I think Julio Cortazar just wanted to mess with people.
A book of his, Rayuela, was published in 1963 and it is a fairly unique beast. It manages to successfully pull off the trick of being both a novel and an anti-novel simultaneously.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, an anti-novel (or antinovel) is a book which is novel-length and tells a story in a way that intentionally bypasses one or more traditional structural points of a novel like characterization or plot. In this case, it’s the structure itself which Cortazar decided to challenge.
The book was designed as a set of 155 small chapters, and the reader is given two different pathways through them. First, there’s the standard way, which makes the book a traditional novel. The first 56 chapters, read in sequence, provide the story of Horacio Olivera. The remaining 99 are unnecessary, but can be read as supplemental pieces to the main storyline.
Then there’s the alternative way. This gives a path for the reader which is designed by the author to present a somewhat different story than what results from reading straight through from left to right. Following that path sends a reader from chapter 2 to chapter 116 and back to chapter 3, jumping through the book in a precise way that looked arbitrary.
And, because he was playful, Cortazar also suggested that people just wend their own way through it and see what resulted. The playfulness was reflected in the title; translated from Spanish to English, “Rayuela” becomes “Hopscotch”.
Question of the night: Who is one of your favorite writers?