Julio Cortazar (Argentina, 1914)
Los Premios/ The Winners (1960)
Rayuela/ Hopscotch (1963) is the story of Horacio Oliveira, an Argentine intellectual adrift in the decadent and international world of the arts, first in Paris and then in Buenos Aires. His cynical, vain, empty persona is the focus of the story. Cortazar writes in a poetic style that weds Ginsberg with Proust and experiments with several narrative techniques (even alternating lines of two different narratives). The novel is also littered with references to painters, musicians, writers, The novel is augmented with a number of "expendable chapters", that the reader can link to the official chapters. They offer much more "poetry", lots of letters by the imaginary writer Morelli, and lots of quotes. In many ways the "expendable" chapters are essential to understand Cortazar's eccentric universe. The real first chapter begins with the epic sentence "Yes, but who will cure us of the dull fire"...
The action moves to Buenos Aires, where Horacio rejoins his old friend Traveler and his wife Talita. They work in the circus and find him a job. The circus is traded for a mental institution and they all get a job in the mental institution. And they hardly notice the difference of having to deal with crazy people. Horacio even suspects that the mad people are just pretending, but in reality are no more crazy than he and his friends. Horacio is losing his mind, though, reminescing his time with La Maga. He begins to have visions of La Maga everywhere and eventually begins to think that Talita is La Maga, to the point of making love to her. Gone completely mad, Horacio even climbs on the roof and threatens to kill himself.
Throughout the novel, the game of Hopscotch is used as a metaphor for the adventures of the group.