In the narrative of Cortázar’s Hopscotch, he analyzes the game of hopscotch after the main character, Oliveira, engages with a clocharde named Emmanuéle on the streets of Paris: “One day you learn how to leave Earth and make the pebble climb into Heaven…the worst part of it is that precisely at that moment…no one has learned how to make the pebble climb up into Heaven.”
Cortázar continues this idea about failing to reach Heaven in the game: “Childhood is all over…you’re into novels, into the anguish of the senseless divine trajectory, into the speculation about another Heaven that you have to reach too…And since you have come out of childhood…you forget that in order to get to Heaven you have to have a pebble and a toe.”
The concept of hopscotch is practical, but Julio Cortázar’s book, Hopscotch, is anything but practical—it is profound. Some of the characters in the story understand the idea to play, most do not. Hopscotch is a set of two books, as told by Julio Cortázar in his Table of Instructions in the beginning of the book. Theses books are a tendril of timelines for Oliveira, because Heaven, according to the game and his actions and desires, becomes elusive to him. La Maga, the other main character, is Oliveira’s lover in Paris: She is an ever-present and formidable force to Oliveira, but this is not enough to for him to stay with her. Once more, the concept of the game of hopscotch is chalked on a Bohemian playground with La Maga, Oliveira, and a group of friends pushing, and some not pushing, the pebble. Eventually, Oliveira moves on to Buenos Aires, his homeland.
In Buenos Aires, the playground (in due course) becomes a battlefield for Oliveira. Julio Cortázar’s meticulous sequence of events is portrayed with a party of three: Oliveira, Traveler and his wife, Talita. Arriving in Buenos Aires, Oliveira meets his old friend Traveler, who had been informed by Oliveira’s girlfriend Gekrepten that he was arriving. There is some resentment from Traveler with having Oliveira around at times; some of this is because Oliveira looks at Talita as if she is La Maga. In the course of the narrative, Traveler gets Oliveira a job in the circus, and then they decide to buy a mental hospital. Over time, the strain of his past terrain of failings and misfortunes manifest into a battle—a battle that Oliveira will not win.
A notable mention about Hopscotch is Chapter 34: The poetic and artistic method that Cortázar employs in this chapter is ingenious. Oliveira relays two different articles of prose, line by line with a clear separation of thought.
Hopscotch is a literary examination by Julio Cortázar that vanquishes the norm of novels. Thus, Cortázar’s poetic prowess to tell a story about a man, his desires and disappointments, and a childhood game of hopscotch is extraordinary.
Julio Cortázar was a novelist, poet, musician, and a short story writer. (August 26, 1914 – February 12, 1984)
Hopscotch is available at Amazon.com