“When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there,” says the piece in which the writer goes straight to the end of the story, with a bet on the essential, worthy of a minimalist.
The jewel aroused the suspicions of some critic, horrified that a one-line tale had appeared. Monterroso (1921-2003) met him with a blow worthy of a deadly punching boxer: “It was a misunderstanding, it’s actually a novel.”
The work is the highest expression of the author’s ability to sprint, terrified by the idea of writing stories of more than four pages because, according to his superstition, after that limit he is likely to start writing nonsense.
Augusto Monterroso was born in Honduras on December 21, 1921, but took Guatemalan nationality and ended up in Mexico, where he established himself as an essential writer, master of the story, in which according to Julio Cortázar, the creator must win by knockout.
Although he took literature as a game, without taking himself seriously, Monterroso lived with virgo perfection. However, that did not prevent him from being profound, with the idea that humor is realism taken to its ultimate consequences.
Juan Villoro, one of the most lucid intellectuals in Latin America, was a student of Monterroso in a writing workshop. Many years later, in 2014, he told Efe an anecdote that illustrates the writer’s way of seeing literature.
“Every time a presumptuous student said, ‘I just finished a 300-page novel,’ Monterroso would say, ah, you’re training to write a story,” recalled the Mexican short story writer.
According to those who went to his classes, Monterroso was a tough teacher, convinced that most came ill-prepared and ignored him. “We are all badly prepared, the important thing is to know,” he assured Graciela Carminatti in an interview.
One of his most emblematic stories, “The Fox is Wiser”, recreates the reality of the best Mexican storyteller, Juan Rulfo. The fox creates two shiny books and stops writing; the others ask him when he will do the third and the fox says: “Actually what they want is for me to publish a bad book.”
Sometimes he would write a story in a year or more, but he would create jewels like the ones in the book “The Black Sheep and Other Fables”, which provoked a reaction of astonishment in the Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, who stated that the book should be read with the hands up because its dangerousness was based on underhanded wisdom and the deadly beauty of lack of seriousness.
100 years after the birth of Monterroso, Hispanic readers surrender at the feet of the teacher. Those from Mexico are grateful that the man has chosen the country to write his most brilliant texts in it, which was not by chance, as he explained in 1990.
“The most fantastic thing the imagination can reach here vanishes into the background of a real life that is like a dream within another dream. The magical, the fantastic and the wonderful are always about to happen in Mexico, and it happens, one only says: yes, “he wrote in an act of gratitude.
If being a minimalist is, as the RAE says, seeking the essential while eliminating the superfluous, Augusto Monterroso should be remembered as a leading exponent of this trend in literature. It doesn’t matter if the concept was not in vogue in his day.