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Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

Pedro Páramo (original 1955; edition 2010)

by Juan Rulfo

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1,525344,824 (4.02)71
Title:Pedro Páramo
Authors:Juan Rulfo
Info:Suhrkamp Verlag GmbH (2010), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:2013r, mexico, realismo mágico, comala

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Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo (1955)


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Dreamy, meditative and disjointed, Pedro Páramo tells the story of several generations living in a little Mexican village through fleeting encounters with the ghosts of former inhabitants.

This is one of those books that are made not by the story but by the telling. The non-chronological novella makes frequent hops back and forth between generations (and storylines), each illuminating the others, and the precise progression of events only becomes clear gradually. Rulfo douses the poverty and the harsh, unforgiving landscapes with introspection and love for the forgotten everyman. In some ways, this feels like a reverse Western: Rulfo takes the perspective of a sleepy Mexican village and squarely focuses on the relationships and the low-level generational grudges that the lone gunmen, outlaws, or even lawmen of traditional Western movies would not even notice. The people’s ghosts cry out for remembrance, for relevance, for a continued existence, vicarious though it may be.

Pedro Páramo will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but working through its intricately constructed narrative ends up delivering a rewarding experience. It’s one of those little books that open themselves up more at every reread. ( )
  Petroglyph | Jul 23, 2014 |
"I came to Comala because I had been told that my father, a man named Pedro Páramo, lived there." So begins this brief, complex novella, originally published in 1955, that is said to have been hugely influential for the Spanish-language literature that followed it. The speaker has made a deathbed promise to his mother to return to her hometown, of which she has nothing but poetic memories, and seek out his father, who she feels didn't give them their due. But the Comala the speaker finds is nothing like the the Comala his mother remembered; it is literally a ghost town, inhabited only by the dead who clearly are not resting easily in their graves, as they roam around the town and also talk to each other while in their graves. And what they talk about is what they would have talked about while living -- curiosity about who is saying what about whom.

The narrator, whose name we learn is Juan Preciado, is not the only speaker in this book. Other characters speak about the past (largely in the third person), and it is not always clear, especially at first, who is who and what is happening when. This book bears careful reading. So, from the murmurings of the restless spirits, both the reader and Juan Preciado piece together the history of the town, and the rapaciousness of Pedro Páramo, who became the the town's biggest (only?) landowner through theft, murder, and rape, characteristics which he apparently inherited from his father and passed down to the one son he recognized, a son who was killed while riding his beloved horse. He had one love, a woman who was mad by the time he finally brought her to live with him, but otherwise was obsessed with his own interests. In the opening paragraph, in which the narrator quotes his mother, she says "Some call him one thing, some another." One of those names is surely the devil; it is often remarked how hot it is in Comala and in one sense it is hell, or at least purgatory. (The local Catholic priest plays a conflicted and not very honorable role.)

It rains a lot in this novella, and Rulfo includes many descriptions of the rain's impact on the earth. There are some lovely descriptions of the natural environment too, although death always seems to intrude. As the father of the mad woman Pedro Páramo loves says, "The world presses in on every side; it scatters fistfuls of our dust across the land and takes bits and pieces of us as if to water the earth with our blood. What did we do? Why have our souls rotted away?"

In the introduction to my edition, Susan Sontag quotes Rulfo as saying, "In my life there are many silences. In my writing, too." It is those silences that challenge the reader to figure out all that Rulfo has included in this compelling work.
4 vote rebeccanyc | Jul 19, 2014 |
Second reading. Surprisingly readable prose for such a dense and multi-layered story. A young man follows his mother's dying wish to return to the village of her birth and make Pedro Páramo, the young man's father, pay for the abandonment of his family. What follows is something like Dante's descent into hell as the young man, Juan Preciado, and his Virgil, a burro-driver named Abundio — also a son of Páramo — make their way down the long road to the village. The village of the mother's youth is now a ghost town in which the living and the dead meet freely. What we might call the present action is rendered in the first-person voice of Juan Preciado. Spasmodically then the prose will switch to a third-person narration of life in the village long ago. The Páramos are a murderous bunch of thieves who take what they want, including the young women, who are always inexplicably grateful for being knocked up by them. Once we've switched to the third-person voice and back a few times, we begin to get a number of other first-person voices from those who once lived in the village. But don't let this put you off, for despite the multiple voices and a few touches of surrealism the book's not at all difficult for those who read attentively. (Susan Sontag introduces the text with a bit of well-earned praise and an explanation of how influential Pedro Páramo has been among Latin-American writers.) I suppose my favorite sequence is when those buried in the local graveyard listen to each other and comment on what is being said! Superficially, the novella seems close to Machado de Assis's own worthwhile Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, but that's an acerbic comedy compared to this piece of profound gravitas. Not to be missed. ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
Dolores Preciado ha muerto. En el lecho de su muerte transmite una última voluntad a su hijo, Juan Preciado: que visite su pueblo natal, que conozca el valle de Comala, que encare a su padre, a Pedro Páramo. Como buen hijo, a pesar de no estar del todo seguro, decide realizar el viaje a esos parajes maternales, los mismos que dejó atrás cuando era apenas un crío; Comala, un lugar que pareciera estar “sobre las brasas de la tierra, en la mera boca del infierno”.

