(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

José Rubén Romero’s purpose in writing The Futile Life of Pito Perez was to observe, judge, and criticize Mexican society of the 1920’s and 1930’s, and he realized this goal by casting his story in the form of a picaresque novel, of which a primary characteristic is that the narrative is told in the first-person voice. Appropriately, this novel comprises a series of anecdotes in which Pito tells the unnamed narrator of the various escapades he unwittingly suffers from childhood until the day of his death. Given this structure, the reader is advised to ignore signs of the traditional plot and rather should imagine himself listening to a good storyteller chatting about the high and low points of his life.

As the town drunk, sardonically, Pito sees himself as life’s loser, a pattern established early in his life when his mother adopts a child and ensures he has more food, comfort, and love than does her own son: “. . . the day I was born, there was another child who had been left without a mother so mine gave him her full breasts. The stranger grew strong and robust and I was left weak and sickly because there wasn’t enough milk for the two of us.” By his own account, his life has been “downhill” ever since.

To survive, he assumes any disguise which permits him to close upon his two most enduring friends, food and liquor. With a local, uninstructed, pompous priest, he spouts Latin. With a gross, abject apothecary, he...

(The entire section is 537 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Brushwood, John S. Mexico in Its Novel. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1966. An analysis of the novel in Mexican literature, including a profile and overview of the work of José Rubén Romero.

Chandler, Richard E., and Kessel Schwartz. A New History of Spanish American Fiction. Rev. ed. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991. A survey of Spanish American fiction, with a discussion of Romero’s novels.

Foster, David W., ed. Modern Latin American Literature. 2 vols. New York: Ungar, 1975. Includes a discussion of Romero and his writings.

Leal, Luis. “José Rubén Romero.” In Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria I. Abreau. Vol 2. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989. An essay on the life and career of Romero. Includes analysis of his works and a bibliography.