Welcome, dear readers, to an extraordinary encounter that promises to peel back the layers of one of the most enigmatic minds in literary history. Today, we embark on a journey into the realm of imagination, symbolism, and boundless creativity as we sit down with the incomparable Argentine writer, Julio Cortázar.
Known for his innovative narratives and unconventional storytelling techniques, Cortázar has captivated readers worldwide since the mid-20th century. His works such as “Hopscotch,” “Blow-up and Other Stories,” and “The Night Face Up” have defied conventional literary norms and transported readers into realms where reality seamlessly blends with the surreal.
Cortázar’s writing is a masterful tapestry of intricate plotlines, metaphysical musings, and profound philosophical undertones. He invites us to question our reality, challenge societal conventions, and embrace the inexplicable aspects of existence. With his seamless blend of fantasy and reality, he creates an alternative universe that forces us to reassess the boundaries of our perception.
During our conversation with this literary visionary, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the intellectual journey that shaped Cortázar’s literary vision. From his upbringing in Argentina to his years spent in France, his travels across the globe, and his interactions with other influential writers of his time, we will seek to extract the essence of the man behind the words.
As we embark on this enthralling expedition through the mind of Julio Cortázar, prepare to be transported to worlds where dreams become reality, where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and where the boundaries of human imagination are endlessly pushed. Join us in this unforgettable exploration as we embark on an interview that promises to offer profound insights into the life and literary legacy of one of the most enigmatic figures in modern literature.
Who is Julio Cortázar?
Julio Cortázar, born on August 26, 1914, in Brussels, Belgium, was an Argentine writer and intellectual who made a significant impact on Latin American literature during the 20th century. Known for his innovative style and unconventional narratives, Cortázar became a prominent figure of the literary movement called the Latin American Boom.
Cortázar’s unique blend of genres, incorporating elements of surrealism, fantasy, and existentialism, challenged traditional storytelling conventions and revolutionized the way readers perceived literature. His writings often explored complex themes such as time, identity, and the blurred boundaries between reality and imagination.
Although Cortázar spent much of his life outside Argentina, he remained deeply connected to his homeland. His experiences living in various countries, including France, where he settled permanently in 1951, influenced his literary voice and provided him with a global perspective that transcended cultural and geographic boundaries.
With works like “Hopscotch” (1963), a non-linear novel that encouraged readers to determine their own path through the narrative, Cortázar demonstrated his penchant for experimentation and reader engagement. He crafted stories that challenged established structures and invited readers to actively participate in the construction of meaning.
Cortázar’s literary contributions extended beyond novels and short stories. He also excelled in the realm of the short story, producing notable collections such as “Blow-Up and Other Stories” (1967), which showcased his mastery of suspense and ambiguity.
Julio Cortázar’s innovative approach to literature and his commitment to exploring the complexities of human experience have solidified his position as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His imaginative storytelling continues to captivate readers worldwide, leaving a lasting legacy that redefines the possibilities of literary expression.
Here you can get more information about him by clicking Julio Cortázar’s Britannica.
20 Thought-Provoking Questions with Julio Cortázar
1.Can you share ten Hopscotch quotes to our readers?
1.You live your life and in a corner of your soul there’s a little drawer where you put things you might need another time.
2. Time passed without passing, like a river within a river.
3.The truth is what never happened, the hope of what could be that keeps us alive.
4. We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are.
5. Man is a hybrid creature, half mule and half angel.
6. In this life, a man has to be either an anvil or a hammer.
7. We do not remember days, we remember moments.
8. As I walk, as I listen, and hear echoes of what I hear, I notice again and again that nations will never decipher one another.
9. We fall in love so easily. Falling is the fun part, it’s the landing that hurts.
10. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
2. How did you come up with the unique structure of the book, featuring multiple possible reading paths?
The unique structure of Hopscotch, with its multiple reading paths, emerged from my desire to challenge traditional narrative conventions and engage readers in a more active role. I wanted to create an interactive reading experience that reflected the complexity and randomness of life itself.
To achieve this, I employed what is known as the “hopscotch” or “non-linear” structure. The book offers two main reading options: a linear path, where chapters are read in their conventional order, and a non-linear path, where readers can follow a specific set of instructions to jump between chapters. These instructions are provided at the end of each chapter, allowing readers to select the sequence and explore different storylines.
