When asked by an admirer, ‘What do you feel when you write?’, author Juan Rulfo is said to have replied, ‘Remorse’. Remorse is not always a given in ‘El Llano in Flames’, where lines are crossed and circumstances rarely forgive. This is rural Mexico after the Revolution: there is danger, upheaval and not much in the way of material improvement. Soldiers are repaid for their service with plots in the desert. A young girl loses her dowry cow in a flood. A peasant militiaman goes on the rampage. These stories – now classics of Latin American literature – have the spare, unadorned quality of oral testimony as told by the wicked, the unworldly, the chancers, the murderous, and the sorry.