Juan José Arreola: A Revolutionary Force in Mexican Literature

Discover the life and legacy of Juan José Arreola, a revolutionary force in Mexican literature. This article explores the unique writing style and passionate advocacy for culture and literature that made Arreola an essential figure in the literary landscape of Latin America.

Juan José Arreola: A Revolutionary Force in Mexican Literature
Juan José Arreola. Photo: Wikipedia

Juan José Arreola, born in 1918 in Zapotlán El grande, Jalisco, was a renowned Mexican writer known for his innovative approach to literature. Arreola's love for language started at an early age, and he was known in his hometown as a child reciter. However, due to the Cristero War, Arreola had to leave formal education and became self-taught. Despite this setback, he pursued his passion for theater and moved to Mexico City at the age of 17 to study.

Varia invención: A Game-Changing Book

In 1949, Arreola's book Varia invención was published, and it immediately established him as a significant figure in Mexican literature. The book was a stylistic exercise that combined prose and poetry in different voices, which caught the attention of renowned writer Jorge Luis Borges. Borges was so impressed with Arreola's work that he asked to meet him during one of his visits to Mexico.

According to Colombian critic Fabio Jurado, "Borges was the first to recognize in Juan José Arreola the author who was already revolutionizing and innovating Latin American narrative. This link with Borges makes us see in Arreola a presence of universal literature." Arreola's work was influential not only in Mexico but in the wider Latin American literary world.

Arreola's Unique Style

Juan José Arreola's writing style was distinctive, and he was known for his ability to amalgamate histrionics with the written word, play, laughter, memory, tradition, and wit. He was a master of the short story genre and is considered one of the founders of Latin American modernism. His work was surrealistic, often absurd, and challenged traditional literary norms.

Arreola's work often explored themes such as identity, memory, and social critique. His stories were complex and required readers to engage actively with the text, which made them both challenging and rewarding. Arreola's writing style influenced many Latin American writers who followed in his footsteps, including Gabriel García Márquez and Julio Cortázar.

Arreola's Contributions to Mexican Literature

Juan José Arreola is an essential writer in the history of Mexican literature. He was a founding member of the "Contemporáneos" literary group, which included writers such as Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes. The group was instrumental in shaping the Mexican literary landscape and promoting modernism in the country.

Arreola's work extended beyond literature and into the world of cultural television, entertainment, and the dissemination of culture. He was a prolific television scriptwriter and hosted several television programs that aimed to promote culture and literature in Mexico. Arreola was also a talented illustrator, and his drawings often accompanied his written works.

Arreola's Legacy

Juan José Arreola passed away in 2001, but his legacy lives on. He is considered one of Mexico's greatest writers, and his work continues to be studied and celebrated both in Mexico and around the world. His unique writing style and innovative approach to literature influenced many Latin American writers and helped shape the region's literary landscape.

Arreola's contribution to Mexican literature extends beyond his writing. He was a passionate advocate for culture and literature, and his television programs and scripts helped bring literature to a wider audience. Arreola's work serves as an inspiration to new generations of writers who seek to challenge traditional literary norms and explore new avenues of expression.


Juan José Arreola was a remarkable writer, a passionate advocate for culture and literature, and a truly revolutionary force in Latin American literature. His work challenged traditional literary norms, and his unique writing style influenced many writers who followed in his footsteps. Arreola's legacy continues to be felt today, and his contribution to Mexican literature and culture is immeasurable.