For Argentina I brought a battered copy of Hopscotch (Rayuela) by Julio Cortazar. I tried reading it when I was younger, but got lost in the intoxicating wordplay and literary references. Now that I'm older, I've grown to enjoy getting lost in the novel.
The story centers around Horacio Oliveira, an Argentine living a fragmentary life in Paris and the Buenos Aires. As Cortázar makes clear, the text does not depend on any chronological order. The many episodes from Oliveira's life can be read in any variety of sequences without altering the gist of the novel. Literary and philosophical meditations abound in this intellectual's story. It is a very literary novel, in every sense, and literature is central to it, from the name-dropping of countless authors to the influences various works exert. Jazz also plays a role, and politics and specifically the state of Argentina and the state of exile. Its a beautiful story of love, of heady intellectualism, and glowing Argentinian aesthetics.
A beautiful passage with Olivera and La Maga romancing in Paris:
I touch your mouth, I touch the edge of your mouth with my finger, I am drawing it as if it were something my hand was sketching, as if for the first time your mouth opened a little, and all I have to do is close my eyes to erase it and start all over again, every time I can make the mouth I want appear, the mouth which my hand chooses and sketches on your face, and which by some chance that I do not seek to understand coincides exactly with your mouth which smiles beneath the one my hand is sketching on you.
You look at me, from close up you look at me, closer and closer and then we play cyclops, we look closer and closer at one another and our eyes get larger, they come closer, they merge into one and the two cyplopses look at each other, blending as they breathe, our mouths touch and struggle in gentle warmth, biting each other with their lips, barely holding their tongues on their teeth, playing in corners where a heavy air comes and goes with an old perfume and a silence. Then my hands go to sink into your hair, to cherish slowly the depth of your hair while we kiss as if our mouths were filled with flowers or with fish, with lively movements and dark fragrance. And if we bite each other the pain is sweet, and if we smother each other in a brief and terrible sucking in together of our breaths, that momentary death is beautiful. And there is but one saliva and one flavor of ripe fruit, and I feel you tremble against me like a moon on the water.