http://www. taken there, don’t you agree?” “Most people would say you are right. Over at the inn you can talk to people who have. The Switchman1. Juan José Arreola.

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Arreola’s ingenious tale exudes a very Mexican flavor, but above all else it is a universal statement on the guardagujws human’s precarious place in the world.

But upon inquiring again where the stranger wants to go, the switchman receives the answer X instead of T. The horrified stranger, who keeps insisting that he must arrive at destination T the next day, is therefore advised to rent a room in a nearby inn, an ash-colored building resembling a jail where would-be travelers are lodged. He has not ever traveled on a train and does not plan on doing so.

Awareness of the absurd human condition can come at any moment, but it is gaurdagujas likely to guardayujas when, suddenly confronted by the meaninglessness of hectic daily routine, he or she asks the question “Why? In the final lines of Arreola’s story the assertion of the stranger now referred to as the traveler that he is going to X rather than T indicates that he has become an absurd man ready to set out for an unknown destination.

The short story was originally published as a confabularioa word created in Spanish by Arreola, inin the collection Confabulario and Other Inventions. Retrieved April 12, It seems that, although an elaborate network of railroads has been planned and partially completed, the service is highly unreliable. Print this article Print all entries for this topic Cite this article. The railroad management was so pleased that they decided to ep any official bridge building and instead encourage the stripping and recreation of future trains.

From the first lines of “The Switchman” the stranger stands out as a man of reason, fully expecting that, because he has a ticket to T, the train ds take him there on time.


As he gazes at the guradagujas that seem to melt away in guardaguajs distance, an old man the switchman carrying a tiny red lantern appears from out of nowhere and proceeds to inform the stranger of the hazards of train travel guardagyjas this country. The absurd human is aware not only of the limits of reason but also of the absurdity of death and nothingness that will ultimately be his or her fate. The switchman turns to tell the stranger that he is lucky.

Camus writes that neither humans alone nor the world by itself is absurd. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

The Switchman (El Guardagujas) by Juan José Arreola, |

Where there is only one rail instead of two, the trains zip along and allow the first class passengers the side of the train riding on the rail. Views Read Edit View history. Learn more about citation styles Citation styles Encyclopedia. Mexican literature short stories. The story, first published as “El guardagujas” in Cinco Cuentos inis translated in Confabulario and Other Inventions In areas where no rails exist, passengers simply wait for the unavoidable wreck.

The latter comes closest to the most convincing interpretation, namely, that Arreola has based his tale on Albert Camus ‘s philosophy of the absurd as set forth in The Myth of Sisyphus, a collection of essays Camus published in The absurd human is one who recognizes a lack of clear purpose in life and therefore resolves to commit himself or herself to the struggle for order against the unpredictable, fortuitous reality he or she encounters.

Three years later Arreola received a scholarship to study in Paris, where he may well have read these highly acclaimed essays.

El Guardagujas… de Juan José Arreola

The old man then dissolves in the clear morning air, and only the red speck juna the lantern remains visible before the noisily approaching engine.

Modern Language Association http: The switchman then relates a series of preposterous anecdotes, alluded to below, that illustrate the problems one might encounter during any given journey. In one case, where the train reached an abyss with no bridge, the passengers happily broke down and rebuilt jod train on the other side.


The “switchman” tells the stranger that the country is famous for its railroad system; though many timetables and tickets have been produced, the trains do not follow them dde. The switchman says he cannot promise that he can get the stranger a train to T.

It has been seen as a satire on Mexico’s railroad service and the Mexican character, as a lesson taught by the instincts to a human soul about to be born, as a modern allegory of Christianity, as a complex political satire, as a surrealistic fantasy on the illusive nature of reality, and as an existentialist arrreola of life with Mexican modifications.

The details of the story do not really support his claim that he is indeed an official switchman, so it may be that his tales represent a system that presents absurdity as an official truth and relies on the gullibility of the audience.

The stranger is also told it should make no difference to him whether or not he reaches T, that once he is on the train his life “will indeed take on some direction. He vanishes because he has fulfilled his role joa the stranger’s subconscious by not only asking the Camusian question “Why?

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Rather, the absurd arises from the clash between reasoning humans striving for order and the silent, unreasonable world offering no response to their persistent demands. The stranger argues that he should be able to go to T. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Why, then, does the switchman vanish at this moment?

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