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Juan José Arreola
The bestiary is a literary genre, which becomes very popular during the Middle Age. The first bestiary was called Phisiologus, written probably in Alexandria of Egypt during the fourth century A. However, the greatest flowering period for bestiaries has to be placed between the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries, when all around Europe a great number of bestiaries appeared in wonderful illuminated manuscripts. Bestiaries were collections of short texts and each piece dealt with a specific animal.
The mediaeval bestiary showed animals as images of Christ or Satan, and therefore it acted as exempla, which means behavioural patterns to follow or to avoid. After the fifteenth century, the genre of bestiaries experienced a decay. Nevertheless, in the twentieth century some authors took this genre back from the past, adapting it to the new contemporary reality. Within this various scenario, Arreola is particularly important because he was able to create a new animalistic approach.
Arreola took a traditional literary genre and, respecting its formal pattern, he garnished it with very contemporary issues, anticipating ecological and ethical matters and dealing with existential themes. It is a collection of microrrelatos, which is a particular form of short stories that developed in Latin America during the twelfth century.
Many things could be said about this small book of Arreola. We could discuss themes such as irony, parody, intertextuality or the relation with the medieval bestiary, the reification of animals. In this paper, we will only analyse how Arreola interpreted the relationship between men and animals.
Firstly there are creatures that act as a mirror for human behaviours, reflecting human flaws and perversions, often caricatured. We can link these figures to the anthropomorphism, which was a typical component in the traditional animalistic literature.
We can read1 the example of The Toad: He hops from time to time just to prove his radical immobility. The hop is rather like a heartbeat; in fact, if you consider the matter carefully, a toad is all heart. Pressed in a block of cold mud, the toad submerges himself in the winter like a pitiful chrysalis. He awakens in the spring, conscious that no metamorphosis has taken place.
In his profound state of desiccation, he is more of a toad than ever. Silently he awaits the first rains. One fine day he emerges from the soft earth, heavy with humidity, swollen with rancorous juices, looking like a heart that has been flung to the ground.
Another example of this trend is the story of The Water Birds, in which Arreola uses animals to represent human flaws: On the water and the shore, the water birds promenade: They all belong to high fashion, with or without stilts, an all are gloved. The feathers of the swallow duck and the spoonbill shine with jewelled iuan.
Scarlet, turquoise, ermine, and gold are lavished in plays of changing colours. Some have all these hues in their raiment, like the banal widgeon or the bronzed cormorant that feeds on small putrefactions and transforms into showy dress its fondness for swamp tidbits.
Multi-coloured, gibbering group, all cawing and honking, where nobody understands anything. I have seen the huge pelican dispute with the big gander over a bit of straw. I have heard the geese gaggle in an interminable argument over nothing, while their eggs roll to the ground and tor in the sun without one of them taking the trouble to hatch them. ShadeUniversity of Texas Press, El salto tiene algo de latido: Aguarda en silencio las primeras lluvias.
Waterproofed to the nth degree, they are ignorant of the reality of the water in which they live. It is a critique to the vanity and besstiario of human kind, which is trying to cover through glittering appearances its intimate vileness. Therefore, although he followed the formal model of medieval bestiaries, Arreola gave new meanings to animals, bringing them back to their natural condition and addressing the issue of the human-animal relationship.
These animals represent the ancestral, the lost nature, the choices and the paradoxes of civilization, which led men to distance themselves from other animals.
In the medieval bestiaries, animals represented God because they were closer to God than men. Animals were better than humans, because animals did not commit the original sin. Therefore, animals were purer. His animals represent antiquity and uose linked to Mother Earth. Arreola writes in The Carabao: The rhinoceros looks like the result of a clash of earth jaun Pueblo multicolor y palabrero donde todos graznan y nadie se entiende.
Bestiario juan jose arreola analysis essay
In this beautiful passage from The Bestiaril Arreola describes the final battle between men and animals, in which the latter were defeated: Before taking flight and leaving the field to us, the animals attacked for the last time, deploying the herd of bison like a horizontal battering ram. Without letting himself be swept along by that wave of horns, hooves, and snouts, man lay in ambush, shooting arrow after arrow, and one by one the arreolx fell.
One day, seeing how few they were, they took refuge in the last Cenozoic sheepfold. The peace pact founding our empire was signed with them. The tough, conquered bulls surrendered to us their bovine realm with all its reserves of meat and milk. And we put them the yoke besides. Upon this victory, humans built the foundations for their empire, but they have also abandoned their animal origin, their bound with nature and earth.
Men choice of civilization at the expenses of nature convicted animals to a loss that will then be the cause of their melancholy. The zoo symbolizes melancholy. Con ellos se firmo el pacto de paz que fundo nuestro imperio. Los recios toros vencidos nos entregaron el orden de los bovinos con todas sus reservas de carne y leche. The birds of prey, which once symbolized the freedom of flying, are now enclosed in theirs aviaries: Nevertheless, there are other animals that do not succumb to human power and they resist.
The most interesting cases of resistance are those of the monkey and the deer. However, he did not succeed. Arreola explains the reasons of this failure: Now many millennia before how many? They did not fall into the rational design and they are still in paradise, caricaturesque, obscene, and free in their manner.
In the zoo now we look at them as at a depressing mirror. They look at us with sarcasm and uneasiness because we keep on watching their animal conduct. We seek unsuccessfully a way out of the labyrinths into which we fall, and our minds fail to capture unattainable metaphysical fruits.
They are a mirror that reflects human paradoxes and the defeat of civilization. Through the eyes of the monkeys, we can see man jhan both: By comparing ourselves in monkeys, we can realize our loss and the tragedy of our life.
The deer shows another kind bestiaeio resistance. It still maintains his bound with bfstiario. Beyond space and time deer roam about with swift slowness, and nobody knows whether they belong in immobility or in movement which they combine to such a degree that we are obliged to ace them in eternity.
Inert and dynamic, they constantly modify their natural setting and perfect our ideas about time, space and moving things. Through the contemplation of the deer, humans can again feel the lost link with nature. Nevertheless, they cannot recover this lost bond. Atados a una dependencia invisible, areola al son que nos tocan, como el mono de organillo. He started from an ancestral bound between humans, animals and nature, but then finally humans choose civilization.
This choice leads to a war between humans and animals, where the latter are defeated.
Juan José Arreola by Universidad De Guanajuato on Apple Podcasts
The result is that animals xrreola today imprisoned and exploited by humans, and therefore melancholic and men have progressively but inexorably lost their natural origin, which according to Arreola seems to be irrecoverable.
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