding the text, the reader still makes the final decision. Once the author has assembled the "materials" of the novel, "They are now in the hands of the reader, whose reading will connect the pieces." Of course, it is this connection of the chapters—in whatever manner the reader chooses—that removes the possession of the text from the author and places it firmly in the grasp of the reader. "Cortázar seems to have overlooked this aspect of reading in his desire to work some sort of disordering magic on the reader's sensibility," MacAdam contends. "He forgets that interpretation is a weapon which turns the text against its creator."

the work, once in the world, acquires characteristics unimagined by the creator. It may horrify or delight him, but it will no longer be his property. What Cortázar wishes, therefore, is not something an artifact can give: he wants to change his reader, but he uses a tool that the reader will twist into something different. Whatever changes occur in the reader as he reads will be modified when the work is re-constructed in memory. There it will be organized and transformed, turned into an image of the reader's, not the artist's, mind. (emphasis added)

Although MacAdam fails to discuss the significance of the various reading strategies that can be applied to Hopscotch, he clearly identifies the powerlessness that authors both anguish over and somehow find delightful. In effect, Cortázar's stress on the benefits of the reader's version of the novel draws attention away from the negative side of this situation. This is one of his most cunning moves because, by not mentioning the anguish which attends a feeling of helplessness, he diverts the reader's focus instead onto the author's purported generosity (his encouragement of the reader's individual approach to the work). Since he has no real impact on the ways that readers interpret his novel, his gesture becomes transparent if viewed in this manner. To engage a metaphor from Martin Capell, Cortázar is playing a game in which mastery of helplessness is at stake. By successfully overriding the reader's usual misreadings of his text, he is able to remain in charge of the process of interpretation to the extent that the novel does, in fact, become his novel. Again, this intention betrays the inherent falsity of a stance offered under the guise of encouraging free readings of a work.

Cortázar attempts to remain in charge of the play of Hopscotch through the edict of the Table. To discourage the reader from settling for the shorter version, he leads us to conclude that the longer, interspersed version is the only entire one (even though chapter 55 is omitted from it). As a challenge to the reader's ego, moreover, he implies that only lazy, unimaginative readers will take the short route. (This is reinforced in the novel by the denigration of female-readers who would be satisfied with such a decision.) When Cortázar labels the extra chapters as "expendable," he ironizes this situation by indicating that for the female-reader, these chapters will indeed be of no use; but, for the aggressive, nonconformist reader, they will be crucial for a full production of the novel.

Yet some readers resist playing an assertive game with the novel, opting instead for the game established according to Cortázar's dictates (what Evelyn Picon Garfield calls [in Julio Cortázar, 1975] "the rules of the game that is the novel" [emphasis added]). [In Julio Cortázar, 1976] Robert Brody protests, for instance, the "disappointing element" of encouraging the activity of the male-reader, finding it a dereliction of responsibility by Cortázar. Brody, however, does not consider the participatory aspect of the accomplice's role in this contention, for the cooperation by the reader is actually a form of "passive mastery" by Cortázar in which the individual reader is subsumed into a larger body of readers, with the author controlling the game. "Invention or fabulation should not be equated with the unbridled or forgetful babbling of free association," Castro-Klarén contends. "Invention … is not a simple capricious denial of the known and a displacement toward any new image whatsoever, because as it moves from the form to the 'anti-form' or to the unknown, it is critically thoughtful of the form it parallels and transforms" (emphasis added). "If it is accepted," Yurkievich asserts, "the game acquires a positive character, instigating a code whose violation can entail unforseeable damage." Steven Boldy remarks similarly that the novel

is not a totally open, aleatory novel, nor, as many detractors and enthusers agree, is everything left to the reader…. The reader is drawn into bewildered but deep and critical commitment to his reading and involvement in the novel, by sometimes unconventional, but often conventional means, by the "aesthetic ruses" …, the misuse of which is decried by Morelli. [In an endnote, Simpkins states: "That Boldy uses a comment by Morelli to support his contention demonstrates the success of Cortázar's game plan. By creating characters who promote a playing of novels consonant with his apparent intentions, Cortázar uses these characters as members of his own team which then overwhelms the individual reader who is faced with more than one opponent. This is hardly 'fair play.'"]

And Bruce Morrissette concludes [in "Games and Game Structures in Robbe-Grillet," Yale French Studies 41 (1968)] that it is the influence of the "'metaphysical' aspect of general game structure" which "protects the work from falling into the gratuity of a neo-Kantian 'free play of the faculties' conception of fictional art which might, if pushed to the limit, reduce the creative process to a kind of esthetic billiard game or acrobatic display" (emphasis added). All of these readers, however, resist the vast potential offered by textual direction beyond the author's control, relying instead upon the intervention of the author to tell them how to read. By accepting the author's dictum they have given up on the game of the text, engaging in a form of slavish subservience which leads to little more than sterile conformity.

This politeness or adherence to an author's project is by no means a full-fledged engagement of gaming. To play by Cortázar's rules is to play Cortázar's game—clearly not a game in which the players are equals. This sentiment is often supported by the notion of "fair play" (even though Cortázar himself fails to grant the reader this consideration, if the coercive elements of the Table are taken into account). Greimas observes that

A game appears both as a system of constraints, reducible to rules, and as an exercise in freedom, a distraction. Our first impression is that this freedom is limited to the single act of entering the game. At that point the constraining rules are voluntarily accepted. One is free to enter, but not to exit. The player can neither quit the game—he would be a coward—nor cease to obey the rules—he would be a cheater. The code of fair play is in its way as rigorous as the code of honor.

In fact, Cortázar has expressed dismay with those who do not play his game in exactly this manner. In an interview he noted: "In recent years,… reading the studies [on my works] has ended up by depressing me, since, in the last analysis, they establish the total negation of the author's invention and freedom" [Lucille Kerr, "Interview / Julio Cortázar," Diacritics (Winter 1974)]. Accordingly, the player who cooperates with Cortázar in his game of control is essentially handing him a trophy: his own novel (or rather, the ownership of the novel). This is an emblem of victory in gaming, one which denies the possibility of the reader's chance to snatch the trophy away from the author. As Greimas notes, "Victory is complete only if it is acknowledged by the opponent. In a game, it is not just a question of conquering [vaincre] but of convincing [convaincre], of obliging the opponent to share one's triumph."

How, then, is the reader to beat Cortázar at his own game? One of the most effective ways would seem to be to circumvent his directions in the Table and assemble the novel in a manner which leads to the most satisfying play of the text. This may involve deleting some chapters, for example, or arranging them in an order not readily apparent from an initial reading of it. J. S. Bernstein notes that, in a classroom reading situation, some students fail to initially decode the logic of the interlinear lines of chapter 34 and simply read the chapter in the usual progressive fashion. Even though this would appear to be a chaotic and useless undertaking, it can produce some surprisingly pleasant results for those students who read it "incorrectly" in this manner:

they will encounter a text which seems totally obscure, except for some few phrases … which will appear as small breaks in the otherwise completely cloudy atmosphere of the chapter. They will be brought up sharply, both in surprise at finding some phrases which make coherent sense, and out of relief from the tedium of reading seven straight pages uncomprehendingly.

