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Juan José Arreola and the Twentieth Century Short Story Author(s): Seymour Menton Source: Hispania, Vol.

Juan José Arreola and the Twentieth Century Short Story Author(s): Seymour Menton Source: Hispania, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Sep., 1959), pp. 295-308 Published by: American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese

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JUAN JOSE ARREOLA AND THE TWENTIETH CENTURY SHORT STORY

SEYMOURMENTON

University of Kansas

The first half of the twentieth century

has seen the

short story as a full-fledged literarygenre.'

Peculiarly adapted

of life and to our mass means of communi-

cation, the short story

challenged

addition

form, it has been the evolution of

emergence

and

triumph of the

to our accelerated tempo

has

intrigued

and

the best writersof our times. In

to its more varied and

polished

subject

story lofty status today. The anecdotal its

slow-moving

unexpected ending perfected

to

and the

of Chekhov have given

matter that has enabled the short

attain its

tale with

by De Maupassant

character sketch

way

twentieth

Quiroga's presentation

tween man and nature in northeasternAr-

be-

with Horacio

to more transcendental themes. The

century opened

of the

struggle

gentina. This criollismowas later extended

to

became

a vehicle for

and

techniques and inspiration from Dos Pas-

the short story enlarged its

sos' U.S.A.,

the 1930's

and in

include the

struggle

many cases the short

of

man againstman,

story

surrealistic

social protest. In

the

aid of

1940's, with

scope to include a panoramic view of an

entire nation. Today the writer goes even

further and in a very few pages is capable

of encompassing our whole world society.

The

kept

pace with the many changing isms of world

literature without losing their individuali-

ty. However, today they are faced with the

dilemma of being called passis for continu-

to treat timeworn criollo themes or

ing

xenophiles for attempting to search for

possible solution

to this dilemma is presented in the works

of Juan Jose Arreola, Varia invencidn and

Confabulario (Mexico, 1952), which con- stitute to a certain extent a compendium of

more universal themes. A

Spanish

American authors have

295

the modem short story.

The epigraph of Confabulario is the key

mudo espio,

to

mientras

The Mexican Arreola'swide

its

understanding: "

alguien

voraz a mi me observa."

knowledge

of

literature makes him a true man of the

twentieth century, an eclectic, who at will can draw upon the best of all who have

mas-

preceded him in order to create truly terful works of art which in turn will be

contrast be-

tween the

(".

a

position of the sensitive artistin this fierce-

ly

Arreola

presents the

After thus

seized upon by others. The

adjectives

mudo

espio,

mi me observa") indicates the

.

. mudo

mientras

defining

and

voraz

alguien voraz

precarious

position,

a

collection of

mechanized and commercialized society.

his

reader with

thirty short stories whose

theme

of this

variety

in both

and style exemplify

genre

the attainments

century. the world, Arreola

in the twentieth

of

of

In his

concept

moves from the depths of existentialistdes-

pair to the placid skepticism

ism. In "Autrui," the influence of Sartre's

No exit is

form of a one-week

feels himself pursued by Autrui, his fellow

man. By Tuesday, he is trapped in a dead-

end street. On

in his room. On

enclosed in a

Sunday his body has entered into

position. In one short page, Arreola has

created the same anguish and despair

the Argentinean Eduardo Mallea achieves

in the long short storiesof La ciudad junto

al rio inmovil. Although the existentialist

conceives of society as an inexorable strug-

gle of lonely

er,

diary, the protagonist

magic

real-

quite apparent. Written in the

he is locked up

up

hexagonal cartridge and by

Thursday,

Saturday, he

wakes

decom-

that

individuals against one anoth-

he does not even hope for any solace in

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296

HISPANIA

death and he cannot

blind behavior which hastens his own end.

