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The Appography Group

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William Franco
William Franco

The Erotic Traveler !!EXCLUSIVE!!

The episodes of this anthology series center around erotic photographer Marissa Johnson and her pupil Allison Kraft, two young women who use photographs and works of art to take episodic settings all over the world.

The Erotic Traveler


As one of the seminal novels of the Latin Americanliterary “boom,” Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela(1963; translated into English asHopscotch in 1966) has been analyzed and discussed from countless angles,yet most of these readings do not examine the novel beyond that tradition.[1]If we examine Hopscotch as part of aself-reflexive and ludic tradition which includes such works as Laurence Sterne’sTristram Shandy and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer,[2]we can see two reasons for the novel’s openness to readings: the first is thevarious orders in which the chapters can be read; the second is the continuallychanging relationship between the narrator and its readers. The openness of thetext contributes to its seductiveness; the reader is drawn into the textthrough an erotics that focuses not on the primary sex organs, but on language.Through this shift, Cortázar provides us with an opportunity to read the textitself as a seduction of the reader; the hands and the mouth are centers oflanguage, the written and the spoken. The entire novel can thus be seen as theerotic relationship between narrator and constructed reader, both of whom aregendered male; however, this type of “love” relationship is an ingenious gamein which experiencing the bliss of the text involves losing and being ledaround the novel at the author’s whim.

One of the two points upon which the critics of Hopscotch generally agree is that thenovel is a game. The other point of agreement is one of omission: the fact thatthere has not been a serious investigation of the complex erotics of thenovel’s form.[5]The ludic critics differ greatly on how to win, if winning is even possible; onwhat constitutes victory or theend of the game; and on why the other strategies result in failure. The onlyreading that contains a potential winning move is that of the female-reader.[6]If one takes the novel seriously as agame—and the switch in title from Mandalato Rayuela suggests that weshould—then the female-reading is the only one which provides a possiblewinning move; it allows the actual reader to exit, which in this novelconstitutes victory at the simplest level of playing. The extent to whichgaming plays a part in Hopscotch suggestsan intense relationship between narrator and constructed reader. DespiteCortázar’s own request for passionate readers, critics generally present therelationship between the narrator and the constructed reader in formal terms,namely as a coproduction, not as a seduction or romance; however, unless weplay desperately and passionately, even though we lose, we cannot experiencethe bliss of the text.

The extensive role of play in Hopscotch creates an intimacy between the narrator and constructedreader, which, as close analysis reveals, is highly eroticized. Since the onlyreal player within the novel is the male-reader (the female-reader is notreally a player because she is notconscious of being in the game), the erotics are performed between men. In Hopscotch, the “readers”—Oliveira,Étienne, Gregorovius, Perico, Ronald, Wong—are all men, and all are members ofthe Serpent Club. They meet to discuss literature written almost exclusively bymen. They are us, the “critical readers.” The name of the club is itself a signfor the critical reader, with many potential referents. Besides being anobvious phallic image, the serpent is also a reference to Honoré de Balzac,who is mentioned twice in the novel (403, 435).[28]The epigraph to Balzac’s novel The MagicSkin (1831) is Corporal Trim’s cane flourish from Tristram Shandy (1759-67), which Balzac describes as serpentine.Thus, through Balzac, the serpent ultimately refers back to Tristram Shandy, whose title characteris also mentioned in Hopscotch. TheSerpent Club is a group of male readers, joined under a phallic symbol, readingbooks generally by men, and, in the case of TristramShandy, one which focuses on the playful and flirtatious relationshipbetween narrator and constructed male-reader.

Besides discussing literature, one of the SerpentClub’s other passions is jazz. While they are listening to Louis Armstrong, thenarrator describes the music in sexual terms: “then the trumpet’s flaming up,the yellow phallus breaking the air and having fun, coming forward and drawingback … pure hypnotic gold, a perfect pause where all the swing of the worldwas beating in an intolerable instant, and then the supersharp ejaculationslipping and falling like a rocket in the sexual night” (51-52). The trumpetis described as a “phallus” and the music as “ejaculation.” Since it isOliveira and the other male members of the Serpent Club who, within the novel,are los lectores cómplices (accomplicereaders/male-readers), they are the ones who absorb the music. They are theones who are being penetrated byArmstrong’s trumpet/phallus. This passage represents one of Cortázar’s theoriesof art: art acts upon its audience (which is not to say that the audience doesnot also cooperate in the text). The homoerotic passage also connects Hopscotch with Tropic of Cancer (1961);[33]Henry Miller is listening to a piece by Claude Debussy, which spurs him tocontemplate what it would feel like to be a woman during sex: “I find myselfwondering what it feels like, during intercourse, to be a woman—whether thepleasure is keener, etc. Try to imagine something penetrating my groin, buthave only a vague sensation of pain.”[34]In both works, the music of a male composer or performer is described in termsof male sexuality and penetration by the hearer who is both a male and amale-reader.