Another approach Bernstein discusses is reading the novel straight through from chapter 1 to 155. Without saying why, Bernstein feels "confident" that this form of the novel is "the one read by the majority of readers, particularly by those who believe that the intelligent reading of a novel demands the reading of every page of every chapter of the novel." One obvious explanation of this approach to the novel is that it is the conventional method of reading books in our culture, and many readers will inevitably resist playing a game of hopscotch with the book which involves jumping back and forth from one part to another. Cortázar's instructions explicitly discourage the 1-155 method, but readers who want to outwit the author could take this path as a means for securing victory through the possession of their own "trophy." [In an endnote, Simpkins states: "In a revealing footnote, Brody points out that Cortázar reinforced the directions for the two-option reading in the Table after the first Spanish edition appeared by adding a sentence to subsequent editions.

In the first edition we read, 'A su manera este libro es muchos libros, pero sobre todo es dos libros' ['In its way this book is many books, but above all it is two books']…. In the second and subsequent editions, one observes the additional: 'El lector queda invitado a elegir una de las dos posibilidades siguientes' ['The reader is invited to choose one of the two following possibilities'].

Clearly Cortázar tried to further restrict—and thereby manipulate—the production of his novel through this note on the reader's choices. However, Brody argues that this second sentence was introduced to assure readers that the plan announced in the Table was not 'a mere guise to fool the reader into reading Chapters 1-56 for a second time.' He concludes that 'By adding the new sentence, Cortázar implies that no such trick was intended, and that he was sincere in suggesting two books or two different ways of reading his book.'

Gregory Rabassa, who translated Hopscotch, noted that this new sentence does not appear in the English translation (which he based on the first Spanish edition) because Cortázar

evidently didn't see fit to add what he had already added to the next Spanish edition. Therefore I am not sure what his purpose in putting in the specific instruction might have been, perhaps he meant to dumb it down to reach more readers. I do know that he was quite taken aback when he was scolded by an American reviewer … for making a reader go through the book twice. Julio said something to the effect that he would never ask anyone to read a book twice, much less this one. Like Borges, Julio liked to play games both with and on his readers, and it is difficult to tell what he is up to all the time (Letter to author, 21 September 1988)."]

Scrambling the arrangement of the novel would also yield an invigorating result. "Once all the fragments are known, they can and should be reviewed in any variety of combinations, revealing in a more and more organic way their implicit network of parallelisms, echoes, contrasts," James Irby observes. "In the realm of 'pure coordinates' there are no piecemeal progressions." This variation leads to the most rigorous manifestation of the "infinite game" Cortázar offers. Even though it may not (or even may) be the game he had in mind, it certainly engages in the type of play which the novel so clearly encourages. This play would generate endless chains of readings, with each gathering reverberations from all of the previous readings, thereby resulting in a lush web of interpretations far beyond the limited, superficial reading enforced by a designated plan of arranged chapters.

Perhaps the strongest evidence that suggests Cortázar himself hoped for a response of this nature can be found by turning once more to the "Table of Instructions." For there, at the end of his alternative chapter arrangement list, is a hyphen, implying that the reader's options are now open. At this point, the reader who is eager for a lively round of the "infinite game" can find authorial approval (if such reinforcement is needed). "Infinite players use the rules to regulate the way they will take the boundaries or limits being forced against their play into the game itself," James Carse asserts, [in Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility, 1986], adding that "The rules are changed when the players of an infinite game agree that the play is imperiled by a finite outcome—that is, by the victory of some players and the defeat of others." [In an endnote, Simpkins adds: "Carse observes, in a statement which sums up Cortázar's strategy perfectly, that 'Infinite players do not oppose the actions of others, but initiate actions of their own in such a way that others will respond by initiating their own.' Moreover, the endless circularity of the final three chapters given in the list (-131-58-131-) further suggests that Cortázar is trying to prod readers to produce their own version of the novel beyond those he has suggested. A reader would not have to read these chapters over and over again for long without sensing that Cortázar is prompting a break away from his directions."] This is certainly true of Hopscotch, since Cortázar's directions in the Table are subverted by that final open hyphen, as if to imply that these are the rules—which, as we all know, are made to be broken.

Lucille Kerr (essay date 1992)

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SOURCE: "In the Name of the Author: Reading Around Julio Cortázar's Rayuela," in Reclaiming the Author: Figures and Fictions from Spanish America, Duke University Press, 1992, pp. 26-45.

[In the following excerpt, Kerr explores the problem of authorship in Hopscotch, focusing on the relationship between Cortázar and the fictional author Morelli.]

By virtue of the dramatic and apparently revolutionary turn it gives to Spanish American fiction, Julio Cortázar's Rayuela [Hopscotch] (1963) represents a critical moment in the development of contemporary Spanish American literature. Though one might now question whether this text is in fact as subversive as it seemed to earlier readers, it would be difficult to dispute Rayuela's place within the modern Spanish American canon, or to challenge Cortázar status within Spanish American literary culture. I have chosen to begin with this title precisely because in Rayuela—a text noted for its radical questioning of some traditional notions about writing and reading narrative fiction—the author stands out as a concept to which Cortázar has paid considerable attention. The attention paid to that concept, and to different figures of the author, also appears to inform some of the unsettling directions taken by the novel as a whole.

The figure of the author appears to be a figure against which Rayuela launches a deadly attack. At the same time, however, there is a vigorous defense mounted by various figures of the author in and around this novel. Rather than disappearing or dying altogether, the author remains in sight as a problematical figure one may be led to read now one way, now another. As one rereads Rayuela, then, one finds significant evidence of how contemporary Spanish American fiction begins to pose questions about the figure of the author and about the attribution of authorship. But one also finds evidence of how Cortázar's apparent ruminations about the author's authority leads as much to the affirmation as to the denegation of authorial privilege and position.

What I propose to do is read Cortázar's novel through the inter-relation of authorial figures within it, and also through a sequence of interconnected and competing names (from outside as well as from within that text), which my reading will both construct and follow around it. Rayuela not only contains within its own pages but also draws into its orbit the names of familiar and foreign figures whose activity and identity inevitably return attention to the question of the author. In reading both the text to which the author's name is originally attached and others to which that name may be either overtly or obliquely connected, I also want to suggest how our own readings, as well as the texts upon which we focus, might address questions about the concept of the author. My reading of Rayuela may also appear to propose a program for reading "the author."… At the same time, however, it may also be that this reading of—and around—Cortázar's text merely performs the kind of reading that this complex concept and its competing figures requires, and which the readings of other texts pursue as well. Such a reading would anticipate, while also repeating, the meandering trajectory of the figures of the author to which Rayuela and,… other Spanish American narratives draw attention.