"Topos," one of the severalanimal stories

that help

as though it were an agronomist'sreport

with the solution to the problem of At first, the reader is inclined to

smile at the pseudo-scientificobjectivity of

the prose,

moles.

dealing

but ridiculeman's

help

explain the book's title, is written

but

this

very

same objectivity

makes him recoil and shudder at the au-

vision of modern man.

thor's

The falrmers

device for eliminating moles by

them with

moles commit suicide familiar holes in the

now been extended to the volcanic center

which have

by entering into their

The naive

Dantesque

have hit upon an infallible

their

own system.

ground

trapping

of the earth where in large numbers they

are burned to ashes.

needed for each hectare of land. It is

six holes are

Only

quite

clear that Arreola'sintent is to paint

picture of twentieth-century man reducing

his own inven-

himself to

tions too far.

envisions the self-de-

struction of man,

be an existentialist's interpretation of

the

ashes by pushing

Just as "Topos"

"Nada mais

que

"La caverna"

might well

death.

horror, espacio puro y

with which the cavern is

82). The mathe-

vacio" (Confabulario, p.

matical precision

and two hundred

meters long by eight meters in width, is in

strange contrast to the lack of knowledge

about its true character.

man

knows its exact dimensions,

its "espaciopuro, la nada

La nada en

ciscara de piedra. Piedra jaspeada y lisa. Con polvo de muerte" (Ibid., p. 83).

anguish existentialist stories is

despair of these three tempered somewhat

by Arreola'ssense of humor in

although

ing.

of

two or

three deteriorated attitudes, the

declareshis

er be bound by

However, precisely because of its pompous-

described, egg-shaped

Although

he cannot

help

but be horrified by

en su c6nclava mudez

The

and

"Libertad,"

the end effect is equally devastat-

by

the

allegorical figures

Surrounded

a few

unsatisfied desires and

protagonist

independence. He will no long-

his

obligations to society.

ness,

onist returns to his work. The humor lies in the fact that this work consists of the revision of a constitution to be

on the next

day As the man continues

juridical prose, he hears the "Marseillaise."

Arreola's interpretation of

laboring over his vague strains of

the declaration fails

and the

protag-

presented General Assembly.

to the

Nowhere

is

the world at the

presented than in the

guardagujas." In this

story which consists almost

a dialogue between a would-be passenger

waiting

Arreola succeeds in

satire on

Mexican

phy

at the trains

that do not follow the

for tunnels and bridges that have not been

pre-

gers, the incredible

the hordes of the trains, the

the time-honored practice of

off the trainswhile they are still in motion.

In a broader sense, the fantastic incidents

recounted

constitute Arreola's answer to twentieth-

century materialismand existentialism. He

ruefully recognizes

of all possible worlds and ridicules those

people who are so absorbedin it that

can never shake themselves loose from its

whirlwind

his attitude is more Mexican in that, rather

than

without particularlycaring

on the train

itself is no mean feat and should be

ated. Why despair when no matter what

trip, man is capable of

one occasion, the abyss over which

deep

appreci-

may occur on

aboard

the train of life

about the destination.

mid-century

mark better

realism of "El

magic relatively long short

exclusively of

for a train

the very

railways

On

and an old switchman,

blending beautifully

a

real

irregularities

of the

with a fantastic philoso-

the realistic

plane,

the au-

the

plans

of life.

thor is

apparentlypoking fun

the

timetables,

approved even by ferred treatment

engineers, the

given to

first-class passen-

lack of courtesy among

people attempting

venality

of

the

the

to board

police and

getting on and

by

strange old switchman

that this is not the best

they

pace. However, at the same time,

getting

despair, he advocates

Getting

the

adapting himself? On

train arrived at a

there was no bridge.

the train apart,carriedthe individual pieces

passengers took

The

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JUAN JOSE ARREOLA

297

acrossthe abyss, reassembledthe train and

continued on their aimless voyage. The

important

place. Fixed destinationsare utterly

lous becausesome passengers arrivewithout

even

realizing it. The story train pulls into the station

old switchman

As the prospective passenger looks after

him, he

bolic wisdom of these words that may have

come from the mouth of a madman.

undoubtedly wonders at the sym-

disappears down the tracks.

ends as the real and the strange

American society is taken to task in "Baby H.P." Written in the style of a high- powered radio or television commercial,

thing is that the train go some

ridicu- "Baby H.P." portrays the American enter-

a

prising spirit as capable of converting the boundless energy of babies into electrical

ama de

power. "Sefiora usted en fuerza motriz la vitalidad de sus nifios. Ya tenemos a la venta el maravilloso Baby H.P., llamado a revolucionarla eco- nomia hogarefia"(Ibid., p. 86). The cold logic of the advertisementbears a striking resemblanceto Jonathan Swift's "AModest

Proposal

casa: convierta

."

