Julio Cortázar's (1914-1984) Rayuela (Hopscotch in English) was begun in Paris in 1952 and published in Buenos Aires in 1963 by Editorial Sudamericana. It appeared in an English translation by Gregory Rabassa published by Pantheon Books (New York) in 1966, which won the 1967 U.S. National Book Award.
The novel is divided into three sections: "From the Other Side," "From This Side," and "From Diverse Sides" (subtitled the "Expendable Chapters"). The first section narrative focuses on Horacio Oliveira, a writer in Paris. As he wanders through Paris he reflects on his native Argentina and meets with his friends and fellow intellectuals in a group they call "The Serpent Club" to talk philosophy, literature, listen to jazz, and drink abundantly. His lover, La Maga, with whom he lives in Paris, eventually disappears after the death of her son. In the next section, "From This Side," the perspective shifts as Horatio's friend Manolo Traveler is introduced. Manolo lives in Buenos Aires and the action of this section of the novel shifts there and moves through sequences set in a circus and, later, a mental hospital. Additionally, a writer-figure named Morelli appears (explicitly) only in the so-called "Expendable Chapters."
Hopscotch can be viewed as a proto-hypertext novel, a print precursor to later experiments in interactive and digital fiction. It begins with a "Table of Instructions" indicating that, "In its own way, this book consists of many books, but two books above all." The first suggested reading occurs in the traditional linear fashion, beginning with Chapter 1 and proceeding to Chapter 56. However, by reading the novel in this suggested method the reader only reads approximately two thirds of the total volume. Several chapters follow Chapter 56 (for a total of 155 chapters, these last 99 described as the "Expendable Chapters").
The second suggested reading begins with Chapter 73 and then proceeds to "hopscotch" its way back and forth through the book covering both new chapters not encountered in the first suggested reading and chapters that are encountered while reading using the previous method. At the outset of this second suggested reading, Chapter 73, Cortázar calls into question and interrogates the linear ordering and conventions of narrative fiction:
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: the Yin and the Yang, contemplation or the Tätigkeit, oatmeal or partridge faisandée, Lascaux or Matheiu, what a hammock of words, what purse-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.
Following Chapter 73, the suggested path returns the reader to Chapters 1 and 2 in sequence but then shuffles the reader off to Chapter 116. The narrator reads a penciled note in a book (playing with the notion of textuality as a site of interaction and exchange between readers, text, and author):
- Enough of hedonistic and prechewed novels, with psychologies. One must aim at the maximum, be a voyant as Rimbaud wanted to be. The hedonistic novelist is nothing but a voyeur. One the other hand, enough of purely descriptive techniques, of 'behaviorist' novels, mere movie scripts without the saving grace of images.
The second reading provides a counter-novel to the first, a sort of manifesto reflecting on the potential for different approaches to narrative and literary form.
For more on reading Hopscotch within the context of electronic literature and hypertext, see the following entries from The Electronic Labyrinth by Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar: Hopscotch, Hopscotch as a Hyperbook, and Structural Experiments in Hopscotch.
Cortázar, Julio. Hopscotch. New York: Pantheon, 1966. Print.
"Hopscotch." Wikipedia. n.d. Web. 28 May 2010.
Keep, Christopher, Tim McLaughlin, and Robin Parmar. The Electronic Labyrinth. n.d. Web. 28 May 2010.