Given Rayuela's seminal position within the modern Spanish American canon, and also its initial position in this study, it seems somehow appropriate to begin to talk about this text by looking at one of its first (and famous) pages, where the question of the author begins to be raised by Cortázar. As we remember, in Rayuela's famous "tablero de directión" ["table of instructions"], the reader is told that Cortázar's novel is really two books ("A su manera este libro es muchos, pero sobre todo es dos libros" ["In its own way this book is many books, but above all it is two books"]; translation mine). The first of these books comprises the initial 56 of its 155 chapters (the other 99 are to be regarded as "prescindibles" ["expendable"]); the chapters of this book are to be read in the order in which they appear. The second book, on the other hand, is composed of all but one of the text's printed chapters and is to be read according to the numerical scheme provided on this page of instructions. (This scheme is what likens the second book or reading—perhaps even all of Rayuela—to the titular game of hopscotch; to read the novel according to that model would, in a sense, be to read it "à la rayuela.")

The now famous directive of the "tablero" not only defines the novel's possible modes of organization. It also identifies the reader as a "guest-author" who has the option to choose how the book will be read, how Rayuela will come into existence. (In some of the subsequent Sudamericana imprints of the original 1963 edition, moreover, that invitation was made explicit: "El lector queda invitado a elegir una de las dos posibilidades siguientes" ["The reader is invited to choose one of the following possibilities"; translation mine].) The reading "à la rayuela" is proposed as a reading chosen, and thus authored, by the reader, whose primary role and privileged position are emphasized not only by this instructional preface but also by the literary theory explicitly proposed within Rayuela's pages. That theory, moreover, is presented as originating in a figure named "Morelli," a character-author whose poetics of the novel has generally been read as faithfully representing Cortázar's own position. The tablero has usually been seen as the text through which the author-figure surrenders his place of preeminence in, as well as his authority over, the book that is read. It would appear that such a place and such authority are transferred directly to the reader through this opening text. The reader is virtually invited to choose the text he or she wishes to read, by eliminating or retaining the "expendable" chapters.

According to the tablero, then, the text read by Rayuela's reader is a text over which the authorial subject figured by the introductory text (the figure that originally appears to be responsible for the novel) has no authority. However, this transfer of authority, one discovers, is quite problematical. Indeed, in the gesture by which an authorial figure seems to surrender his rights to the authorship of such a complex and self-conscious text as Rayuela, one can also read an affirmation of authorial privilege and position that is well suited for the novel in which it appears.

Given the tablero's position of anteriority and its instructional aims, it would appear as a text authored by a writer whose name is, or should be, Cortázar. This is the name of the empirical author whose virtual signature appears upon it. It is the name that identifies the author presumed to have written and signed the text and, as its original author and owner, to have staked a claim to it. The tablero's instructions, however, would seem to confound the author's place, if not the rights attached to his name, as it appears to open a path to the figure of another author.

The gesture by which the tablero's author-figure resituates the site of composition from one "side" of the text to the other (that is, from the place of the author to that of the novel's potential reader) is also a gesture that reasserts an original right of authorship. For it also asserts that the one who assigns that right to the reader authorizes himself (or is authorized by the place of authority he occupies) to make such an assignment, to propose how the novel might be read. Moreover, the freedom offered the reader-figure is the freedom to choose not among an unlimited number of texts (or readings) but between "two books" defined beforehand here in the tablero.

The choice put into operation will thus be a choice predefined and controlled—that is, already authored—by the figure who simultaneously proposes and implicitly proclaims his abdication of authority, his loss of control, over the novel. However, we recall that the table is a table (that is, a "board") of instructions, and that certain conditions would seem to obtain in a situation in which instructions are to be given. Obviously, one who gives instructions would appear to be situated in a position from which instructions or directions can in fact be given. Such a position may be a position that certifies prior mastery and, therefore, acknowledges the knowledge and privilege assumed to be held by the subject so situated in that position. But the position may itself also confer upon its occupant another (and perhaps new) kind of authority, an authority assumed not prior to but simultaneous with the positioning of that subject.

In the tablero the authorial figure would seem both to surrender and to confer upon himself the authority (that is, the authorial function) that is apparently ceded to the reader. Thus the author-as-teacher/instructor affirms his own identity as author/master through a directive (the virtually pronounced invitation) that would put in the place of textual authority a figure (that is, the reader) who, nonetheless, still requires some kind of instruction. The reader may well be proposed as Rayuela's virtual author. However, the conferral of such an identity (and, moreover, the right to such a title or role) is postulated, it must be remembered, by a figure whose own authoritative image is reinscribed within the text at precisely the moment when his authorial position appears to be surrendered.

The instruction table proposes, then, a theory of reading that is at the same time a theory of authorship. But such authorship is of a precarious sort, since the freedom granted the reader is a dubious freedom: the powers surrendered by the author, it seems, are the very powers that he also retains and keeps from his reader. Moreover, the place of the reader-as-author is explicitly legitimized by the figure whose apparent anteriority, and thus authority, would situate the reader as a belated author. That reader-author's late arrival places him in a somewhat equivocal position: he who comes after the text (in a position posterior to authorial activity) is authorized to move to a place somewhere ahead of it—to a position of anteriority from which one might author, as it were, Rayuela's reading.

One sees then that the reader, posited as a free agent, is the guest of a host whose apparent invitation sets up not so much a transfer of privilege and power as a dialectic of authority and authorship through which the authorial subject posited by the tablero assumes a somewhat deceptive position. One can, of course, read this relation between authorial and readerly figures as a partnership—a theoretical partnership that could be read as both foreshadowing and reiterating similar proposals from within and beyond Spanish American borders. That is, here in Rayuela of 1963 the proposal of this problematical relation between those figures precedes—anticipating in a decidedly critical fashion—modern critical theory's more recent notions about the figures of the reader and the author. (In some sense, one could argue that Cortázar's text, like a good many by Borges before him, is yet another of the precursors of, among others, the Barthes and Foucault essays discussed in chapter one. Borges is, of course, the Spanish American author to whom both European and North American critics and writers have often found it instructive to turn their gaze for considering these sorts of critical notions.)

This partnership prefigures (and, for some readers, might appear to put into practice) the theories of reading and authorship set forth in Rayuela's own pages. Oddly, this partnership, which both affirms and disavows the notion of a singular and original author, is proposed by still another (and apparently secondary) authorial figure. This figure, who is encountered only fleetingly and, yet, everywhere in the novel, is the character-author named Morelli. It is he who proposes within its body a set of literary theories often identified with the practice of Cortázar's novel. But his is also a problematical role, which is likewise prefigured here in Rayuela's tablero.

