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    One great short story to read today: Juan Rulfo’s “They Have Given Us The Land”

    James Folta

    May 28, 2024, 10:30am

    According to the powers that be (er, apparently according to Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network), May is Short Story Month. To celebrate, for the second year in a row, the Literary Hub staff will be recommending a single short story, free* to read online, every (work) day of the month. Why not read along with us? Today, we recommend:

    “They Have Given Us The Land” by Juan Rulfo

    This story is from Juan Rulfo’s excellent The Plain In Flames, a collection of stories set in Jalisco in the time after the Mexican Revolution. I imagine like many English readers, I came to Rulfo from Gabriel García Márquez and other Latin American Boom writers gushing about him and have spent years chasing different translations of his work. Rulfo’s stories are spare and beautiful, following people adjusting to a world that has been restructured around them. This story traces a brief but complex portrait of a group of farmers’ relationship to the land: the labor to cultivate it, the politics that control it, and the sensuousness of it (“…pleased to be enveloped in this thing that hops all over us and tastes like earth.”)

    When you’re done reading “They Have Given Us The Land,” check out these recordings of Rulfo reading two other stories and selections from his novel Pedro Páramo. Even if you’re not a Spanish speaker, the rhythms of his reading give a sense of the untranslatable flavor of his original writing.

    The story begins:

    After walking for so many hours without coming upon even the shadow of a tree, not even the seed of a tree, not even a root of anything, you can hear dogs barking.

    You might sometimes think, in the middle of this edgeless road, that there would be nothing after it; that you would find nothing on the other side, at the end of this plain split with cracks and dried arroyos. But yes, there’s something. There’s a village. You can hear the dogs barking and feel the smoke in the air, and relish the smell of people as if it were a hope. But the village is still far away. It’s the wind that brings it closer.

    Read it here.

    *If you hit a paywall, we recommend trying with a different/private/incognito browser (but listen, you didn’t hear it from us).


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