I aimed to capture the essence of choice and chance by presenting narratives that could be rearranged, emphasizing the idea that life’s trajectory is not predetermined. By enabling readers to choose their own reading paths, I wanted to encourage a sense of personal involvement and allow for diverse interpretations and experiences of the novel.
In addition to these intentional reading paths, I also included various digressions, tangents, and alternative endings within the text. These elements further contribute to the multi-layered nature of the novel and allow for a more dynamic and unconventional reading experience.
3. What were your main objectives or themes that you wanted to explore through this novel?
One of the primary themes I wanted to explore was the concept of time and its relationship with reality. In my novel, I sought to blur the boundaries between past, present, and future, creating a sense of timelessness and non-linearity. By doing so, I intended to challenge linear storytelling and encourage readers to engage actively in constructing their own interpretation of the narrative.
Another significant objective was to examine the nature of identity and the fluidity of roles we play in society. Through my characters, I explored the idea of multiple identities and how individuals navigate different personas depending on the context. By subverting traditional characterizations, I aimed to provoke thought about the complexity of human beings and the masks we wear in our daily lives.
Additionally, I sought to delve into the realm of the surreal and the fantastic. By incorporating elements of magical realism or unexpected occurrences, I aimed to create an atmosphere of wonder and mystery. This allowed me to explore the limits of rationality and embrace the irrational aspects of the human experience.
Overall, my main objectives as an author were to challenge conventional storytelling approaches, engage readers in active interpretation, and explore themes such as time, identity, and the realms beyond reality.
4. Could you explain the significance behind the title “Hopscotch” and how it relates to the narrative?
The title “Hopscotch” holds great significance in my novel. It refers to the popular children’s game played with chalk-drawn squares on the ground, where players jump from one square to another, avoiding certain designated squares. This concept of movement and choice reflects the narrative structure and philosophical themes explored in the novel.
“Hopscotch” is divided into two parts: a linear narrative, which can be read conventionally from start to finish, and a non-linear narrative that allows readers to hop around and choose their own reading path. This format encourages readers to engage actively with the text, mimicking the playful and interactive nature of the titular game.
The protagonist, Horacio Oliveira, embarks on a quest for meaning and freedom, seeking to escape the confines of a predetermined life. The idea of hopping from one square to another mirrors his journey as he navigates different experiences, relationships, and locations, attempting to find fulfillment.
Furthermore, the act of playing hopscotch involves making choices and facing consequences. Similarly, the novel explores themes of free will, existentialism, and the consequences of our choices. By presenting multiple possible orders to read the chapters, I invite readers to participate in the construction of the narrative, emphasizing the importance of personal agency.
5. Was there a specific reason behind including multiple alternative endings in the book?
The inclusion of multiple alternative endings in Hopscotch was a deliberate creative choice. It served as a reflection of my philosophical and literary beliefs, challenging traditional narrative structures and inviting readers to actively participate in constructing their own interpretations of the story.
By presenting various possible outcomes, I aimed to emphasize the subjectivity of human experience and the complexity of reality. The different endings offered divergent perspectives on the characters’ lives and relationships, allowing readers to imagine different paths and contemplate the consequences of their choices.
Furthermore, the alternative endings reflected my interest in non-linear storytelling and the concept of the “open work.” I wanted to break away from conventional linear narratives and explore the idea that a story can be multifaceted, offering numerous possibilities rather than a single fixed conclusion.
Ultimately, the inclusion of multiple alternative endings in Hopscotch was intended to empower readers, encouraging them to engage actively with the text and consider their own interpretations and conclusions, thus inviting them to become co-creators of the narrative.
6. How did you approach the characterization of the protagonist, Horacio Oliveira? What aspects of his personality did you want to highlight?
I approached the characterization of Horacio Oliveira in a multi-dimensional manner, aiming to highlight various aspects of his personality throughout the narrative. My intention was to create a complex and enigmatic protagonist who is both relatable and intriguing.