Though the name "Morelli" designates a fictional entity in the novel, his presence is established not by anything he says or does within its narrative chapters, but by what he has supposedly written and what gets repeated and discussed by some of Rayuela's own characters. Readers familiar with Cortázar's novel will recall how its narrative structure and story situate Morelli in both marginal and central positions. As we remember, Rayuela is composed of three sections. Chapters 1-36, headed by the phrase "Del lado de allá" ["From the Other Side"], and chapters 37-56, headed by "Del lado de acá" ["From This Side"], comprise what has generally been called its narrative, which is set in Paris and Buenos Aires of the 1950s. The oscillating narration in first and third person gives an account of the metaphysical and erotic "searches" undertaken or lived by Horacio Oliveira, the protagonist, first in Paris ("Del lado de allá") and then in Buenos Aires ("Del lado de acá"). Chapters 57-155, headed by the phrase "De otros lados" ["From Other Sides" (translation mine)], beneath which one finds the significant (though also problematically parenthesized) disclaimer "Capítulos prescindibles" ["Expendable Chapters"], contain a heterogeneous group of texts. Some of them relate episodes in the story of Oliveira, some present Morelli's literary thoughts and theories, and others appear as fragments extracted from the writings of other authors and incorporated into Morelli's notebooks (and Cortázar's novel). [In an endnote, Kerr states: "Among the other authors whose names appear to identify texts apparently cited, if not appropriated, by Morelli (and/or Cortázar) are: Claude Lévi-Strauss (chapter 59), Meister Eckhardt (chapter 70), José Lezama Lima (chapter 81), [Hugo von] Hofmannsthal (chapter 102), Anaïs Nin (chapter 110), Clarence Darrow (chapter 117), Malcolm Lowry (chapter 118), [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti (chapter 121), [Antonin] Artaud (chapter 128), Georges Bataille (chapter 136), [Witold] Gombrowicz (chapter 145), and Octavio Paz (chapter 149)."]

Morelli is an author whose works have been read, revered, and recovered by Oliveira and his bohemian Parisian circle of friends. His name circulates within the text mainly as a sign of authorship. It virtually becomes a place where authorial activity is figured and through which the identity of the author may appear to be revealed, especially when this author is materialized as a personal figure in the story. But the mention of the name Morelli also places within the text a figure whose identity that name would suspend as much as solidify. In fact, Morelli materializes only briefly as a fictional character. Initially he is merely "un viejo" ["an old man"] injured in an accident witnessed by Oliveira (chapter 22); later he is identified as the person-author named Morelli, whom Oliveira and his friend Etienne go to visit in the hospital after his accident (chapter 154). [In an endnote, Kerr adds: "The naming of the chapters according to their assigned numbers in the text is deceptive, of course, since the reading sequence supplied by the table of instructions resituates, as it renumbers, them according to its own numerical and narrative scheme. Thus, chapter 154 is the thirty-first chapter after chapter 22, which is the forty-fourth chapter in the reading 'à la rayuela', or, viewed another way, chapter 22 is really chapter 44 and chapter 154 is really chapter 75."] There, the coincidence of identities (that of the initially unidentified "viejo" and that of the living author formerly figured only through the writings that bear his name) is revealed simultaneously to the characters and the readers of Rayuela.

This discovery gives an illusory fullness to an authorial figure whose presence is otherwise signaled not so much through the materialization of a personal character within the fiction as through the figuration of a writing subject constituted through a collection of texts that are read in the novel. We remember that Morelli's literary theories are not set forth as a textually unified or integrated body of principles, through which an illusion of authorial unity and presence might be created. They are instead dispersed throughout the novel's "expendable" chapters, and therefore interspersed within part of its narrative. (In a reading "à la rayuela" the chapters containing Morelli's literary theories are grouped with the chapters relating the Parisian narrative. Other of Morelli's heterogeneous notes and textual clippings are intercalated throughout the entire narrative from their "exterior" site in "De otros lados.")

The scattered notes figure Morelli as a fragmented, if not altogether absent, author-theorist—as an author who has no single or stable place within the text. The presentation of the "viejo" under the name Morelli restores the image of the whole author, while producing a figure whose days appear to be numbered. Indeed, one might argue that the introduction of Morelli into the narrative as a character-person at the very moment when, it is suggested, he appears to be about to die, can be read as an appropriate, even though anticipatory, figuration of the "death of an author." (After leaving the hospital, Etienne says to Oliveira: "En el fondo es un encuentro póstumo, días más o menos" ["When you come right down to it, it was a post-humous meeting, a question of days"].) [In an endnote, Kerr explains: "If one were to read the novel's chapters in chronological order, [Morelli's] death would appear to be imminent only in its final pages, since the text ends with chapter 155. However, if one were to read them 'à la rayuela,' this fatal scene would appear in the middle of the narrative as well as in the middle of the text as a whole. For, once Oliveira arrives in Buenos Aires, the 'capitulos prescindibles' interspersed with chapters 37-56 no longer advance directly Morelli's literary theories."] The absence already marked by the texts and theories he has supposedly composed, and which have been scattered throughout the novel (by another and apparently more primary author), are potentially literalized by a text that in so many other ways (as the tablero recalls) works to keep the figure of the author alive.

Indeed, Morelli the character-author, along with Morelli the name, seems to turn one's gaze to the scene of its imminent death and to expose both the appearance and disappearance of the name Cortázar. This last name is of course the name of the empirical author who has suggested the fictional character's impending death. It is also the name given to the textualized figure who survives the fiction of that fabricated author's demise. Morelli—whose role has been read as that of the literary "master absent from Hispanic culture in general" and here invented by Cortázar as a "mythical 'good-father' author" [Alfred J. Mac Adam, Modern Latin American Narratives, 1977], or as that of the "apocryphal author" or "tacit writer who works behind every major work" [Julio Ortega, "Morelli on the Threshold," in The Review of Contemporary Fiction (Fall 1983)], or as a "producto de las citas" ["product of citation"] and a "lugar de cruce de citas" ["point of citational crossings"]—is brought to life, while also being readied for death, at the hands of the figure whose role as author, or father-figure, derives some of its authority from the demise of another figure (that is, Morelli) who may otherwise appear to usurp the author's place. The name of the one (Morelli) thus competes with the name of the other (Cortázar) for the place of authorial privilege in this text. The name of the one or the other becomes a place of competition between different figures of the author.

Yet the figure who is left to die is revived as a textual authority, within the other fictional characters' reading and discussion of his texts as well as through the mere mention of his name. For instance, in a well-known key chapter (chapter 99), Oliveira and his Parisian group engage in a detailed discussion of Morelli's theories, which they have read, it seems, from the very same texts presented to the readers of Rayuela. This discussion—which brings Morelli back to textual life perhaps more than his appearance as a "person" in the hospital—takes place in Morelli's apartment, to which Morelli himself has given them the key (chapter 154). There, in the home of this author who has been ejected from his own place by an accident authored by another, they find his notebooks—original texts from which, presumably, Morelli's contributions to Cortázar's novel have been made.

Morelli's place is filled with his readers' rephrasings of his ideas about literature and language. His writings, at once originals and copies and collected in notebooks he himself has supposedly composed, are thus not only fragmented and scattered in the "Capítulos prescindibles" and throughout the reading "à la rayuela." They are also mediated by a group of readers who, in their discussions, would revise as well as review the author's theories. These texts belong to an author whose expendable work, placed as Morelli's materials and the characters' key discussion of his theories are in Rayuela's margins (that is, in its "capítulos prescindibles"), is, of course, essential for what appears to be Cortázar's revolutionary literary project. Thus the discovery of the old man's name is the recovery of the name of an original, but also unconventional, author whose position in Rayuela is at best equivocal.