While studying the mechanized aspects

of twentieth-century society, Arreola does

not overlook personaltragedy.Marriage, in

particular, appears to be the great source

"El

rinoceronte," the ex-wife of Judge McBride

tells how she struggled for ten years with her rhinoceros-likehusband before obtain-

ing a divorce. She is

completely

tamed by his secondwife Pamela. Although

this story, like almostall of Arreola'sis told

without

senses the bitterness of the narratorwhen

she

lo que

completely

enjoys seeing

domesticated, the first Mrs. McBride sub- consciously envies Pamela'ssuccessand can-

not

failure.

close

drawing Judge McBride and

gives

tales of Rafael

when

part, into an animal,

pears to be the source of

Kafka's

wakes

insect. Compare

Arreola's

transformedinto

the

"Pueblerina":

of

unhappiness and frustration. In

apparentlyvery happy

that the rhinoceros has been

any sentimentality at all, the reader

"Renunci6 al amorantes de saber

Although she

says:

era" (Ibid., p. 14).

the rhinoceros

help but contrast it with her own

a

between

parallel a rhinoceros, Arreola

recognition to the psycho-zoological

a man

Ar6valo Martinez.However,

is

actually transformed, in

then Franz Kafka ap-

inspiration.

In

Metamorphosis, Gregor

Samsa

up

one

morning to find himself

first

two

a

huge

paragraphs of

In

As GregorSamsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed

At times benign, at times mordant, the

a philosophical

some of man's imperfections. In

University

passing

of

Luis

camel

graduate student

of Minnesota is the

skepticism developed on

scale in "El guardagujas" is the predominant

attitude present in several stories that

par-

ticularize

"En verdad os digo," a science-fiction story

reminiscent of the

Argentinean Jorge Borges, Arreola satirizes scientific research

and compares the

through the eye of a needle to the passing

of the rich through the narrow gateway to

heaven. In "De balistica," one of the least

subtle of the stories, a

from the

target of the author'swit. Caricaturizedal-

most to the extent of the Americansin the

Mexican Rafael Mufioz' "Asalto al tren" and the EcuadoreanAlfonso GarciaMufioz'

"Asi se habla espafiol," this researchscholar

is not so much interestedin

truth about Roman weapons as he

finding enough material for a dissertation

and several lectures. He

beauty of the

in

is in

"El sol se habla

airido

paisaje numantino.

Merdancho, brillaba una nostalgia de rio.

Los serafinesdel

sobre invisibles aldeas. Y maestro y disci-

pulo se quedaroninm6viles, eternizados por

un

bloques erraticos

sAceo" (Ibid., p. 100). Not merely one American but all of

discovering

is

the

in

is

completely ob- ruins of Nu-

livious to the mancia which

are described by the author

whose

poetic style

story:

one final paragraph

sharp

contrastto the rest of the

puesto ya

En el

Angelus

sobre el

cauce seco del

lejos,

volaban a lo

instantineo

recogimiento, como dos el

bajo

crepiisculo gri-

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298

in his bed into a

on his hard, as it were armor-plated,back and

when he lifted his head a little he could see

his dome-like brown belly divided into stiff

arched segments on top of which the bed quilt

could hardlykeep in position and was about to

His numerous legs, which

slide off

HISPANIA

gigantic

insect. He was

lying

lain. In this nuptial prose poem full of

honeyed words-"Sobre el lecho revuelto, encima de la profunda alteraci6n de las almohadas, comouna nube de moscasflotan

palabras mis densas y cargadasque el iloe

y

y

la brisa matinal orea

con su lengua ligera pesadas masasde cara-

melo.

entre sus pechos. Doncella melindrosa-

parece que la oigo c6mo pide mimos y

caricias, desfalleciente de amor" (Ibid.,

84)-in

eyed words, the maid predicts that the bride

will soon be who will seek

The maid knows because not so long ago,

when she was only

was seduced by this

completely.

helplessly

were pitifully thin, compared to the rest of.his

bulk,

el

de

incienso. El aire esta Ileno de te adoro

paloma mia

la rosaen bot6n

que ella llevaba

p.

this nuptial prosepoem full of hon-

abandoned by her husband

new pleasures elsewhere.

fifteen years old, she

very

same man.

lasting happiness seems to be in

newlyweds of "Apuntes de un

as in "Epitalamio,"

In this

waved

dormirel

before

his eyes.2

tuvo

que

Al voltear la cabeza sobre el lado derecho

hltimo, breve y delgado suefio

hacer

empiton6 la almohada.

