March 9, 2015

Hopscotching throughout Paris: one photographer’s celebration of Cortázar


The latest ode to the hopscotch as inspired by Julio Cortázar’s dizzyingly structure-less novel of the same name is the photography project by Hugo Passarello, now on display at the Lycée Français in an exhibit titled “Unexpected Photo Essay on Cortázar.”

To echo the spirit of Hopscotch, Passarello focused on the collaboration between text and image, the playfulness of a hopscotch, and the participatory format of the novel. From 2013 to 2014, he took portraits throughout Paris of those who had a personal relationship to Cortázar and to the book. Each portraitee had to choose a passage, give the reason for choosing it, and pose in the spot echoed in the text. By August in 2014—the year Cortázar would have turned 100—Passarello had taken a total of 70 black-and-white portraits that produced its own episodic narrative and rhythm. Three elements converged: the piece of text, the person who’d chosen the passage, and the portion of Paris as described by these words.

Passarello began “Rayuela” (Hopscotch) as a small project to spread love for the Argentine writer and Hopscotch among strangers, but soon it grew into something expansive, and generous, when more volunteers eagerly asked to participate. Among them were Cortázar’s best friend, Julio Silva, and the critic, writer, and reader and friend to BorgesAlberto Manguel.

My favorite among the selection featured in the New York Times Lens Blog is the text chosen by Raquel Thiercelin, a close friend of Cortázar and professor of Spanish literature:

. . . they would agree to meet there and they almost always found each other. The meetings were so incredible at times that Oliveira once more brought up the problem of probability and examined the case cautiously from all angles. La Maga could not possibly have decided to turn that corner of the Rue de Vaugirard at the precise moment in which he, five blocks down the street, decided not to go along the Rue de Buci. . . .

In her portrait, Thiercelin is in the outdoor space of Bar du Marché, a thoughtful, lone figure sitting among strangers, waiting for her friend, Julio Cortázar, to show up.


Wah-Ming Chang was the managing editor of Melville House.