Morelli's name is both at the center and on the edges of things in the novel. His name appears to mark the place of an original author but also to identify the work of an author whose writing repeats, and is thus contingent upon, the work of others. In that he would figure the activity of his own literary father (Cortázar), whose attempt to propose a new beginning for the work of modern writers is materialized by the author named Morelli, Morelli (as both name and fictional entity) figures the critical nature of Rayuela's confounding authorial practice and theory. [In an endnote, Kerr states: "Mac Adam reads this as Cortázar's attempt to invent not only a magisterial figure absent from the Latin American tradition, but also a conventional or 'traditional' model against which he—or his own text—could react and in relation to which he (or Morelli) could propose 'innovative' and 'transgressive' literary ideas. That the master to whom Cortázar alludes through the figure of Morelli may well be, or is in fact, Macedonio Fernández (1874–1952), whose Museo de la novela de la eterna (posthumous publication 1967) could be identified as the model for or fulfillment of Rayuela's proposals, is suggested by …" numerous critics.]

Morelli is the author-reader and master-father invented by Cortázar, who is himself identifiable in such terms. That is, the name Cortázar would seem to designate a figure who is at once a belated reader of Morelli's work (as well as the work of other authors, who are also read by this fictional author) and a writer who makes that work appear to precede his own. The name of the one appears as both prior and posterior to that of the other; the name of the one is both subordinated to and supported by the name of the other. The author's place would seem to accommodate the figure of the one or the other author.

Rayuela has frequently been read as presenting Cortázar's own theories about language and literature in general and the novel in particular. In such readings, the name Morelli would appear to cover the name Cortázar, the name of the biographical author whose ghostly presence in the figure of the textualized author is also called forth by that name (that is, "Cortázar"). However, the name Morelli can also be read as revealing, rather than concealing, the name of the other author. As noted above, it has been suggested that Rayuela may well be the novel on which Morelli himself is working within the fiction and in which he tries to work out, if not put into practice successfully, the literary theories proposed in its pages.

However, if one identifies Morelli as the "source" of Rayuela itself (that is, as the source of both its fictional narrative and its literary theories), one posits for him a position literally equal, if not also superior, to that of Cortázar. The position held by the author (that is, both the biographical figure and the textualized subject), who is referred to through the name Cortázar, then becomes a crowded place indeed—a place in which the name Morelli is superimposed on (while supplementing and replacing) that of both the empirical author and the authorial subject figured by Rayuela. The name Morelli is positioned in something of a metaphorical relation to the name Cortázar, which all but jumps out from behind the transparency of Morelli's figure. (Moreover, if one accepts Cortázar's own identification of this figure as a double for the novel's protagonist, Oliveira, whom some have read as the novel's first-person narrator-author and who would thereby serve as but another cover for Cortázar, such and identification would further destabilize the frame of authorship, and the apparent singularity of any authorial name or place, in this text.) Each of these names remains identical to itself, but also becomes identified with the name of the other.

That the name Morelli is bound to the name Cortázar and that a good many readers have found it virtually impossible to talk about Rayuela without connecting the two is not surprising. Some of these connections go so far as to join—sometimes graphically—the two. When these names are written together to form the name of another author (that is, "Cortázar-Morelli" or "Morelli-Cortázar"), the doubled or divided name reveals what the name of one—if not both—of these figures already displays. When the names Cortázar and Morelli are bound together, two significantly specular figures emerge in the place of a single author. (Indeed, if one were to read the hyphen between the two names quite literally, respecting its etymological, original meaning as a sign written below two consecutive letters to indicate that they belong to the same word, the two names would have to be read as one.)

In this reunion of original authors, however, each also becomes the offspring of the other, each appears as a figure of anteriority and belatedness with respect to the other. Moreover, the figure of the two composite authors (or the composite figure of a single author) is irreducible to either of its proper names—though one of them, one might argue, is supposed to refer to a primary author who begets or creates the novel. Though, theoretically at least, Morelli may be seen to have a certain priority, from a perspective outside the text, his name bears no more than the appearance of a term that designates a character or copy. Yet it is precisely through such a secondary figure that the activity of the original author—and perhaps the problem of authorship itself—becomes inscribed with such vigor in Rayuela.

How, then, is one to read, or read through, the name of one or the other author? The name of the one not only leads to the name of the other; each seems ready to reveal and to hide the names of a variety of other authors. Indeed, the question of reading the author's name is rendered all the more significant here because, within the text of the novel, Morelli's name is a name that also marks the place where the work of other authors may be read. The "morelliana" (that is, the materials from Morelli's notebooks, presented throughout the expendable chapters), as we recall, incorporate fragments of writing attached to and signed with the names of other authors. "Morelli" virtually hides those other names, while also becoming identified as but the name of the reader of those other authors, whose writings become identified with, even absorbed into, the figures of the author in Rayuela.

"Morelli" seems to fix in place (that is, within the text of Rayuela) the name of the author. But it also opens a space for the circulation of such a name and the figures (or names) of the author that seem to compete around it. The meaning of such a name would thus seem to arise from its relation to other such names and to the name Cortázar. However, one might argue that to get at the meaning of Morelli one ought to return to Cortázar, perhaps so as to consider other figures from which his own appearance or identity might seem to be derived or upon which he may have aimed to model his character.

Though one discovers that the name Morelli appears to have been chosen by Cortázar without any explicitly formulated authorial design, as one tries to situate and read its significance this name comes to resonate between one text, one author, and another. [In an endnote, Kerr adds: "This character-author is referred to only with a surname in Rayuela. He has no given name either in the novel or in Cortázar's notes. Moreover, in Cortázar and Barrenechea, Cuaderno de bitácora de 'Rayuela', one finds no authorial comments about the name itself nor any indication of what its original significance might have been. Thus, besides considering whether 'Morelli' may be but a cover for 'Macedonio,' one might also speculate about Morelli's onomastic antecedents (if not fictional models or thematic sources) in texts by other Argentine masters whose work Cortázar knew well, or in their sources—in Borges's Morell ('El espantoso redentor Lazarus Morell,' 'Historia universal de la infamia ['The Dread Redeemer Lazarus Morell,' A Universal History of Infamy] [1935]), or Bioy Casares's Morel (La invencion de Morel [The Invention of Morel] [1940]), or Wells's Dr. Moreau (The Island of Dr. Moreau [1896], on which Bioy Casares is presumed to have drawn for his novel). One may also wonder whether Cortázar, who translated all of Poe's prose works (Obras en prosa de Edgar Allan Poe [1956]), may have somehow derived the name from the American author's 'Morella' (1834–35), which, aptly enough, can be read as a fable about the propriety of the proper name."] Indeed, one of the possible choices of nominal precursors through which to read Cortázar's Morelli leads to a name that refigures and repeats itself, as it moves to other texts and authors, without abandoning Cortázar or Rayuela. Moreover, the name Morelli within one or another context finally suggests that the name of one author may necessarily lead to the name of another. The author's proper name, perhaps even an authorial signature, seems always ready to embody—while also being unable to contain completely—both a critique and a consolidation of authorial originality and authority.