para

de

un gran esfuerzo y

Abri6 los ojos. Lo que

blanda sospecha, se volvi6 certeza puntiaguda.

la mafiana, don Fulgencio

hastaentoncesfuerauna

Con un poderoso movimientodel cuello don

la almohada vo16

por los aires. Frente al

tarsesu admiraci6n,convertidoen un soberbio

ejemplar

Profundamente insertados en

cuernoseran

jaspeados

a la mitad, y de un negro aguzado en los ex-

tremos

Fulgenciolevant6la cabeza,y

espejo, no pudo ocul-

y

espl4ndidas agujas.

la

frente,

los

de rizadotestuz

blanquecinos en su base,

(Confabulario,p. 33).

As Don Fulgencio's consciousnessof his

horns grows, the

employed by

reaches a

protagonist.

bull-fight terminology

the author increases until it

crescendo with the death of the

A fuerza de pinchazos,varasy

garapullos, don

Fulgenciodisfrutabasangriascotidianasy pom-

posas hemorragias dominicales. Pero todos los

derramesse le ibanhacia dentro, hastael coraz6n hinchadode rencor.

Su cuello gruesoy cgrto de Miurahaciapre- plet6ricos. Re-

sentir el instantineofin de los

choncho y sanguineo,seguia embistiendoen todas

direcciones,incapazde reposoy de dieta.Y un

dia que cruzabala Plaza de Armas,trotando a la

querencia, don Fulgencio se detuvo y

cabeza azorado, al toque

levant6la

de un lejano clarin.El

sonido se acercaba,entrandoen

sus

orejascomo

unatrombaensordecedora.Conlosojosnublados,

vi6 abrirsea su alrededorun coso

comoun Vallede

gigantesco;algo

asi

con trajes de luces. La

Josafat lleno de pr6jimos

congesti6n se

hundi6

como una estocada

luego en su espina dorsal,

hasta la cruz. Y don Fulgencio rod6 patas arriba

sin puntilla(Ibid.,pp. 35-36).

superb artistry of the au-

of

personaltragedy whose wife is unfaithful.

Never does the authorso much as insinuate

Don Fulgencio

any marital difficulties, but the sudden ap-

pearance of horns on Don Fulgencio's head

gives mean-

ing to the story.

is the unmistakable sign which

thor is blended with the

Here again the

In quite a different vein is "Epitalamio,"

where the man is considered to be the vii-

A more

store for the

rencoroso." However,

the protagonist is the third person.

rejected suitor

who, like

Abel Sdnchez, recordshis feelings of envy.

is based on

marine

rencorosois

endlessly tormented. "Y entretanto, hago

sefiales desesperadas desde mi roca de nau-

insomnio.

Clamo a la oscuridad.Lento como un buzo,

recorrola noche interminable.Y ellos

zan el acto decisivo, el p. 71).

frago. Giro en

couple

Monegro in Unamuno's

case, the rencoroso is the

Joaquin

The major part of the

images. While

story

the

young

enjoys its idyllic existence, the

la espiral del

apla-

previsto final (Ibid.,

Arreola sums up his ideas on marriage in

"In memoriam."Written in the third per-

son in a learned style, this is the story of the

late Baron Biissenhausen who devoted his

life to the

attacks

the institution of marriage as an

do

pasatiempo de masoquistas"(Ibid., p. 74).

Stones are the basis for most of the images

in this story. After reading the dedication

of her husband'sfamous work, Mrs. Biiss-

enhausen lets the book fall. "Cay6 como

writing

of the Historia compara-

"apasiona- increfble

da de las relacionessexuales which

ejercicio de

neur6ticos, un

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JUAN Jose

una pesada hipida mortuoriasobreel pecho

de

(Ibid., p. 72).

compared to a two

la

baronesa viuda de

is

Biissenhausen

rotating

until

Marriage

in

prehistoric mill

stones

death. Of

self is a dead example of his

porous and calcareous soul has been

verized

less, with

comparada relaciones sexuales as a homage to

algarabia

festiva de

que juzgan la obra del bar6n como un nuevo resumen

disfrazado y porno-

de historia universal,

gr'fico, nosotros nos unimos al

grupo de los espiritus selectos que adivinan

en la Historia

comparada sexuales una extensa epopeya dom6stica, de

escandalizada

fecta

to consider the Historia

which

grind

each other

continuously

course, the famous

Baron him-

theory. His

pul-

by his quartz-like

tongue

in

casada.

y

wife. Nonethe-

cheek, Arreola prefers

de las

la per-

"Desoyendo la

los

reducido

de las relaciones

temple troyano.

consagrada a una mujer La perfecta casada en

dieron miles y miles de pensamientos sub- versivos, acorraladosen una dedicatoriade

honor se rin-

cuyo

dos

unciales germinicas:

de Biissenhausen,

burg-Hohenheim (Ibid.,

paiginas, compuesta

en

reverentes

"la baronesaGunhild

nde condesa de Magne-

p. 76).

