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Arreola, Juan José

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1918-2001) Mexican author and academic whose full name was Juan José Arreola Zúñiga. Best known for his fantastic short stories, especially the Kafkaesque "El guardagujas" ["The Switchman"] (7 May 1950 México en la Cultura), he is considered one of Mexico's premier experimental short story authors and one of the masters, alongside Jorge Luis Borges, of the essay-story. Borges also described his work with one word: "freedom. Freedom of an unlimited imagination, governed by a lucid intelligence". Arreola wrote very few sf short stories, but, like the rest of his work, they were built with a detailed prose and a taste for bizarre things, combined with elements of Magic Realism, Satire, and allegory. Three of them appear in Confabulario (coll 1952; trans George D Schade 1964), the first two original to that volume: "En verdad os digo" ["In Truth I Tell You"] is about a Scientist who promises the salvation of rich people's souls because he is able to disassemble a camel and make it pass through the eye of a needle in a stream of electrons, defying the words of the Bible parable. The other two stories criticize consumerism: in "Baby H.P.", Arreola offers a device whereby every family can extract and take advantage of their own children's excess energy, while "Anuncio" ["Announcement"] (14 March 1952 México en la Cultura) concerns the Plastisex, an artificial woman. His last sf short story, "Parábola del trueque" ["Parable of the Bartering"] first appeared in his next collection Varia Invención ["Various Inventions"] (coll 1953), telling the story of a strange merchant who offers men a new wife in exchange for their old one, not telling clients that the replacement is a kind of Android. [MAFD]

Juan José Arreola

born Zapotlán el Grande [now Ciudad Guzmán], Jalisco, Mexico: 21 September 1918

died Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico: 3 December 2001


about the author

  • Seymour Menton. "Juan José Arreola and the Twentieth-Century Short Story" (1959 Hispania 42) [pp295-308: mag/]
  • Read G Gilgen. "Absurdist Techniques in Short Stories of Juan José Arreola" (1980 Journal of Spanish Studies: Twentieth Century 8) [pp67-77: mag/]
  • Theda Mary Herz. "Las fuentes cultas de la sátira del Confabulario" (1981 Hispanófila 72) [pp31-49: mag/]
  • José Ortega. "Ética y estética en algunos cuentos de Confabulario" (1983 Sin nombre 13.3) [pp52-59: mag/]
  • Yulan M Washburn. Juan José Arreola (Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne, 1983) [nonfiction: hb/]
  • Paula R Heusinkveld. "Juan José Arreola: Allegorist in an Age of Uncertainty" (1984 Chasqui 13.2-3) [pp33-43: mag/]
  • Aurora M Ocampo. Entry in Diccionario de Escritores Mexicanos, Siglo XX ["Dictionary of Mexican Writers, Twentieth Century"] (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1988) edited by Aurora M Ocampo [nonfiction: vol I, pp87-92: hb/]
  • Russell M Cluff and L Howard Quakenbush. Entry in Latin American Writers (New York: Scribner's, 1989) edited by Carlos A Solé and María Isabel Abreu [nonfiction: published in three volumes: volume 3 pp1229-1236: hb/]
  • Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz. Entry in Biografías del Futuro: La ciencia ficción mexicana y sus autores ["Biographies of the Future: Mexican Science Fiction and Its Authors"] (Mexicali, Baja California: Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, 2000) [nonfiction: anth: pp105-10: pb/]
  • Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz. Entry in Latin American Science Fiction Writers: An A-to-Z Guide (Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 2004) edited by Darrel B Lockhart [nonfiction: anth: pp20-22: hb/nonpictorial]


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