Review: Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo

While I’m not sure I can say that I “enjoyed” this novel in any traditional sense, I can say that Pedro Paramo was stunning in many ways. I agree with the many comparisons of this work to surrealist art – especially Salvador Dali. Time and space exists in a strange, two-dimensional and three-dimensional mixture, as if Rulfo was capable of taking the two vast, spacial concepts and manipulating them into a narrative stew or goulash. The narration, too, is jumbled. The story is told interchangeably by multiple characters, most of whom are already long dead, but think, speak, and act as though they are among the living. The original narrator, a traveler searching for his father, is soon lost to this spirit-filled town and, by the end, the reader is uncertain about how and where the “main character” has fared. The style is, admittedly, brilliant, but perhaps something is lost in the translation (I read the English version) because much of the story did not make sense; although, from a surrealist point-of-view, perhaps that isn’t the intention because, though the plot and story are difficult to follow (characters taking over the narration without introduction or notice, slipping from one time period to the next, allowing a narrator to lead us to believe one thing, only to later find out that all of what happened, happened yesterday, a year ago, or a decade ago and is being redescribed or re-enacted by the ghosts of those involved) the intent itself seems pure and moving. I believe I will be haunted by this story for a long time, and will likely pick it up again someday in hopes of cracking at least one or some of its codes.

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