Jul 28, 2008

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo (and Japanese Literature Challenge)

This story begins when Dolores Preciado, on her deathbed, asks her son Juan to promise to return to the village of Comala and find his father, a man by the name of Pedro Páramo. Juan does return to Comala, but all he finds is an abandoned town. Or so it seems at first. Slowly, the ghosts of Comala begin to come out and speak. In a story that blurs the boundaries between the living and the dead, the past and the present and reality and dreams, Juan learns about his father’s life, and about how he ultimately doomed the people of Comala.

Pedro Páramo is a short novella, yet it’s one of those books that are so intricate that it’s difficult to get everything with a single read. I’m sure there were things in the story I missed. I’m also sure this is a story where I’ll find different things with each re-read. Plus the fact that I don’t know all that much about Mexico means that I missed a lot of the historical context concerning the Mexican revolution and its aftermath.

The language in Pedro Páramo is absolutely beautiful. The hypnotic and surreal feel of the book grabbed me right away. The story is told by multiple voices and in a fragmented style, and after some time I could no longer tell the living and the dead apart. But then, neither could the protagonist, Juan Preciado, and that haziness is a part of the book’s power and of its appeal. I really felt like I was walking through a haunted and desolated village and hearing the voices of the dead, all eager to tell their stories.

Juan Rulfo is cited as an important influence by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and after reading this book I can definitely see why. Fans of magic realism should not miss Pedro Páramo.

And it seems that there’s an upcoming movie version starring Gael García Bernal. I can’t wait.

Other Blog Reviews:
Pages Turned
(Have you reviewed it as well? Let me know and I'll add your link to this list.)

Since I've been having some trouble making myself stick to challenge lists lately, I decided that for the Japanese Literature Challenge I'd list some possibilities and see which I'll get to before the deadline (January 30th 2009):
  • When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otuska
  • Goodbye, Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Haruki Murakami
  • Black Rain by Ibuse Masuji
  • Strangers by Taichi Yamada
I'll read at least three of these, maybe more if time allows. And who knows, perhaps I'll end up straying off the list. I already have copies of 3 of these, though, and I'd like to take the opportunity to get them off the tbr pile. I also considering including some manga, but I wasn't sure what to pick. Any suggestions would be welcome!


  1. The premise sounds intruiguing, Nymeth. The cover looks a little spooky to me though. ;P

    I hope you'll read Strangers soon because I enjoyed reading this one. Can't wait to read your review on it. :)

  2. Pedro Paramo sounds really interesting! I know a bit about Mexican history--being so close to the border, but I haven't read very much Mexican Literature (possibly only Like Water for Chocolate?). I'm more familiar with Chicano Literature.

    I am doing the Japanese Lit Challenge as well and really looking forward to it. Looks like we'll both be reading Murakami, although different books.

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  4. Pedro Paramo is definitely going on the TBR list!! Sounds fantastic. Right up my alley. I'm still amazed at the books you read....that I've never heard of. And they all sound wonderful.

    I think the Japanese Challenge is going to be fun. I can't wait to get started!

  5. This is another one that went right to my wishlist. I love Mexican culture, but I don't know very much about it either. I didn't want to leave after spending time in Mexico last year...especially the day that I spent in the actual cities away from the resorts...the people are incredible and what I've read of their culture is quite cool...especially day of the dead stuff and it looks like this might have some of that! I love Gael Garcia Bernal too, he's a great actor. Can't wait for that.

    Glad you're in the Japanese Lit Challenge. That one's going to be so much fun :D

  6. Hmm sounds good and a little outside my usual reading which is a bonus. Am having a second go at Gabriel Garcia Marquez this year and will hopefully warm to his writing a bit more than One Hundred Years of Solitude.

  7. I've never heard of Pedro Páramo, but it sounds really interesting and like something I'd like to read, especially if there's a movie version coming out with Gael García Bernal!!

  8. Call me morbid but I adore that book cover of the Paramo book! Haven't heard of him but I'll sure check bookstores here for that.

    Oooh, and Gael Garcia Bernal! Yummy. I mean uh, gee looking forward to that movie :)

  9. Melody: I actually really like the cover! I'm very drawn to the Mexican Day of the Dead aesthetic. As for Strangers, I have it here with me and I plan on reading it very soon :)

    Trish: I haven't read much Mexican literature either. Not even Laura Esquivel, even though I've heard good things about her. I love the Murakami book you picked and I can't wait to see what you think of it.

    Amy, thank you so much :)

    Stephanie: I first heard of this one when someone reviewed it for the first Once Upon a Time Challenge, back in my first days of blogging. And yes, it will be fun for sure!

    Chris: There's definitely something Day of the Dead-ish to this book. But I've just read another one, The Zigzag Way, that deals with those traditions more directly. Unfortunately it wasn't nearly as good as this one. But I'll write a proper post about it soon :P

    Rhinoa: Is it Love in the Time of Cholera you're reading? I hope you enjoy it more. A lot of people just can't get into his writing, and even though I like him completely understand why.

    Robin: I actually thought of you when reading this one. I think it's your kind of book :)

    Lightheaded: So do I! I guess we're both on the morbid side :P And lol, I know what you mean. He's not only a talented actor but a good looking one too :P

  10. Pedro Paramo sounds really good. I don't know much about Mexico but Gael Garcia Bernal is a nice incentive. Love him!
    And I look forward to your JLit reviews especially since I've read 3 of them and have the other 2 in my stacks. :P

  11. I read Pedro Paramo a long time ago and agree with you, I'm sure it's one of those novels that require several reads to get it all. I had no idea about the movie but I'm so there! I know there was a previous film version (from the 60s I think) which according to my mom was very good.
    Oh and good luck on the Japanese Lit challenge. I just joined too :)

  12. this sounds like a little gem! and very spooky!

    thanks for the cool review.

  13. Tanabata: Me too! Black Rain and Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World are on my list thanks to you. And I started When the Emperor was Divine today and I'm really enjoying it so far.

    Iliana: I didn't know there was a movie version already. This is a difficult story to film, I imagine, but with the right kind of approach I can definitely see it turning out very good.

    JP, you're welcome! It was spooky in that subtle kind of way I really like.


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