In “Hopscotch” (Rayuela), Horacio Oliveira’s character development reflects my desire to explore the themes of existentialism and the search for meaning in life. I wanted to emphasize his introspective nature, his yearning for freedom, and his constant questioning of societal norms and conventions. By doing so, I aimed to delve into the philosophical depths of human existence and challenge readers to reflect on their own lives.
One aspect of Horacio’s personality that I wanted to highlight is his intellectual curiosity. He is an avid reader and thinker, constantly engaging with literature, music, and art. His intellectual pursuits serve as a means of escapism, allowing him to distance himself from the mundane realities of everyday life. Through this, I wanted to convey the power of imagination and the transformative effect it can have on an individual.
Furthermore, Horacio’s introspection and self-reflection are essential elements of his character. He often finds himself questioning his place in the world, examining his beliefs, and searching for deeper meaning. This internal struggle is meant to mirror the broader existential questions that many individuals face. By highlighting these aspects, I intended to create a character with whom readers could empathize and relate.
7. “Hopscotch” is known for its experimental style. Could you discuss the challenges you faced while writing in this unconventional format?
Hopscotch indeed stands out for its experimental style, which posed several challenges during the writing process. One of the main difficulties I encountered was crafting a narrative structure that deviated from traditional linear storytelling. Departing from the conventional beginning-to-end progression, I aimed to create a fragmented narrative where readers could choose their own reading paths.
To achieve this, I incorporated multiple storylines, alternative endings, and various permutations of chapters. This unconventional format required careful planning and organization to ensure coherence and readability. It was important to strike a balance between allowing readers the freedom to explore different paths while maintaining a cohesive and engaging storyline.
Furthermore, the non-linear structure presented challenges in terms of character development and thematic exploration. With the characters appearing across different storylines and chapters, it was essential to maintain consistency in their development and motivations throughout the book. I had to be mindful of ensuring that each storyline contributed meaningfully to the overall themes and ideas I wanted to convey.
Additionally, writing in this unconventional format meant challenging readers’ preconceived notions of how a novel should be read. I wanted to encourage active reader participation and engagement with the text, but at the same time, I needed to provide enough guidance to prevent confusion or disorientation. Achieving this delicate balance was a continuous challenge.
8. Which literary techniques did you employ to engage readers in the interactive aspect of the book?
The structure of Hopscotch offers various reading options and allows the readers to navigate through the book in a non-linear fashion. It consists of 155 chapters divided into three sections. The first two sections can be read traditionally, from start to finish, following a linear narrative. However, the third section disrupts this conventional approach. In this part, I invite readers to choose their own path by providing a set of instructions on how to jump between different chapters, creating an interactive and non-sequential reading experience.
By incorporating this interactive element, I intended to challenge the conventional idea of reading as a passive act. I aimed to actively involve the readers in creating their own unique reading experience, encouraging them to explore different storylines and perspectives within the same novel. This technique allowed for multiple interpretations and encouraged readers to actively participate in constructing the narrative.
Furthermore, I also utilized other literary devices to enhance the interactive aspect of the work. For instance, I included various narrative voices, shifting points of view, and experimental writing styles such as stream-of-consciousness and free association. These techniques add complexity and depth to the storytelling, stimulating reader engagement and encouraging them to interact with the text on multiple levels.
9. Did you have any particular audience in mind when you wrote “Hopscotch”?
I wrote “Hopscotch” with a unique approach that challenged traditional narrative structures and engaged readers in an interactive way. I did not have a specific audience in mind while writing this novel. Instead, my intention was to create a work that would allow readers to experience it from different angles and interpretations.
“Hopscotch” is an unconventional book, featuring multiple possible paths to read and explore the story. I wanted to present readers with a literary game, where they could actively participate by choosing their own reading sequence and encountering various perspectives on the narrative. It was meant to be a book that defied conventional storytelling and encouraged readers to engage in a more active and participatory way.
Therefore, rather than targeting a particular audience, I aimed to spark curiosity and invite readers of all backgrounds and tastes to immerse themselves in the experimental nature of “Hopscotch.” This open-ended approach allows for a wider range of readers to connect with the novel and find their own meaning within its pages.
10. How do you feel “Hopscotch” fits into the overall body of your work? Does it hold a special place for you?
“Hopscotch” holds a unique and significant place within the overall body of my work. It represents a departure from traditional narrative structures and showcases my experimentation with form and storytelling techniques. The novel’s non-linear structure with its multiple possible readings reflects my interest in challenging conventional literary norms.
