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Playing “Hopscotch” with Julio Cortázar

I ONCE MET A MAN who claimed he always read the last paragraph of any novel before he turned to page one. “I want to make sure it has a good ending,” he explained. “Otherwise why invest the effort?”

Julio Cortázar has left even bolder suggestions for readers of his experimental novel Hopscotch, published 50 years ago today, June 28. He invites them to start the novel at chapter 73 and then proceed through the novel’s 155 sections in a prescribed order — Cortázar gives a list of the alternative sequence in his “Table of Instructions” — leaping back and forth in the book, until they finally finish, having already read 132 through 155, with chapter 131. To make matters more interesting, he asks readers to skip chapter 55 completely (I will admit I cheated and read it anyway), and to read one of the chapters twice.

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