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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Juan José Arreola

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Title: Confabulario
Author: Juan José Arreola
Genre: short fiction
Written: 1941-1961
Length: 245 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Confabulario and Other Inventions - US
Confabulario definitivo - US (Spanish)
Confabulario and Other Inventions - UK
Confabulario and Other Inventions - Canada
Le Fablier - France
Confabularium - Deutschland
  • and Other Inventions
  • Translated by George D. Schade
  • English translation first published 1964

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Our Assessment:

B : an interesting variety of small pieces, many of which are very worthwhile.

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       This book, a translation of Confabulario Total, itself a collection of twenty years worth of Arreola's work, includes almost all of the material in the Spanish original. (the one-acter La Hora de Todos is missing, as is one other piece, and Schade messed around with the order of the sections.) The first section is a Bestiary of some two dozen animals, each written about in no more than three or four paragraphs. Much of Arreola's best work is here: with a few strokes he evocatively paints these small, unexpected portraits. Such bestiaries seem to be a very Latin American thing, but Arreola's spin on the animals is distinctive and very worthwhile.
       The stories in the two other sections are slightly longer, though they are still almost all very much to the point. They are unusual stories, told from odd angles, offering unexpected insight. Arreola keeps us on his toes. They are mysterious little pieces, and we found a number of them only half-satisfying. There is something to be said for that, but it should be noted. Arreola writes well and carefully, and it is fascinating prose -- and the shortness of the pieces makes it an ideal book to dip into at intervals. Given that the pieces were written over a period of twenty years, that is probably the way to go about it.
       Recommended, though not for those who want their prose meaty and in large chunks. Delicate, smart, and elegant these are just a bit short of being superior fiction.

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Confabulario: Juan José Arreola: Other books under review that might be of interest::

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About the Author:

       Mexican author Juan José Arreola was born in Ciudad Guzmán (Jalisco) in 1918. He died 3 December 2001.

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