Juan José Arreola has a special place in Latin American literature for successfully experimenting with fictional modes and techniques. A cosmopolitan man of letters, he pushed the genre of the short story in new directions. At the core of his creative representations is the interaction between rational, objective reality and idiosyncratic, subjective perceptions of it. His work includes more than one hundred short prose pieces: stories, fables, parables, biographical portraits, diary entries, advertisements, articles, science-fiction reports, and many sketches best classified as microtexts.
Acclaimed for steering Mexican literature beyond traditional realism with its emphasis on political and socioeconomic problems, Arreola deals imaginatively with the nature of human values in the face of twentieth century materialism. He probes the perverse ways in which alienated people behave when confronted with matters of love, life, and death. Like Jorge Luis Borges, he delights in making philosophical speculations and devising scenarios, although in a more playful manner, in which the line between the real and the unreal is blurred.
Arreola’s irreverent humor, clever use of language, prodigious vocabulary, and vast repertoire of images are hallmarks of a unique and stimulating style. Writers from several generations have acknowledged his influence on their work, among them such prominent figures at Rosario Castellanos, Salvador Elizondo, Carlos Fuentes, Luisa Josefina Hernández, José Agustín, Vicente Leñero, Carlos Monsiváis, and Gustavo Sainz.