As we wander a bit with the name Morelli, hopscotching, as it were, to other names and signatures potentially hidden under as well as uncovered by it, we come across another problematical figure of the author—in fact, another figure named Morelli. Interestingly enough, it could appear that Cortázar's Morelli is prefigured by this other namesake who has become identified with the problem of authorship, and in whose name one might again raise the question of the author. The other Morelli to whom I refer is, of course, Giovanni Morelli (1816–91), the art historian known as the father of modern connoisseurship and the originator of the "Morelli-method," once considered a revolutionary theory of artistic attribution. Put forth in the late nineteenth century, Morelli's theory presented a theory for establishing the authorship of the work of art; it proposed a method for distinguishing an original painting from its copies. Purported to be a scientific method of attribution, Morelli's method provided a potentially authoritative return to the figure of the artistic author.

Essentially, Morelli proposed that the artist's identity (and thus, also, the work's authenticity—its status as an original) could be determined by examining the secondary or little noticed, and thus seemingly insignificant, details in a particular painting (for example, fingernails, hands, or ear lobes), instead of by reading its general patterns or overall design. The proper application of the method would lead to the restoration of the original artist's name in the case of incorrect attribution, and to the certification of a signature's authenticity in the case of unverified authorship. Morelli's theory was, in a way, a theory of signatures, of how artists sign their works through seemingly insignificant details. Such details, he proposed, are the sites through which a painting's true origins (that is, the singular identity of the original artist) are revealed. For it is there, in the "insignificant detail" (which, of course, is elevated to a position of the greatest significance by Morelli's method), that the artist virtually gives himself away.

This theory was not only a theory of what constitutes evidence of originality and authenticity—that is, a theory of authorship. It was also a theory of reading—a theory of how to read such evidence, how to read through the work to its singular, original author. But the author of this theory of artistic authorship was also a figure who played with the authorship of his own theory. Indeed, he would appear to have defied his readers to read the name of the author (that is, his own name) correctly. For Morelli originally attempted to obscure the origins of his theory by concealing his name beneath an alias, a false signature which, nonetheless, also gave away its author's identity. When he first published this work as a German translation of "original" Russian writings (1870s–1880s), he used the name Ivan Lermolieff, which is, if one reads it correctly, a partial anagram of Giovanni Morelli. (Moreover, the name of the "translator" of Lermolieff's writing is Johannes Schwarze—another alias of Morelli, who was fluent in German. This name, as one might expect, is but another play on "Morelli": "Giovanni," "Johannes," "John"; "Morelli"/moro, "Schwarze," "Black".)

Morelli's name, as well as his identity as an author, is thus both veiled and revealed by a succession of signatures that reinscribe, while also appearing to erase, evidence of original authorial activity. Morelli's "translated" work is an original designed to pass itself off as an authentic copy. This copy is a counterfeit whose originality is retroactively authenticated through the revelation of its author's name, which remains attached to, if not also completely obscured by, the name of another. Morelli signs his own name by signing or using the names of others, other names ("Lermolieff," "Schwarze") that both cover and copy his own. In the case of the name Morelli, then, the author of a theory that proposed a method for uncovering the name, the identity, of the original artist signs his work with a name that both displaces and consolidates the place of its own author and origins.

One can read Morelli's name as situated within complex relations of affiliation not only with the other names he would author as substitutes for his own, but also with those of established figures in art history. The Morelli-method, it is said, was proposed (like any new theory or method, perhaps) as an unconventional, revolutionary turn against the conventional theory and practice of his own discipline. Moreover, it appears that Morelli was not unconcerned with the issue of priority or originality within the discipline of art history. It has been suggested that he was so concerned to establish his own originality and authority that he failed to attribute to one or more of his colleagues their rightful authorship of parts of his own "original" theory.

Morelli's theory of artistic authorship was a theory that established his own place as the father, or author, of a new critical practice. It thus challenged the authority of the traditional figures whose places of paternal privilege he usurped, but from which he himself could also be displaced later. Within the history of art history, then, the name Morelli, the name of the father of connoisseurship, has become the name of an equivocal figure of authority. The figure of Morelli thus attaches itself to the images of many other authors, and the name Morelli continues to raise a variety of questions about the attribution of authorship.

Indeed, in Morelli's name one can read not just the literally affiliated figures of his namesake (or vice versa). Morelli also figures as the virtual father of another self-consciously affiliated author whose name as the "father of psychoanalysis" has clearly eclipsed the importance of that of the art historian. I refer, of course, to Freud, who, it turns out, in his well-known reading of Michelangelo's Moses ("The Moses of Michelangelo"), cites directly the name Morelli and the method of attribution from which Morelli's fame was derived. There, Freud draws attention not only to the similarity between Morelli's "method of inquiry" and the "technique of psychoanalysis." He also remarks upon the pseudonymous nature of Morelli's "original" signature and his own pleasure at learning of the Italian master's "concealed" but true identity.

Indeed, in his rereading of Michelangelo's Moses, Freud appears not only to draw openly on Morelli's method; he seems to copy surreptitiously the method for producing his signature as well. First, Freud's method for discerning how the Moses figure's pose should be read rests upon a reading of the insignificant details or clues to its composition. Freud's reading of those details leads back to the scene and psychological state immediately preceding the moment inscribed in the statue's pose to expose Michelangelo's supposedly intended original design. The homologous relation between the "insignificant detail" and an artistic origin (that is, either authorial identity or artistic psychology) in the methods of connoisseurship and psychoanalysis bring the figures of Morelli and Freud into virtual contact with one another. (This contact, as suggested below, may have proved characteristically problematical for the latter).

Given the methodological similarities of the Morelli and Freud methods for reading artistic works, as well as Freud's acknowledgment of Morelli's prior influence, one might be tempted to call this method the Morelli-Freud, or the Freud-Morelli, method. From this perspective, the identification of the method with only the one or the other author (or perhaps even with the two of them as a composite author) might seem an inaccurate attribution of authorship or authority. (In fact, a very suggestive reading of Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock Holmes has juxtaposed their methods as evidence not of singular originality but, rather, of a shared epistemology—as evidence of the emergence of an epistemological paradigm [that of the "conjectural method"] at the end of the nineteenth century.)

The intimate connection between Morelli's and Freud's methods, it has been conjectured, may also explain the homologous relation of their (real or virtual) signatures. For, when originally published in Imago in 1914, Freud's essay on Michelangelo appeared as an anonymous—an unsigned—article. Speculation about Freud's desire for anonymity assumes, as one might expect, problems with the idea of authorial filiation. It has been speculated that his pose of anonymity may have merely been imitative of Morelli's "taste for concealed authorship"; or it may have been a filial gesture of "unconscious rivalry with Morelli"; or it could be read as Freud's way of dismantling a "theological conception of art" through which one presumes that the discovery of the author's (that is, the father's) name constitutes accurate, and thus appropriate, access to the identity and meaning of the artistic work.

