Juan Rulfo

16 May 2017 marks the centenary of Juan Rulfo, one of Spanish literature’s most revered and mysterious writers. Few other authors in any language have attained such mythic status on the basis of such a slim body of work. Rulfo is generally considered, along with Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz, to be one of the three most important figures of 20th Century Mexican literature. However, unlike the vast reams of prose and poetry written by his two compatriots, and their international standing as literary lions and esteemed intellectuals, Rulfo published very little and remained an ambiguous and elusive public figure.

Juan Rulfo by Ricardo Salazar

Portrait of Juan Rulfo by Ricardo Salazar, early 1950s

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Mexico’s greatest poet (but not according to him)

Jose_Emilio_Pacheco

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Less than two weeks after the death of his close friend Juan Gelman, a fellow Cervantes Prize winner and near neighbour in the Condesa district of Mexico City, the great Mexican writer José Emilio Pacheco passed away on January 26, 2014.

 Whilst Gelman (having very personal experience of the horrors of right-wing dictatorship) was outspoken in his left-wing allegiances, Pacheco was much more politically ambiguous and ambivalent in his writing. His most popular work, the novella Las batallas en el desierto (classmark: 9743.d.1564), looked back on a fictionalised adolescence during the post-war presidency of Miguel Alemán (1946-1952) – a period of great optimism, growth and development in Mexico’s history. However, rather than straightforward nostalgia, the story reveals the seeds of corruption and inequality that would come to trouble the country’s growing population throughout the 20th century. Continue reading