The Hitchhiking Game by Milan Kundera, 1969
The magic trick:
Breaking the story up into 12 small chapters
“The Hitchhiking Game” is broken into 12 short chapters, emphasizing the story’s central theme: the truth can shift – especially emotional truth – by the hour, so be careful! One minute you’re trying out a fun role-playing game with your girlfriend, the next minute you’re attacking her in a motel room and nothing about your relationship will ever be the same again. It’s a fine line, my friends, a fine line.
Hopefully it’s not a line most of us ever actually have to walk, but it’s one toed by the couple in this rather unpleasant little story. The chapter breaks help accentuate the changes in their relationsip. It’s as if every time we pick up with the story in a new scene, the couple has taken on new roles or come to some new, darker realization about what they want in a relationship and who they are in this one. And that’s quite a trick on Kundera’s part.
She had never undressed like this before. The shyness, the feeling of inner panic, the dizziness, all that she had always felt when undressing in front of the young man (and she couldn’t hide in the darkness), all this was gone. She was standing in front of him self-confident, insolent, bathed in light, and astonished at her sudden discovery of the gestures, heretofore unknown to her, of a slow, provocative striptease. She took in his glances, slipping off each piece of clothing with a caressing movement and enjoying each individual stage of this exposure.
But then suddenly she was standing in front of him completely naked, and at this moment it flashed through her head that now the whole game would end, that since she had stripped off her clothes, she had also stripped away her dissimulation, and that being naked meant that she was now herself and the young man ought to come up to her now and make a gesture with which he would wipe out everything and after which would follow only their most intimate lovemaking. So she stood naked in front of the young man and at that moment stopped playing the game. She felt embarrassed, and on her face appeared the smile that really belonged to her: a shy and confused smile.