The explanation of this maneuver itself remains, of course, in the realm of conjecture, along with the answer to a question such as "who is the original or real author?" What one reads in this circulation of authorial names and signatures, as well as from the models of authorship those signatures and names (or their authors and referents) propose, are the alternately revealing and obfuscating effects that the appearance (or disappearance) of the name of the author may have. The name of the author—an apparently significant detail—also becomes a place of insignificance. But it is an insignificance that is nonetheless likely to be invested with a great deal of meaning. Indeed, the name becomes a place where significance and insignificance both meet and compete. In naming the author, as we are aware by now, one is likely to mean a number of things at once.

For example, we are yet pushed to ask, as we return again to Rayuela, what did Cortázar mean by the name Morelli? Is Cortázar's Morelli meant to figure the Morelli from art history, or does it refer perhaps to an author or character we have not yet considered (for example, most obviously, Borges's Morell, or Bioy Casares's Morel, or Wells's Moreau, or Poe's Morella, or, more obliquely, Macedonio Fernández; see notes 13, 19)? And, if it is meant to figure the art historian, for example, what, for Cortázar, would have been significant about such a figure? What would its meaning have been for him?

If one aims to discover the significance of this name, one takes up the text's (or the name's) invitation to read the name as meaningful rather than as arbitrary. One discovers that the name opens up a determined field of meanings but that the space of that field and its parameters are, as has been seen here, rather wide. The author's name seems to efface itself behind the names of its substitutes (that is, Morelli and his namesakes), but also seems to keep coming back from around or behind those other names. One discovers that the significance of this name would lie as much in its apparent arbitrariness as in its possible determined meanings. If, on the other hand, one does not presume that the name Morelli has some particular (and perhaps original) significance—that is, if one views the name or the figure of Morelli as insignificant, the name Cortázar becomes a convenient but confounding nominal cover. The name of the author would thus signify an author distanced from original or final meaning. It would appear to figure an author of unfixed significance.

What is significant is that either reading allows one to move from "Cortázar" to "Morelli" (and even to "Freud" and others), and back again, as one attempts to read Rayuela, or the names it proposes, properly. The move between the names Morelli and Cortázar appears to be an unavoidable move; each name provokes a shift to the other. The shift from one way of reading their names to another, and therefore from one theory of authorship or reading to another, is critical in reading Rayuela. Indeed, reading (or, rather, rereading) Rayuela seems to mean precisely that—reading between competing models of reading the figure of the author.

If this reading suggests that Cortázar is, in some way, not the (only) name of the author of Rayuela, it is because the author's name may well become a sign of instability, a sign of secondariness and subordination as well as of originality and authority. Such a sense of things would of course run counter to traditional notions about what the name of the author signifies and where it ought to lead in reading literary texts. Moreover, as one reads further around Rayuela, the author's name retains its position of instability while also recovering considerable authority. Such a problematical position, which emerges initially from within Rayuela, is, interestingly enough, underscored as well by another text that may seem to establish definitively Rayuela's authoritative and stable authorial beginnings. I refer to the 1983 Cuaderno de bitácora de "Rayuela," published under the names of both Cortázar and Ana María Barrenechea, one of the author's best-known readers.

The logbook, which contains the author's original plans for his novel, purports to reauthor, in a way, the reading of Rayuela, the process of whose authorship by Cortázar the logbook would finally appear to reveal. But, appropriately enough, the juxtaposition of the names Cortázar and Barrenechea situates the two as complementary, if not also competing, author-figures. These figures meet and compete not only on the text's cover and title page, where they are explicitly united, but also throughout the book's pages, where they are implicitly joined in both Barrenechea's introductory study and Cortázar's personal notes. The name of the one may be read as vying with the name of the other for the primary position of authority in the Cuaderno, and by extension, perhaps, around Rayuela.

Published by Sudamericana exactly twenty years after Rayuela, the Cuaderno de bitácora de "Rayuela" is a heterogeneous text. [In an endnote, Kerr explains: "The Cuaderno's text comprises a reproduction of Cortázar's handwritten and variegated notes, whose originals were personally entrusted to Barrenechea by him and whose copies form the body of the logbook itself. It also contains a set of additional 'pre-textos' ['pre-texts'], which include the novel's originary episode called 'La araña' ['The Spider'] (this episode was elided by the author from the original novel but later published separately in Revista iberoamericana [1973]) and other typed manuscript materials and handwritten notes. The materials authored by Cortázar are appended to the original logbook pages, along with a lengthy 'Estudio preliminar' ['Preliminary Study'] composed by Barrenechea. Though the volume's contents would attest to its essentially heterogeneous nature, one reviewer sees the Cuaderno as a 'book of criticism' published by Barrenechea. I see the matter of authorial and generic identity as somewhat more problematical."] It combines the variegated writings of both Cortázar and Barrenechea. In introducing Cortázar's notebook pages, Barrenechea also introduces the problem of textual priority and authority, as she reviews, first, the tenets of genetic criticism she seeks to follow and, second, the relationship between Cortázar's notebook and his novel ("Estudio preliminar"). Within that preliminary essay, Barrenechea's introduction of Cortázar's original notebook pages takes a secondary position to the discussion of genetic criticism. This discussion legitimizes in general terms the attention given to "pre-textos" ["pre-texts"] such as Cortázar's logbook; it authorizes, in particular, her undertaking in the publication of the Cuaderno and her reading of its originary texts.

Barrenechea's presentation of the logbook grants a place of central importance to Cortázar's preliminary notes and aims to counter other readings that would subordinate the author's original ideas to the text that comes after them. Barrenechea confers upon the logbook an independent status and authority by which its comments are virtually elevated to a status equal to that of the novel that would otherwise supersede them. In the face of the authoritative, completed text that succeeds the originary notes, the "pretextos" are restored by Barrenechea to their former position of authority. As set up by Barrenechea, the relation between the author's notes and the completed text both undermines and underwrites the privileged status of the one with respect to the other.

Barrenechea's reading of Rayuela through the logbook is presented as a rereading of the novel through the notes that reveal both the author's original dialogue with his fictional work and the process of writing and reading through which it was composed. Following Cortázar, Barrenechea proposes to read Rayuela as a dialogue between text and pre-texts. Through the reading now authorized by the logbook and the textual organization it allows Barrenechea to author, this dialogue also upends the apparently primary or secondary status of the one set of texts in relation to the other. Moreover, the configuration of the various pre-texts and her discussion of the relationships among them raise related questions of textual priority and privilege. They are questions that Barrenechea's reading seeks to address and that Cortázar, before her, considered. [In an endnote, Kerr states: "The organization of [Cuaderno de bitácora de 'Rayuela'] places Barrenechea's own text before that of Cortázar. Her 'Estudio preliminar,' which presents both a preliminary reading of Cortázar's logbook in virtual dialogue with Rayuela and a theoretical introduction to her own reading and his logbook texts, comes ahead of the notes first authored by Cortázar. Barrenechea's writing becomes its own 'pre-texto' for the 'pre-textos' that have occasioned her preliminary study, along with the publication of the logbook itself. At the other end, the Cuaderno closes with what Barrenechea calls 'otros pre-textos' ['other pre-texts'], the last of which is the originary episode or chapter of Rayuela ('La araña'), which is recuperated and once again revealed by Barrenechea, in the fashion of Cortázar, who preceded her. (… Cortázar first revealed and simultaneously restored this chapter some ten years after the novel's original publication.) She situates it (appropriately enough, one might argue) at the very end of the 1983 text. Indeed, that the text ends with 'pre-texts' that are themselves finally punctuated by an originary chapter is quite fitting for a volume dealing with Rayuela, to whose disruptive textual order its title openly alludes."]

