Julio Cortazar and his (near) Infinite Book

Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch is a masterful literary creation and is one of those books that can be called genius.

The story told within the book is rather simple and is summarised well by Wikipedia:


Also here is the Wikipedia page for Julio Cortazar himself:


One of the things to highlight in Hopscotch is that Cortazar’s sublime writing is as close to “Jazz writing” as one can get. When Cortazar hits his stride he truly does resemble an improvising jazz musician, taking risks and letting the music follow its own course, rather than forcing it. Although Cortazar is a writer so replace music with writing. But Cortazar did play Jazz trumpet while living in Paris as a hobby.

But main point of this piece of writing is the structure of the book, which is genius. The Wikipedia page explains this very well. The point is this structure allows for a near infinite ways to read Hopscotch. As an aside this structuring can also be applied to a certain chapter in the book. Chapter 36 is written as two chapters running parallel to each other. One line is one chapter, and the next line is the next chapter. The reader has to hopscotch through the chapter. Firstly, the book can be read by just reading the first 56 chapters. Secondly the book can be read by inserting the remaining chapters from the expendable section. They can either be inserted into the text in the right order, or be read as a sort of odds and ends to the main story.

Alternatively the reader could read the first part of the book set in Paris and leave it there. The same applies to the second part set in Argentina. Then the expendable chapters could be read as short stories. Also on the page were Cortazar outlines the books structure he states that the book itself can be seen to contain many short stories, which could mean each chapter could be read independently of each other. You could also read the book cover to cover, and then do the same backwards. This would also apply to each of the set of chapters.

Reading Hopscotch could be taken as far as reading it as a cut up. In theory you could take all the pages and reorganise them to your heart’s content, and then read Hopscotch, creating new juxtapositions in the text that were not present before.

All in all, the book can be read in order the reader wishes. As many ways as you can combine the chapters is the number of ways Hopscotch can be read. Apparently the book can also be read by reading all the even pages, and then all the odd pages.

And to take the book to an ultimate dada conclusion, you could write all the chapters on a piece of paper, cut that paper up and place it in a hat. The order that you take out the numbers is the order in which you would read the book.

Jorge Luis Borges, another great Argentinian writer wrote a short story called The Book of Sand. It is about a man who comes into possession of an infinite book. The book can never be fully read and each page, once turned disappears into infinity. While we will never see an infinite book I feel that Julio Cortazar’s masterpiece is the one that comes closet to being an infinite book, and the closest real life companion to Borges fictional book of sand.


About skyraftwanderer

A person who enjoys writing short story things, poetry and other random things that come into my head.
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