I view “Hopscotch” as a pivotal work that encapsulates many themes and ideas present throughout my writing career. It explores existential questions, the nature of art and literature, and the complexities of relationships. Through its fragmented narrative and interactive format, it invites readers to actively participate in constructing their own journey through the text.
The book’s innovative structure allows for various reading paths, inviting readers to navigate the story in a nontraditional way. This emphasis on reader agency aligns with my belief in the importance of active engagement and collaboration between the writer and the reader.
In essence, “Hopscotch” exemplifies my approach to literature and my desire to push the boundaries of storytelling. Its unconventional nature and thought-provoking themes make it a work that holds a special place for me within my body of work. It represents both a personal and artistic milestone, reflecting my persistent pursuit of new possibilities in literature.
11. Were there any specific books, authors, or literary movements that influenced you while writing “Hopscotch”?
While writing “Hopscotch” (Rayuela in Spanish), several books, authors, and literary movements influenced my work. One of the primary influences was the Surrealist movement, particularly the works of André Breton and his emphasis on the irrational and subconscious mind.
I was also greatly inspired by the writings of James Joyce, especially his novel “Ulysses,” which challenged traditional narrative structures and experimented with different literary techniques. The stream-of-consciousness style employed by Joyce appealed to me and influenced the fragmented nature of “Hopscotch.”
Furthermore, my engagement with the French nouveau roman or new novel movement had a significant impact on my writing. Authors like Alain Robbe-Grillet and Nathalie Sarraute, known for their focus on objective description and unconventional storytelling, provided insights into ways of breaking away from conventional narrative methods.
Additionally, the Latin American literary tradition played a crucial role in shaping my perspective. I drew inspiration from Jorge Luis Borges’s intricate narratives and his exploration of metaphysical themes. Similarly, the works of Alejo Carpentier and Juan Carlos Onetti, who portrayed the complexities of Latin American society, resonated with me.
12. Can you discuss the role of Paris as a setting in the novel? Why did you choose this city as the backdrop for the story?
Paris holds a significant role as a setting in my novel Hopscotch (Rayuela). I chose this vibrant city as the backdrop for the story due to its rich cultural and artistic heritage, which resonated deeply with the themes I wanted to explore. Paris, known as the “City of Light” and a center of intellectual and artistic activity, provided the perfect atmosphere for depicting the complexities and existential struggles of the characters.
In Hopscotch, Paris symbolizes a space where different cultures converge, creating an environment conducive to intellectual and artistic exploration. The city’s labyrinthine streets and diverse neighborhoods mirror the structure of the book itself, with its multiple narrative paths and alternative reading orders. Like the characters who navigate through the various sections of the novel, Paris becomes a physical manifestation of the non-linear storytelling and the fragmented nature of human experience.
Furthermore, Paris acts as a catalyst for introspection and self-discovery for the characters. Its bohemian ambiance and historical significance inspire them to question societal norms and embark on personal quests for meaning. Paris also serves as a space of chance encounters and fleeting connections, highlighting the transient nature of relationships and the unpredictability of life.
13. Did you intentionally include philosophical ideas and existential themes in “Hopscotch”? If so, why?
Indeed, the inclusion of philosophical ideas and existential themes in my novel “Hopscotch” was intentional and purposeful. I believed that literature should not merely entertain but also challenge and provoke thought. By incorporating these profound concepts, I aimed to explore the complexities of human existence and offer readers a deeper reflection on the nature of life.
Existentialism, with its emphasis on individual freedom, choice, and the search for meaning in an absurd world, greatly influenced my writing. Through the characters and their experiences in “Hopscotch,” I sought to delve into the existential condition and raise questions about identity, alienation, and the struggle for authenticity.
The philosophical ideas woven throughout the novel helped me examine the human condition from various angles, enabling readers to engage with different perspectives. By presenting alternative narrative sequences and encouraging non-linear reading, I aimed to mirror the fragmented nature of reality and invite readers to actively participate in constructing their own interpretations.
