Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar

julio cortazar latin american literature cover

This is an incredible book about a failed intellectual grappling with the end of a relationship. He goes through an existential crisis–that starts in Paris and ends in Buenos Aires–about the futility of his own intelligence to help him cope with his life instead of miring him down into an abstract labyrinth of madness. It’s a postmodern tale told through hypertext, fake books, fake authors, jazz translated into prose, and a literary philosophy that describes how a novel should be written and specifically how this one should be read.

Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar

To believe that action could crown something, or that the sum total of actions could really be a life worthy of the name was the illusion of a moralist.

If the volume or the tone of the work can lead one to believe that the author is attempting a sum, hasten to point out to him that he is face to face with the opposite attempt, that of an implacable subtraction.

At least those modern guys make you think of Jackson Pollock or Tobey, it’s easy to see that they’ve left the age of the pianola and the box of watercolors.

And when you start talking about the search for unity, then I start to see a lot of beautiful things, but they’re all dead, pressed flowers and things like that.

Of all our feelings the only one which really doesn’t belong to us is hope. Hope belongs to life, it’s life itself defending itself. Etcetera.

A perniciously comfortable attitude which even becomes easy as it grows into a reflex or technique; the frightful lucidity of the paralytic, the blindness of the perfectly stupid athlete. One begins to go about with the sluggish step of a philosopher or a clochard, as more and more vital gestures become reduced to mere instincts of preservation, to a conscience more alert not to be deceived than to grasp truth.

I touch your mouth, I touch the edge of your mouth with my finger, I am drawing it as if it were something my hand was sketching, as if for the first time your mouth opened a little, and all I have to do is close my eyes to erase it and start all over again, every time I can make the mouth I want appear, the mouth which my hand chooses and sketches on your face, and which by some chance that I do not seek to understand coincides exactly with your mouth which smiles beneath the one my hand is sketching on you.

You look at me, from close up you look at me, closer and closer and then we play cyclops, we look closer and closer at one another and our eyes get larger, they come closer, they merge into one and the two cyplopses look at each other, blending as they breathe, our mouths touch and struggle in gentle warmth, biting each other with their lips, barely holding their tongues on their teeth, playing in corners where a heavy air comes and goes with an old perfume and a silence. Then my hands go to sink into your hair, to cherish slowly the depth of your hair while we kiss as if our mouths were filled with flowers or with fish, with lively movements and dark fragrance. And if we bite each other the pain is sweet, and if we smother each other in a brief and terrible sucking in together of our breaths, that momentary death is beautiful. And there is but one saliva and one flavor of ripe fruit, and I feel you tremble against me like a moon on the water.

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