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  • Historias que regresan: Topología y renarración en la segunda mitad del siglo XX mexicano by José Ramón Ruisánchez Serra
  • Emily Hind
Ruisánchez Serra, José Ramón. Historias que regresan: Topología y renarración en la segunda mitad del siglo XX mexicano. México, DF: Universidad Iberoamericana and El Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2012. 200 pp.

The fearless material in Historias que regresan flirts with themes so obvious that they threaten to turn preposterous. What narrative, from the start, isn’t a “re-narration?” What narrative doesn’t, in the end, ponder its present moment? And within the list of narratives that interests literary critics, how many don’t include some sort of “topology” that battles “cartography” in the sense that characters question their spaces in order to rethink the places organized for them to inhabit, which also serve to inhibit and control them? If Historias que regresan turns in a surprisingly earnest yet lively analysis that reexamines topics so fundamental that they constantly risk cliché, then it seems almost natural that its creator should be perhaps the only type of writer daring enough to gamble this freely: a Mexican novelist who also holds a Ph.D. in literary criticism. In every chapter, Ruisánchez convincingly defends the essential nature of his chosen texts through subtle, playful, even tricky thought that reaffirms, against the contemporary odds, the canon. Ruisánchez’s skillfully stacked deck relies on three aces, Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo (1955), Carlos Fuentes’s La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962), and José Agustín’s De perfil (1966), as well as a wild card, Juan Villoro’s El disparo de argón (1991), and the analysis rotates these high cards through winning combinations. The new literary poker also benefits from other genres: José Emilio Pacheco’s brief novel and short stories in El principio del placer (1972; 1997), Elena Poniatowska’s journalistic hybrid La noche de Tlatelolco (1970), and Carlos Monsiváis’s chronicles from Entrada libre (1987). Ruisánchez’s cardsharp skill in reshuffling the masterpieces is not ultimately trumped by the usual theorists (Agamben, Bauman, Benjamin, Bhabha, Butler, Certeau, and Žižek), because Ruisánchez runs his own game. The stakes— [End Page 248] social justice and the course of Mexican history—are real for him. The canon never looked so edgy.

Consider this estimation of Fuentes’s classic novel that manages to argue, again, and passionately, that this totalizing novel marks a rebellious historical undertaking: “Resulta interesante pensar y releer La muerte de Artemio Cruz […], como un exponente magnífico de la ficción cartográfica en la que la historia contada propone una Historia sin huecos, que si bien es contrahistoriográfica respecto a la propuesta emitida por el aparato estatal, actúa de la misma manera que éste. Es otra Historia” (22–23). As is clear from that last joke, Ruisánchez shows us the thrill of rediscovering familiar readings. He loves to participate, ludically, while he studies, and he seems attuned to the poetic literary possibilities triggered by his approach, a self-aware move that largely sets him apart from much of the criticism of the canon. For example, in a creative twist Ruisánchez reads “backwards” from Villoro’s novel until the last chapter on Juan Rulfo’s 1955 text. As Ruisánchez writes twice in the book, once in the introduction and once in the conclusion, “Pedro Páramo no es sólo Pedro Páramo” (24, 186). Indeed, in Borgesian style, Villoro, et al, end up influencing their antecedents. Contemporary Mexico City may actually begin to makes sense if you read it backwards, Ruisánchez argues, and thus Pedro Páramo is not just about rural Mexico but also the Mexico City that the Mexican novel helped to build, through future literary reinterpretations of itself. In other words, each crisis in the country and, as the century narrows, each disaster in the capital, brings about a topological reckoning that redraws the national map. This engineering feat is possible only through literary language and characters already invented in the previous topological efforts. Delightfully, this process of spatial reinterpretation confers incredible...


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pp. 248-250
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