Lo anterior es el punto de partida de la novela. En adelante las voces nos sorprenderán con el destino de Juan Preciado en este pueblo fantasma, o que al menos pareciera estar habitado por una población flotante no despreciable de moradores espectrales que quizás les fuera negada la entrada al cielo, cuyos vestigios más evidentes son esos ecos de lo que alguna vez vivieron y que no pueden o no quieren olvidar. Pero también las mismas voces nos revelarán la crueldad de Pedro Páramo, el amo y señor de la hacienda Media Luna, el típico hombre que no escatima en límites para la ambición, de matar si es necesario para preservar lo que considera es de su propiedad, un esperpento de humanidad, deleznable, que dicta la ley a capricho y antojo. Algunas de tales voces que van y vienen son: Eduviges Dyada, fiel amiga de Dolores Preciado; el padre Rentería, quien vive en una perpetua crisis de fe al presenciar tanta maldad personificada; Miguel Páramo, el otro hijo, impulsivo, mujeriego y cruel; Susana San Juan, la última mujer de PP, quien lo pierde todo, el amor, un padre, la razón; y Fulgor Sedano, un hombre sin escrúpulos, fiel mano derecha del regente.

Es una novela fenomenal, con una prosa exquisita, poética, para nada barroca, que incluso se complementa con la locución rural mexicana, lo que es perfecto, tal como lo señala una reseña aquí mismo. Estos personajes intentan confundir, nos llevan del ahora a lo que fue, de la revelación a la causa, del crimen a la vergüenza. Sí, a veces hay que volver hacia atrás, y más tarde también, y quizás haga falta una relectura y otra más. Pero no se agota, y está bien que así sea, la estructura del relato amplifica la ambientación, no sería lo mismo si la historia fuese escrita de manera lineal, para nada. Al final y en breve: Una joya latinoamericana. ( )
  david.uchile | Mar 18, 2014 |
This is a book that stands out today as an exceptional piece of literature, one that was written half a century ago. I read it in Spanish, which was no easy feat, as my Spanish is intermediate at best and, well, Rulfo's mid-twentieth century Mexican-Spanish was not very easy to get through. But even I was able to enjoy the rich texture of the vivid images Rulfo evokes. The rain, the wind, the dust, the sounds of the town, the murmurs of ghosts, the echos of footsteps... all were interwoven seamlessly in a narrative that reads like a dream.

I am not sure if I would consider Pedro Paramo to be a magic realist work. Perhaps it shares some elements with magic realism, perhaps magic realism as we know it today, but it certainly reads and feels different. ( )
  bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
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I came to Comala because I had been told that my father, a man named Pedro Páramo, lived there.
Vine a Comala porque me dijeron que acá vivía mi padre, un tal Pedro Páramo.
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Chaque soupir est un souffle de vie dont on se défait.
Moi, je ne crois qu'à l'enfer
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802133908, Paperback)

Dentro de su brevedad, determinada por el rigor y la concentración expresiva, Pedro Páramo sintetiza la mayor parte de los temas que han interesado siempre a los mexicanos, ese misterio nacional que el talento de Juan Rulfo ha sabido condensar por medio de los cotidianos habitantes de Comala, región inscrita ya en la mitología literaria universal.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:41 -0400)

Deserted villages of rural Mexico, where images and memories of the past linger like unquiet ghosts, haunted the imaginations of the author. In one such village of the mind, Comala, he set his classic novel Pedro Paramo, a dream-like tale that intertwines a man's quest to find his lost father and reclaim his patrimony with the father's obsessive love for a woman who will not be possessed, Susana San Juan.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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