A masterpiece in capitals: PEDRO PARAMO by Juan Rulfo. What else to say of this less than 100 pages of 20th-century prose jewel? More words are too many. Pure Juan Rulfo style, no adjectives, to the point.
Of course, I am not one of the fathers of the Latin American magic realism movement for such succinct virtuosity. Indeed, this is my 350 words daily writing practice, and I attempt to summarize PEDRO PARAMO in my words, no ChatGPT help, I promise.
However, what better way to start than citing Rulfo?
I came to Comala because I was told that my father, one called Pedro Paramo, was living here. Pedro Páramo.
Comala, with its own spot in the universe of literature, and Pedro Paramo are one. Comala is the scenario, while Pedro Paramo is the thread for a novel about life and death in Jalisco at the beginning of the 20th century. Rulfo recounts the struggle of Mexican peasants to survive through revolutions, injustice, wickedness, natural catastrophes, and oblivion. No surprise human evils are the primary source of woes, also in this book.
Then, why is it different? What turns it into a title everybody should read at least once in a lifetime? These are the two key aspects in my view. On the one hand, the nonchalance with which Rulfo handles death and the dead. On the other hand, the structure of the book, or lack of it. There isn’t a linear storyline either in space or time. It starts with a son searching for his unknown father, Pedro Paramo. The reader faces names and situations without order or connection and untangles the story step by step through its anecdotes.
In conclusion, it is not a cheerful book. Still, even with a text full of injustice, unrequited love, and death with a vicious protagonist at the center, Rulfo’s cynic approach to fate and his description of nature and its elements, water, fire, wind, and earth, produce the alchemy to convert an unconventional structured story into a work of art.
PEDRO PARAMO was first published in 1955 and was the second and last novel of Juan Rulfo, a production as concise as his prose but equally effective to have his name written in golden letters in the authors’ heaven.