Just as the Baron sought an escape from

his incompatible wife by spending his time

Arreola himself

chooses to escape from time to time from

his cruel

he

resemblesthe Modernistswho did so much to put Spanish American literature on an

equal footing with other world literatures

in the twentieth century. However, whereas

past. In his search for exotic

in research and writing,

surroundingsby delving into the

subjects,

the Modernists selected

only those periods

saw their artis-

tic ideals reflected, Arreola applies

inimitable art to more diverse

literature and history from ancient Greece

to Revolutionary Mexico and beyond.

In "El lay de Aristotle,"Arreolarecounts

the legend of how the Greek philosopher

wrote De armonia. After seeing the muse

Armonia dance, the impassioned Aristotle pursued her futilely. In order to gain re-

of literature in which

they

his own

periods of

ARREOLA

299

venge,

the details of Harmony with the hope of

deglorifying her. But even his dialectic

prose succumbsto

his awkward verses and

break into sonorous iambics. In "Elegia," Arreola describes in true elegiac style the

ruins of Numancia. With melodramatic images, the elegy reaches its climax and

end of the narration

Numancia mentioned by name. "Hasta un dia el exasperadoEscipi6n se alz6

el horizonte como una ola vengativa, y

soltar

only then, at

is

que

en

apret6 con sus dos manos tenaces,

durante meses, el duro pescuezo de Nu-

mancia" (Ibid., p. 84).

he wrote his treatise explaining

Harmony

all

who ridesover

causes them to

the

very

sin

Moving

into the early Christian era,

Confabulario a bio-

Arreloa includes in

sketch of the minor heretic

graphical Sinesio de Rodas in which he pokes fun at

theology. His prose here is purposely un-

artisticand he employs as many polysyllabic

words as possible. "Dijo que

viven entre nosotros

entregar directamente todas nuestras ple-

garias,

distribuidoresexclusivos de las contingen-

cias humanas" (Ibid., p. 41).

los angeles

y

que a ellos debemos

en su calidad de concesionarios y

this one of

Another biographicalsketch,

Chaucerian cleric in the time of Joan of

a

Arc, is appropriately called "Epitafio." The

sentences are short and choppy; the pre-

terite predominates; there are few correla-

tives; and the sentences-"Naci6 en un

tiempo malo" and "Rogad a Dios por

are

contrast to the worldly clerics

of the fourteenth

poets of the same period. "La canci6n de

completely Platonic and beautiful

young Peronelle de Armentieresand the old and

and musician

Guillermo de Machaut. The use of words

create the mood

of

"the forbidden fruit of the Bible," is used

paradoxicallyby Arreola. "Mordi6 la carne dura y fragantede las manzanas y pens6 en

1"

repeated (Ibid., p. 45).

In

great

century were the courtly

Peronelle" presents a love affairbetween the

half-blind French

poet

like rondel and rabel help

courtly love. The

symbolism of the apple,

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300

HISPANIA

la

Y su vejez

seguida

una cartaextensa y ardiente,intercaladade

poemas juveniles" (Ibid., p. 37). In spite

of

ardent desires, his love is

destined to be chaste.

troubadouresquestyle is em-

juventud de aquella que

the

The same

retrocedi6

se las enviaba.

como sombra per-

por un rayo de luz. Contest6 con

poet's

"Loco de

amor," a

early fifteenth-century poet

Badajoz. "A paletadas de

con-

ployed by Arreola in

tribute to the

Garci S~nchez de

versos tristes cubre su cadaver de hombre

desdefiado. Y un ruisefior le canta exequias

de

suelo

estin

filtima noche de su

mi

(Ibid., p. 85). In no other

me mat6 amor, sino la tristeza d6l"

inviernoamoroso. "Qu'a

hielo y

que

no

de olvido. LAgrimas de su

no hacen

maravillas; sus

ojos

de sal ardida en la

secos, cuajados

literary

credo better expressed than in "El disci-

place in Florence, prob-

the Renaissance. The master

painter

en

(Ibid., p. 30). In order home

that he is

destroy

beauty. He sketches an outline of a beauti-

ful figure and says:

(Ibid., p.

picture,

before it, the maestro

picture

and throws it into the fire. The naive and

unimaginativepupil,

the

story, enjoys Florence in the

by

that true

course,

frightened

the

destroyed beauty.

and the pupil stands enthralled

"Esta es la belleza" after he finishes the

story

is Arreola's

pulo" which takes

ably during

criticizeshis pupil's work. "No falta

sobranmuchas"

tu dibujo una linea, pero

even more forcibly,

going

to drive his point

he tells

his pupil

to teach him how to

31). Then

says

that he has just

He tears up the

sunlight,

who is the narratorof

bright

but is

beauty of

suggestion only.

the dusk. Arreola's messageis, of

beauty lies

in

Once a work of art

beauty,

goes beyond suggesting

consists of

of the

Siglo

it loses its charm.

G6ngora, a favorite poet

is

the

protagonist

in the

language

of the Modern-

of Arreola's "Los

story many letters written to vari-

ists,

alimentos terrestres."The

excerpts from

ous people

oro about

more and better food and the money with

the writer's constant need for

de

which to buy it. The total effect of the on the final line when we

the first time that all these

for food are taken from Don Luis de G6ngora y

Argote!

of Golden

Age literature is

of

Dulcinea." Armed with the

modern psychologists, Arreola explains

from a real

Dulcinea.

Quijote's

cuyo

nombre no viene al caso hubo un hombre

que se

concreta"

pas6 la vida eludiendo a la mujer

story depends find out for

desperate requests

the Epistolario

of

Another unexpected aspect

revealed in

madnessas

"En un

an escape

lugar

(Ibid., p. 78).

After treating the

"Teoria de

findings

Don

solitario

classical, medieval,

pre-Renaissance,Renaissance, and Baroque

periods, Arreola jumps

teenth century and

"Una reputaci6n," inspired

lightful

by

In the course of a Mexico

the narratorearns the

tleman by offering

en as

in the

nature. He just

seat the first time and after that, he senses

that the rest of the

him as Sir Galahad. He

pelled

home.

stops the women to get on and

humor

of this

story existentialism of some of the others. Enrique Gonzilez Martinez constitutes the link between the Modernists and the mature artists of the

twentieth

more

starting the bus again.

driver who

to the late

nine-

writes a perfectly de-

story,

the

prose of Manuel Gutierrez Najera.

City

bus trip,

reputation of a gen-

his seat to variouswom-

they

enter the bus. The humor lies

happens to

give

up

fact that he is not a gentleman by

his

passengers look upon

actually feels com-

his

past His influence is felt even by the

to continue his bus ride

near the curb and allows

is

in

off safely

before

gentle

total contrast to the

The

intellectually

century.

Arreola

pays

tribute to

in a

is

the

for the

him in "El condenado"which

way similarto "El discipulo." In both cases,

narratorsare the foils for the other charac-

spokesmen author. "El condenado"is the trite

cial

provin-

ters who are the real

poet

who

constantly

feels himself over-

shadowed by Gonzalez Martinez. In his quest for the various roots of

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JUAN Jos?

twentieth-century literature, Arreola does

not overlook the criollo

tradition. "Corrido"is one

artistically consummatedstories in the vol-

ume. The theme of two

killing each other is not new. It is

caused both by the Mexican's

life and his

la's portrayal

desgraciada whom no

keeping with the role of abnegationplayed

by the Mexican woman since the days of

story spirit and style of the Mexican corrido. The plaza of Ameca in the town of Zapot-

La Malinche. The

machismo. Arreo-

story of popular

of the most

jealous suitors

a tragedy

for

contempt

marry is in

unfolds in the

exaggerated

of

the

surviving muchacha

one will

lin is described in the present tense. The subject of the corridois then announced in

the preterite. "Yen ella se encontraronuna tarde, hace mucho, dos rivales de ocasi6n. Pero hubo una muchacha de por medio"

(Ibid., p. 27).

graph follows in the present tense and then

the

the two anonymous

anonymous girl

rivals approached the plaza

ferent streets. The

destined to meet in the plaza. The

frightened, filled

jug fall off her shoul-

scurryingoff, let the der and crash to the

sign for the two rivals to begin

They fatally wounded each other. With a

last

his rival was also dying. The concluding

paragraph sums up

who from that moment on was known asthe

story

the effect of a true corrido, Arreola'ssen-

mancornadora.In order to

Another descriptive para-

preterite.