Incorporating these themes served another purpose as well — it allowed me to blur the boundaries between fiction and reality. I wanted to challenge traditional storytelling conventions and create an immersive experience where the reader becomes an active participant in the narrative, navigating through the choices and philosophical dilemmas presented in the book.
14. Could you talk about the role of jazz music and other artistic expressions within the narrative?
Jazz music holds a significant presence in the novel, reflecting the my fascination with this genre and its impact on my creative process.
In Hopscotch, jazz serves as a metaphorical and structural framework that parallels the spontaneous and improvisational nature of the narrative itself. I believe that jazz embodied freedom and unpredictability, which I sought to translate into my literary work. The structure of the novel reflects this influence, offering multiple paths and perspectives for readers to explore, mirroring the free-flowing nature of a jazz composition.
The characters in Hopscotch often engage in conversations about jazz, appreciating its complexity and allure. Their discussions center around the essence of jazz as a form of expression, touching upon themes of individuality, rebellion against conventional norms, and the importance of embracing life’s uncertainties.
Furthermore, artistic expressions beyond jazz also play a crucial role in the narrative. I incorporate various art forms such as painting and literature, emphasizing the multidimensional aspect of human experience. These artistic references contribute to the overall texture of the novel, enriching the storytelling and inviting readers to contemplate the relationship between different artistic disciplines.
By integrating jazz music and other artistic expressions, I enhance the sensory experience of the reader, providing a unique aesthetic tapestry that complements and amplifies the themes explored in the narrative of Hopscotch.
15. How important was it for you to address political issues and social contexts within the book?
Addressing political issues and social contexts in my novel “Hopscotch” was of great importance to me. The novel reflects my belief that literature should not exist in isolation from the world but should actively engage with contemporary societal concerns.
In “Hopscotch,” I aimed to explore the complex realities of the time in which I lived, particularly in the context of Latin America during the 1960s. This period was marked by significant political turmoil, social upheaval, and ideological conflicts. By incorporating these elements into the narrative, I sought to provide a nuanced reflection of the society I observed around me.
I viewed literature not only as a means of entertainment but also as a platform for raising awareness, stimulating critical thinking, and fostering dialogue. By addressing political issues and social contexts, I hoped to encourage readers to question prevailing norms, challenge power structures, and reflect upon their own roles within society.
Furthermore, my approach to addressing these topics in “Hopscotch” was nontraditional and experimental. The book is structured in a non-linear manner, allowing readers to choose different paths through the story. This fragmented structure mirrors the fragmented nature of the society I sought to depict, emphasizing the complexity and interconnectedness of political and social issues.
By exploring political themes and social contexts in “Hopscotch,” my intention was to promote a greater understanding of the world we inhabit and inspire readers to think critically about their own relationship to society. I believed that literature had the potential to transcend mere entertainment and serve as a catalyst for change, opening up new perspectives and possibilities for both writer and reader alike.
16. “Hopscotch” has been described as a metafictional work. Can you elaborate on the self-referential elements present in the novel?
“Hopscotch” is indeed considered a metafictional work, known for its self-referential elements that challenge traditional storytelling conventions. One of the most prominent self-referential aspects of the novel is the inclusion of multiple narratives and narrative techniques. The book offers different reading paths or sequences, allowing readers to choose their own order or “hopscotch” through the chapters. This non-linear structure emphasizes the idea that the reader becomes an active participant in the construction of the narrative.
Furthermore, there are explicit references to the act of writing and the nature of fiction itself within the novel. Cortázar inserts himself into the story, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. For example, he invites the reader to imagine various endings or even suggests alternative versions of certain events, highlighting the arbitrary nature of storytelling.
Cortázar also plays with the concept of authorship and the role of the reader. In some sections, he directly addresses the reader, acknowledging their presence and inviting them to actively engage with the text. By breaking the fourth wall and involving the reader in the creation of meaning, Cortázar challenges the traditional notion of passive consumption of literature.
Additionally, the characters in “Hopscotch” often reflect on their own existence as fictional beings. They question their role within the narrative, expressing doubts about their purpose or even discussing the reader’s perception of them. These moments of self-awareness further contribute to the metafictional nature of the novel.
