Saturday, March 26, 2005

Fifty years ago this month, a small novel was published in Mexico by an almost unknown author. It was called "Pedro Páramo" and the author was Juan Rulfo. To make a long and successful story short, this work eventually came to be regarded as not only one of the treasures of Mexican or Latin American literature, but as one of the better novels of XX Century writing.

I discovered this amazing work in high school. My wonderful final year literature teacher challenged us to take it in and understand it. I was spellbound. I had no idea reading could be so exciting; I would never have expected literature to be so profoundly moving and magical. In a way, this book changed my life. I even mentioned it in my final exam essay, and got a perfect score (yeah, I think I'm very smart, DEAL WITH IT! Ha!).

This relatively short novel projects the feelings of an entire generation of Mexicans in such an eloquent and simple way that it becomes universal. Like any masterpiece, its interpretations are many; they range from the biblical to the supernatural. Pain, sadness, cruelty, love, hate, shame, regret, memory, time, life, existence, identity, death... it deals with it all, and then some. The symbolism used alone is enough for a text book; nothing is really all it seems at first. This novel is one of the fundamental examples of what later became full-fledged magical realism.

Juan Preciado returns home to look for his father, a man called Pedro Páramo. It turns out PP was the quasi feudal leader of a small town. He was described as "a living rage" and we slowly find out that the effects of his actions, long ago past, can still be heard in what is now an abandoned ghost town.

This novel is brilliant not only in the subject matter, but also in its intricate structure. It uses many time frames and seems almost chaotic as it switches from one to another. It's a dizzying journey, and that's putting it mildly. Towards the end all the pieces begin to make vague and surprising sense, and the work's true brilliance shines through.

In case you haven't realized it by now, I LOVE this book. If you want a literary adventure, this is definitely one to try out.


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