The origins of this book are to be found, it seems, in the writing of not one but (at least) two figures, whose names and work have been tied together for many years. Barrenechea, entrusted with the logbook of which she is made proprietor by its original author and owner, assumes theoretical, as well as editorial, responsibility for Cortázar's writings. The work of one figure becomes the support for the writing of another; the writing of the one becomes the pre-text for the work of the other. Each is proprietor of the text to which his or her name is attached. Yet each name, bound to the name of the other, puts into question individual rights of ownership and authority. Such are the relationships that have been made problematical by these authors individually in other texts and, here, together in the Cuaderno.

Barrenechea's name has long been connected to that of Cortázar (her readings of Rayuela are seminal; she is regarded as one of Cortázar's most important readers). Here in the logbook that connection is literalized in an overt fashion. As noted above, the logbook was published under the virtual signatures of both Cortázar and Barrenechea, under the auspices of the author and one of his most accomplished readers. Barrenechea appears all at once as a reader who edits, a copier who compiles, and a commentator who authors the text of another author.

The responsibilities attached to the different roles assumed by Barrenechea (the roles of a modern scriptor, editor, compilator, and commentator) combine within the performance of a single figure. They consolidate her authority and situate her as a competitor of Cortázar, the original author, even though she seems to be a secondary figure. Indeed, under the guise of a copier-compiler-commentator-editor, Barrenechea assumes a central, authoritative role in the Cuaderno. As she reads she also rewrites and organizes, much like the author she takes as her critical object. As she restores Cortázar's notes, and thus his retroactively recognized original activity, to a privileged position for the reading of Rayuela, her own activity seems to become more, rather than less, like that of an author—perhaps like that of a modern auctor.

In fact, Barrenechea's name appears on the text as the signature of Cortázar's coauthor, rather than as the signature of an editor or compiler of Cortázar's texts. Her name is virtually signed with the name Cortázar and appears in the place reserved for the name of the primary, and original, author. In the Cuaderno de bitácora de "Rayuela" the name of the author thus appears as a doubled or divided name, one that shifts the responsibility of authorship from one to another of the figures to which it would refer. The juxtaposition of names puts the work of the two authors on an apparently equal footing while also seeming to allow for the priority of one (Cortázar) over the other (Barrenechea). The author named by this text, it is tempting to suggest, is a composite figure, a figure designed by the texts of one and another author: Cortázar-Barrenechea or Barrenechea-Cortázar. [In an endnote, Kerr adds: "However, that the name Cortázar has greater value because of its presumed priority may well be declared, as convention would have it, by the book's title (the logbook named there is of course the text originally composed and owned by Cortázar) and the ordering of names on its title page. But within the text edited and authored by Barrenechea, this order and privilege are also reversed: Barrenechea's texts occupy approximately the first and Cortázar's the second half of its pages; and the index, which separates the names of the authors by placing each one over the list of texts attributed to him or her, literally exposes the division of authorship by textually distancing each name from the other."]

These names, and the figures they conjure up, are in one sense clearly distinguishable. The name of the author and the name of the critic refer to distinct subjects and discursive situations, and to different moments of signature. But in the publication of the Cuaderno and the reading produced by Barrenechea, who moves back and forth among Cortázar's texts as well as between her own comments and his writing, these names also come to identify the writing of the one with that of the other. Barrenechea, a formidable critic and trusted friend of the empirical author, inscribes her own critical presence within the texts of Cortázar. His writing is not only reshaped by her readings but also reorganized by her editing. The relation between their names suggests the uncertain state of authorship throughout the Cuaderno de bitácora de "Rayuela." As in the novel whose origins the Cuaderno purports to establish authoritatively and whose authorship it would doubly certify, the name of the author can be read here as a destabilizing sign rather than as an absolute marker of authorial singularity, priority, or originality.

In rereading Rayuela through the Cuaderno then, one may place the author's name in a position that would allow for the attribution of the text's ownership either to its original author or to one of its readers. (The latter move is, as we recall, apparently proposed by the tablero.) However, the idea of unequivocal authority over or ownership of the text is also precisely what the activities of Cortázar's renowned critical reader attenuate. The author's name, which here shifts between naming the authorial subject at the moment of writing and identifying the texts to which that name has become attached and through which its meaning is partially established, is reauthored as well as reread by Barrenechea.

That Cortázar is a name of distinction his writing and Barrenechea's readings would confirm; that this name is the name of the author of Rayuela the text's authorial signature would underscore. But, that this name is the single name that authorizes Rayuela or one's reading of it, or that this name is the only name that creates a place for the author, is open to question. Indeed, our wandering to the figure of Barrenechea, whose name circulates with that of Cortázar around the text of Rayuela would situate the name of the author in an unstable position. And the leap to the name Morelli (and from "Morelli" to "Freud," and back again to "Cortázar") would position the author's name so that it would be as ready to defend its authoritative place as to surrender that place to the authority of another author.

Such wanderings and leaps seem to mobilize each name, each place, of the author. Yet, this mobilization of the authorial proper name, and consequently the destabilization of the place given to the author, also reinvest such a name and such a place with considerable authority. The chain of names that leads away from Cortázar, and for which Rayuela unwittingly opens the way, also returns the author's name to a place of privilege. The shift from one name to the other may well intensify rather than attenuate the authority of such a name. The sharing of names of the author confers upon each of the author's figures a status that in one sense or another is both authoritative and authorial. As one reads, or reads around, Rayuela, then, the figure of the author seems to reclaim (if not retain) its own privilege under the names of a number of authors.

When one reads this text as originating with the writing of an authorial subject named Cortázar, or considers its connections to the work of a fictional author-figure named Morelli or his possible namesakes, or reads it as tied to the activities of a critic named Barrenechea, one is led around Rayuela and the questions it raises about the author's identity and activity. Such questions concern the meaning of the author's name or the nature of authorial rights and responsibilities, how authorial figures become endowed with authority, or how texts come to be read as authoritative, and so on. These are questions familiar and foreign to both modern criticism and to Spanish American fiction, where they continue to be debated rather than settled.


Julio Cortázar World Literature Analysis


Cortázar, Julio (Short Story Criticism)