The

from three dif-

narration begins in the

and

three characters were

girl,

her jug with water and in

ground.

This was the

fighting.

gasp

of

breath, one of the two asked if

the

plight

of the

give

this

girl

tences, wherever possible, follow a rhythm based on the eight syllable line with an oc-

casionalsix

ternal assonant rhymes. The vocabulary is

diminu-

tives and archaic parentheticalexpressions:

"Hay en

de Ameca,

ancha y empedrada se da contraun testera-

zo parti6ndose en dos. Por alli desemboca

syllable

line and have

abounding

in

una plaza que sabe

por quo.

many

le

in-

decidedly Mexican,

Zapotlin

quidn

dicen

Una calle

el pueblo en sus campos de

sa

ARREOLA

301

fue la merita sefial. Uno con daga, pero

asi

de grande, y otro con machete costefio.

Y

se dieron de cuchillazos, sacaindoseel

golpe un poco con el sarape"(Ibid., pp.

27-28).

The comparison of the mortalduel of the

two rivals to a

clusion in

derives its title from the various ways in

which Arreola puts animals to use. "El

prodigioso miligramo" is actually

"Insectiada"and "El sapo" are symbolic studies of the lives of insects and toads. In the science-fiction stories "En verdad os

digo" and "Topos," the camel and the mole

are also symbolic. In "El rinoceronte,"man

is identified as an animal while in "Pue-

blerina," he actually acquires some physical characteristicsof an animal. An animal is

used very effectively albeit traditionally in

"Epitafio."

cleric is

In a larger sense, the title Confabulario

denotes an anthology of short story

and content from the legend aboutAristotle

to

the symbolic existentialist diary of "Au-

trui."That Arreolais a mastercraftsmanis

beyond doubt. His ability to adapt his style

at

the

Arreolais more than a virtuoso. His stories

are not

creative works

spite of apparent differences give unity

this collection. In all of these stories, the

reader is

to

creative process. He cannot sit back and

enjoy them as he did in the nineteenth

century.

pulo,"

gest beauty. The

the

with the creator.The

self is able to contributeto the work of art,

the fuller is his

ation of the artist's genius. In

understanding and appreci-

cockfight justifies its in-

Confabulario, which, in part,

a fable.

The

fifteenth-century French

form

compared to a wolf.

will to any

sign of

merely

subject or period of time is

a

great

virtuoso. However,

tours de force. They

are

of art whose similarities, in

participate

to

in the

points

out in "El disci-

only

to

himself

expected

As Arreola

the artist'sfunction is

sug-

reader must respond to

suggestion and actively identify

more the readerhim-

many

of these

stories, Arreola reveals an

of

frequently, the unreal seem real. This is

making the real seem unreal and more

uncanny knack

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302

HISPANIA

clearly demonstrated in "El

talking to a switchman-has

guardagujas."

The

occurrence-a man's

a fantastic air

to it, while some of the most fantastic inci-

dents that the switchman relates-the dis- mantling and reassembling of the train in

order to cross the

out the slightest touch

by various

thirty rated in the first person and

reader is inclined to believe what the pro-

tagonist tells him directly.Likewise,

tend to believe what he overhears in the

dialogues that

balistica" and "El

pository style,

many

most convincing no matter how absurd

the

passing

in

concise and adapted to the subject. De-

scriptions are used very limitedly and then

only

story. Although some of the stories come

close to

a

them within the realm

story. With the exception of

terrestres," the storiesdo not

depend on a trick

In

towardsa

all of these

storiesis Arreola'ssense of humor which is

in the tradition of the best Mexican au- thors and at the same time is very much his own. Like Lizardi, Rub6n Romero and

action moves

spite of their apparent static quality, the

for their effect.

a subtle denoue-

dramatic ment which of the short

whole story, based on a very prosaic

waiting for a

train and

abyss-are accepted with-

of

incredulity.

stories are nar-

usually

the

he will

Arreola achieves this effect

means. Nine of the

make up the stories "De