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The Desert and the Seed: Three Stories by Rudolfo Anaya

From: Journal of the Southwest
Volume 49, Number 4, Winter 2007
pp. 569-584 | 10.1353/jsw.2007.0027

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The Desert and the Seed:
Three Stories by Rudolfo Anaya
Mario Materassi

Mario Materassi teaches American literature at the University of Florence. He is an editorial advisor for Journal of the Southwest.


1. Cf. Mario Materassi, “Doubles: Strategies of Sense Production in Rudolfo Anaya's ‘The Man Who Found a Pistol,’” Journal of the Southwest 47.2 (Summer 2005), 249–58.

2. “Absalom,” in Rudolfo Anaya, The Man Who Could Fly and Other Stories (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006), 163. All quotations from Anaya's stories refer to this edition and will be indicated parenthetically in the text. This passage anticipates the writer's moving contribution to Descansos: An Interrupted Journey, text by Rudolfo Anaya, Denise Chávez, and Juan Estevan Arellano, photographs by. J. E. Arellano. (Albuquerque: Academia/El Norte Publications, 1995). Cf.: “The cuentos of the people became filled with tales of car wrecks . . .” (31).

3. On her way to the tomb of Absalom, the woman “walked beside Arab houses, which clung to the hillside, daring the dark presence of eyes that knew she was a daughter of David” (161)—a passage intended to strengthen her association with the biblical Tamar. Cf. also: “. . . the gardens of the City of David” (163). A further possible reference to King David is the fact that unlike Absalom, whose name combines the concepts of “father” and “peace” (quite a misnomer, one could say), the North African is “a man sometimes at war” (162)—therefore, at least linguistically, closer to David (a “man of war,” 2 Sam. 17:8) than was his favorite son.

4. “Who has taken charge of our lives? . . . We know we have been manipulated, and in the resulting change we feel we have lost something important.” Rudolfo Anaya, “Mythical Dimensions/Political Reality,” Open Spaces, City Places, ed. Judy Nolte Temple (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1994), 25–30 (28).

5. “Did he save himself for God,” the woman asks, “as the others saved themselves for fame or power or greed or wife at home?” (161).

6. Cf. “the fragrance of a woman,” “[a]n erotic fragrance,” Rudolfo Anaya, Jemez Spring (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005), 21, 23.

7. “But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him,” 2 Sam. 14.25.

8. White is also the color of the robe of the “desert wanderers”; cf. Anaya, Jalamanta: A Message from the Desert (New York: Time Warner, 1996), 4.

9. For an analogous sense of “homecoming,” cf. “She sat and gazed at the desert, the peaceful, quiet mauve of the setting sun” (181), and, “There, in that desert, sitting alone in a knife edge of shade, I felt more sentient than I have anywhere, any time—at home, . . . fascinated, entranced . . .”; Ann H. Zwinger, “Space and Place,” Open Spaces, City Places, 61–69 (66).

10. It also includes her flashback to the delay in Mexicali while her Jeep is being repaired (177).

11. The figure of the circle in connection with the number three also appears in reference to one aspect of the landscape. It occurs in the very first paragraph (“She was following the north rim of el Cañon de Cobre,” 177), again in the middle of the story (“. . . following the north rim of el Cañon de Cobre,” 179), and finally at the end (“. . . las montañas of el Cañon de Cobre,” 210).

12. As it is locally: see the warning toponym, La Jornada del Muerto, mentioned in Anaya, Rio Grande Fall (New York: Time Warner, 1996), 160, 161.

13. Ross Calvin, Sky Determines: An Interpretation of the Southwest, rev. and enl. ed. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1965), 48. This icon is present in “Absalom” (“suddenly the world was old, and as bone dry as the desert,” 162; see also the “rust[y], twisted wreck” of the North African's car, 163). It is present also in “Children of the Desert” (“Sometimes he would find sun-bleached bones, and he would feel compelled to take one back to his trailer,” 10; “. . . the...