This one is quite the read. Comprising over 150 chapters, the book can either be read one of two ways: 1.) The reader navigates the first 50 or so chapters in a linear fashion, and then stops, putting the book down. Or, 2.) The reader follows the prescribed order of chapters, which takes one through all the chapters in what may seem to be a random order, jumping from one chapter to another. You might read chapter 73, then, at the end of the chapter there might be the number 16, indicating to read that chapter next, and so on and so forth.
Highly experimental, the book follows a Mr. Oliveira as he lives his life with a group of bohemians in Paris. The second part of the book has him traveling home to Argentina to look for a lover, only to end up working for a circus and then at a mental institution. Still with me?
The novel is full of stream-of-consciousness writing, and is a doozy to read. Many of the “expendable” chapters reveal the author’s encyclopedic knowledge on a wide array of topics and fields, supplementing the primary text nicely. This book has actually been labeled a “counter-novel”, in that it challenges and subverts what a conventional novel proposes to be.
Written by the revered Argentine writer Julio Cortazar, it was a blast to read this novel while on vacation in Argentina. Though it is a challenging read, it was definitely rarely dull. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the intersection between world literature and experimental, post-modern literature.