The People of Paper: A Summary of Salvador Plascencia’s Novel



In Salvador Plascencia’s novel, The People of Paper, the characters revolt against their creator, who is portrayed as a tyrannical author named Saturn. They resist his control and attempt to push him to the margins, hiding under lead to escape his gaze. However, when Saturn is revealed, he is far from the powerful figure they imagined. Smiley, a carnation-picker, discovers Saturn’s true nature – a disorganized and vulnerable author, surrounded by unfolded linens, dirty towels, and scattered books.

Saturn’s Ineffectiveness

The disappointment lies in Smiley’s encounter with Saturn, where he realizes that the author is not only incapable of threatening or protecting his characters but also struggles to keep track of them all. Saturn admits that minor characters are often forgotten as the plot becomes more complex. The author is caught up in his own narrative, which intertwines with the story of the carnation pickers, as well as his relationship with Liz, a woman who has left him. Liz, who the novel is dedicated to, pleads with Saturn to leave her out of his story, emphasizing her existence beyond the pages.

Plascencia’s Struggles

Plascencia himself seems besieged on all fronts. His imagined characters exist beyond his control, and he can only resort to petty revenge, such as scratching out Liz’s new lover’s name in the book. While he tries to start the story over, he still includes the original dedication, highlighting the conflicting desires of the author. It becomes evident that Saturn, like Plascencia, struggles to maintain control and keep track of everything.

Complexity and Disconnection

The complexity of the novel mirrors Saturn’s predicament and becomes a challenge for the reader as well. With numerous plots, sub-plots, and minor characters, including various versions of the character Merced, carnation pickers, mechanics, wrestlers, and even a beekeeper, it becomes difficult to invest deeply in any of them. Saturn himself comes across as pathetic, self-obsessed, spoiled, sexist, and vindictive, as demonstrated by his offensive retort to Liz’s request.

The Fictionality of the Author

In this self-reflexive and metafictional text, Plascencia may argue that his portrayal of an unlikable author is intentional. He presents himself as a fictional character, just like Smiley or Little Merced. The reader is led to question the existence of Liz and the authenticity of her emotions. The realization that the author is as fictitious as his creations does little to generate sympathy. On the contrary, it further disconnects the reader from the characters. Even descriptions of characters’ physical pain caused by their paper nature fail to provoke an emotional response.

In conclusion, The People of Paper delves into the revolt of fictional characters against their author. Salvador Plascencia explores the limitations and complexities of storytelling while blurring the lines between reality and fiction. The novel challenges readers to care deeply about characters who exist within the confines of paper. To experience this thought-provoking story, visit Quill And Fox.