17. Did you have a specific message or takeaway that you wanted readers to grasp from “Hopscotch”?
While it is true that authors often have intentions and messages in their works, I must admit that I intentionally left the interpretation of Hopscotch open-ended. Rather than presenting a specific message or takeaway, I aimed to create an immersive reading experience that allows readers to engage with the text in their own unique way.
Hopscotch is a complex and experimental narrative, written with the idea of multiple paths and potential realities. It offers readers the freedom to choose their reading order, allowing them to create their own literary journey. This non-linear structure gives rise to different interpretations and meanings depending on how one navigates the narrative.
In essence, Hopscotch invites readers to embark on a literary adventure, exploring themes such as existentialism, identity, time, and the role of art in our lives. It encourages readers to question traditional narrative conventions and embrace the unexpected.
Therefore, instead of seeking a definitive message or takeaway, I encourage readers to immerse themselves in the story, follow their instincts, and discover their own personal insights. Each reader’s interpretation becomes valid as they bring their unique perspectives and experiences into the narrative, making ‘Hopscotch’ a collaborative work between the author and the reader.
18. How did your own experiences living in different countries and cultures influence the narrative in “Hopscotch”?
My own experiences living in different countries and cultures had a profound influence on the narrative structure of “Hopscotch” (Rayuela). The novel is known for its non-linear and fragmented style, which reflects the disjointed nature of modern existence and the disorientation one can feel when navigating different cultures.
Having lived in Argentina, France, and other countries, I encountered diverse perspectives, cultural clashes, and linguistic challenges. These experiences shaped my understanding of the complexity of human existence and influenced my narrative choices in “Hopscotch.”
In the novel, I wanted to represent the multi-layered reality of our lives by incorporating various narrative paths and alternative readings. This structure mimics the way our experiences and memories intersect, intertwine, and sometimes contradict each other. By presenting multiple possibilities and allowing readers to choose their own reading order, I aimed to create an immersive and participatory experience that mirrored the richness and plurality of life itself.
Furthermore, my exposure to different languages and cultures allowed me to explore the themes of identity, communication, and translation within the novel. Characters in “Hopscotch” often struggle to understand each other, both linguistically and culturally, reflecting the challenges I faced while living abroad. These encounters with different worldviews became a source of inspiration, enabling me to infuse my writing with a sense of cultural hybridity and intertextuality.
19. What kind of reader experience were you aiming for with this book, particularly considering its non-linear structure?
I aimed to create a unique and immersive reader experience with Hopscotch, taking into account its non-linear structure. By incorporating this unconventional narrative style, my intention was to challenge traditional storytelling and engage readers in an active role.
With Hopscotch, I wanted to inspire readers to participate actively in the construction of the story. The book offers multiple possible paths and reading orders, allowing readers to choose their own adventure. Through this non-linear structure, I aimed to encourage readers to explore different sequences, jump between chapters, and create their personal connections within the text.
The fragmented nature of the novel also mirrors the complexity of human experiences and the unpredictability of life itself. By presenting a disjointed narrative, I sought to capture the essence of how our thoughts and memories often unfold in a non-linear manner. This approach invites readers to reflect on the fluidity of time, the subjective nature of reality, and the interconnectedness of various themes and characters within the story.
Furthermore, the non-linear structure of Hopscotch encourages readers to actively participate in deciphering the underlying meanings and themes. It challenges them to make connections, draw interpretations, and construct their own understanding of the text. This interactive and exploratory aspect aims to enhance the reader’s engagement and provide a more personalized and thought-provoking reading experience.
20. Finally, can you recommend more books like Hopscotch?
“The Knight In Rusty Armor” by Robert Fisher. Delving into the realm of allegory, this enchanting tale takes readers on a transformative journey filled with self-discovery, love, and the quest for authenticity.
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. Its exploration of themes such as individuality, human nature, and the dangers of unchecked scientific progress reminds us to critically examine the society we live in and the values we hold dear, while emphasizing the importance of preserving our humanity in an increasingly mechanized world.
“Of Mice And Men” by John Steinbeck. It takes readers on a compelling journey through the lives of two displaced men during the Great Depression. Set against the backdrop of 1930s America, Steinbeck masterfully explores themes of loneliness, friendship, dreams, and the harsh realities faced by the marginalized members of society.