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  • Modelos y prácticas en el cuento hispanoamericano. Arreola, Borges, Cortázar by Pablo Brescia
  • Donald Shaw
Brescia, Pablo. Modelos y prácticas en el cuento hispanoamericano. Arreola, Borges, Cortázar. Madrid/Frankfurt: Iberoamericana Editoral Vervuert, 2011. 367 pp.

Until recently, Spanish-American drama was the Cinderella of criticism in the field. Brescia argues that now the short story is the neglected area, though his vast and most useful bibliography rather contradicts that. His introduction traces the development of the genre, narrowing down to modern Spanish America. Then he proceeds to deal with his three examples, affirming that “[e]n estas páginas se da prioridad al marco teórico” (12). By this is meant the views of the writers in question with regard to short-story writing. Brescia has combed their output for such views in what will probably for most readers be the most interesting part of his work. In each of the three cases this is followed by a thorough analysis of selected short stories and the existing state of criticism on them. In the case of Borges, the stories are El Sur and Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto. In that of Cortázar, they are La noche boca arriba and Omnibus. For Arreola, Brescia selects El gurdaguas and El silencio de Dios. All of these stories are treated in enlightening detail on a basis of meticulous research. The author’s conclusion is not especially original. It is anticipated on page 160, where Brescia writes, apropos of “las cuentísticas de los tres escritores que se estudian en este libro: El eje filosófico-literario rechaza la mirada que explica el mundo en términos de realismo ‘falso’ para favorecer una vision ‘fantástica’ en la cual, desde un orden superficial, ‘real,’ normal, se erige otro orden profundo, secreto, menos communicable; un orden que, a veces, solo se sospecha.” Thus the stories tend to function at two levels, which the alert reader is called upon to recognize.

What this underlines afresh is that these writers use fantasy to subvert the readers’ confidence in our ability to interpret reality at all. This is really the most important conclusion to be drawn from the book. I regret that it was not more clearly spelled out, as it was in Jesús Rodero’s excellent La edad de la incertidumbre (New York: Lang. 2006), which studies the fantastic short story in general in Spanish America and which Brescia unfortunately overlooks, but which is in some ways a companion volume to his own book.

As it is, what we can see is that his approach owes most to the views of Cortázar, who, as Brescia points out, comes closest to having a coherent theory of [End Page 180] short story writing as exemplified by his own ones. The difficulty is to fix on an “ur-text” in each of the writers in question which best fits what appear to be his views on his art. Borges, for his part, is quite clear that each of his tales has its own technique, but Brescia shows convincingly that the underlying approach to reality mentioned above does, in fact, impose what he once refers to as “una cierta inevitabilidad en la forma del cuento.” This is what he teaches us to look for. It does not, however, strait-jacket his own analyses of the individual stories with their very helpful handling of earlier criticism. The key pages in this chapter seem to me to be 188–89, in which Brescia alludes to Cortázar’s stories as in some sense cognitive: they incorporate “una actitud ante el mundo que se traslada a la literatura en tanto método de conocimiento.” This involves questioning social convention, normal aspects of causality and the use of Cortázar’s famous “figuras” and leads to the implicit postulate of a parallel pattern of reality with its own system of order.

It is suggested that Arreola, with Rulfo, begins a new epoch in the Mexican short story. Brescia postulates three or four constants in the former’s stories: intertextuality, precision and efficacy of language, appeal to reader-collaboration and inevitably, “una estructura doble...


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pp. 180-182
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