As we examine Hopscotchcloser, the role of Tropic of Cancer becomesmore evident. Barbara Hussey cites the absence of chapter fifty-five in themale-reading as the presence of silence and the void, which are the death ofliterature: “Book one is the quantity from which book two ‘subtracts,’ as itpursues a process that adds to its volume while undermining the foundations ofArt.”[35]Hussey’s comment about Cortázar’s desire to undermine art recalls Miller’s desireto “spit in the face of Art.”[36]Miller’s presence in the novel is subtle, but should not be dismissed. Even thename Morelli could be an anagrammatic pun on Miller.[37]Miller is mentioned twice in Hopscotch:Gregorovius likes the Serpent Club because the members are “given over to thereading of Carson McCullers, Miller, Raymond Queneau” (45); later, Oliveiramakes a casual reference to American tourists, who have “their Sade, theirMiller” (463). While his final reference may seem derogatory, in an essay of1969 entitled “/que sepa abrir la puerta para ir a jugar” (“/who knows how toopen the door and go out and play”), Cortázar describes at length the role ofMiller in the construction of both the erotic and the Argentinean literarysensibilities.[38]

Besides the associations with crabs, Oliveira is alsoassociated with the astrological sign Cancer, and thus the disease as well.Traveler states that “Horacio is Cancer, isn’t he?,” to which Talita answers,“If he isn’t, he deserves to be” (520).[39]Talita’s response that Oliveira “deserves” to be a Cancer does not make muchsense when one looks at the attributes of the sign: nurturer, maternal, highlysensitive.[40]The only attributes of Cancer that fit Oliveira are “dreamy,” “artistic,”“imaginative,” “despondent,” and “self-indulgent.”[41]Considerably more significant, to both Oliveira and Tropic of Cancer, are the metaphorical associations of the disease.Susan Sontag, in Illness as Metaphor,describes cancer cells as “cells that have shed the mechanism which ‘restrains’growth.… Cells without inhibitions.”[42]Oliveira’s encounter with the prostitute under the Paris bridge and hisinterest in anal eroticism[43]support the idea that he is a man “without inhibition,” and thus much like theprotagonist of Tropic of Cancer,Henry Miller.

Hopscotch,like Tristram Shandy and Tropic of Cancer, moves well beyond thehomosocial into the homoerotic. Although one could certainly call Hopscotch homosocial, the term as EveSedgwick defines it is too vague to suggest the degree of male-male interactionthat I see in the interactions between the narrator and the male-reader.[45]In one of the few discussions concerning the erotics of Hopscotch, Margery A. Safir argues that “anal intercourse is anerotic act par excellence, for physiologically it has no possibility ofresulting in conception. Anal intercourse is governed, moreover, by especiallydeep-seated taboos, since it suggests homosexual relations and since it alsoaffirms a relationship which societal decorum prefers to ignore—therelationship between genitalia and excreta.”[46]Safir, unfortunately, avoids discussing what the consequences might be for therelationship between the male narrator and the male-reader. If nothing else, afocus on anal intercourse allows the text to be read bisexually. If thenarrative is governed by an anal erotics, then either the male-reader or thefemale-reader could be the recipient of the narrator’s words (semes). It isonly through the alienation of the female-reader, by not allowing her to be a“player,” that the male-reader is shown to be the desired reader.

The one chapter which truly addresses the reader as“you” appears early, before the designation of male- and female-readers: if oneis reading as the female-reader, it is the seventh chapter and if one reads asthe male reader it is the thirteenth. While we might at first be compelled todefine the “you” as the female-reader, once we realize that the narrator isonly concerned with his male-readers, we must reevaluate our definition andconsider that the “you” may be the male-reader: “I touch your mouth, I touchthe edge of your mouth with my finger … our mouths touch and struggle in gentlewarmth, biting each other with their lips, barely holding their tongues ontheir teeth.… And if we bite each other the pain is sweet, and if we smothereach other in a brief and terrible sucking in together of our breaths, thatmomentary death is beautiful … and I feel you tremble against me like a moon onthe water” (33). Chapter seven represents Cortázar at his most seductive; thereader is drawn into the text through an erotics that focuses not on theprimary sex organs, but on the mouth and the hand. By shifting the focus of theseduction, Cortázar provides us with an opportunity to read the text itself asa seduction of the reader; the hands and the mouth are centers of language, thewritten and the spoken. Therefore, the entire novel can be seen as the “love”between narrator and reader. Furthermore, the chapter does not specify the sexof the reader; thus, at this point, the reader may be either male or female.[47] 041b061a72


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