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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Author Juan Rulfo's extraordinarily powerful novel, "Pedro Paramo," captures the essence of life in rural Mexico during the last years of the 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th, like no other work of fiction. Here, in a mere 124 pages, the author vividly portrays the radical social and economic changes which spurred the dramatic migration of the campesinos from ranchos and villages to the urban slums, where they could no longer live off the land, nor find work. Ghost towns mark the places where many had once flourished. I first read this masterpiece in English while living in Guadalajara, Mexico, over 25 years ago. I was absolutely captivated by the haunting story and by the fascinating characters. I reread the book a few years later, in Spanish, and was able to appreciate, first-hand, the authors skillful, nuanced use of language. After a series of surrealistic dreams, which turned my thoughts southward, I picked up another copy and began to read once more of the dry, deserted streets of Comala and the man who doomed the town and its inhabitants. I am amazed that the novel remains as fresh, magical and poignant as it did the first time around. I think Juan Rulfo's masterpiece takes on depth and texture with each reading. And it certainly proves true the maxim, "Good/great things come in small packages."
Pedro Paramo, the son of failing landowners, was consumed with love for Susana San Juan. This intense passion lasted a lifetime. Eventually, Pedro's aging father and family died, and Susana moved away. Alone and lonely, he assumed control of the estate and unscrupulously did whatever he had to, fair and foul, to amass a fortune and build his empire. He married the heiress Dolores Preciado, took possession of her land and wealth, and sent her to live an isolated existence with her sister. His ranch, in Comala, the Media Luna, expanded with great success at the expense of others. However, the manipulative, exploitive patriarch would pay dearly, in spades in fact, for his greed and for the sorrow he brought to Comala and her people.
Dolores Preciado, on her deathbed, extracts a promise from her son, Juan, to return to Comala to find his father and claim what is theirs. Juan narrates and guides the reader on his journey to the dusty, desolate village, now populated by ghosts, lost souls who murmur to him, sighing and complaining in desperate voices, until he believes that he too is dead. The story of Juan's experience, his search for identity and his heritage, is interwoven with the tale of his father, Pedro Paramo, and that of sad, beautiful Susana San Juan.
The novel was first published in 1955 and has become a classic, not only in Spanish speaking countries, but worldwide, for its themes are universal. Margaret Sayers Peden's translation is a good one. This is a literary class and a truly great book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
JANA
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 22 September 2004
I think that the word 'haunting' is an overused cliche when it comes to describing books, but it could have been invented for 'Pedro Paramo'. The story initially follows Juan Preciado, who has been sent by his dying mother to see the father he has never met: Pedro Paramo. Preciado journeys to Comala, the town where his father lived. When he arrives there he finds a village of the damned, full of dead souls unable to find peace. Through his interactions with these spirits, he learns of his father's monstrous past, and how his actions have led to the townspeople being repeatedly refused absolution by priests and bishops, resulting in their purgatorial state.
The book requires a lot of concentration. The narration slips between present and past events, and narrators frequently interchange, so that it can be hard to follow whose story you are currently reading. Despite its length (100+ pages) I wouldn't describe it as an easy read. However, this structure is one of the strengths of the writing, because it adds a very ghostly, surreal air to the narrative, and as a reader I felt like I was drifting through the events in Comala, becoming one of the spirits haunting the town. The spirit of damnation pervades the book, and it is relentlessly grim. Again, this purgatorial feeling enhances, not diminishes, the narrative, in my opinion, creating one of the most atmospheric books I have read. The reader is invited to look down on a vision of hell, full of characters who you feel have earned their damnation. Because of all this, it is not what I would describe as a particularly fun read, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend 'Pedro Paramo' as a beautiful and haunting piece of literature.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 31 July 2004
Pedro Paramo is a fascinating little book that seems to take place in a parallel world.
For those unfamiliar with Latin American literature, the book is full of ghosts and conversations with dead characters. The narrative can be hard to follow, Juan Rulfo has much in common with Faulkner, and a second reading would go a long way to enhance understanding of the book and its central themes.
Juan Rulfo begins by telling the story of a son who is searching for his father. Almost immediately, the reader learns that his father, a certain Pedro Paramo, has died, but this does nothing to stop the search. It is here that the reader is submerged into the hypnotic mind of Mr. Rulfo and the narrative's hold on reality becomes a bit more tenuous.
Listening to the story of the disintegration of Pedro Paramo's life from this unique view point might leave the reader feeling a little muddy headed by the time he finishes the book.
Above all, though, the book is beautifully written and a must for anyone looking to branch out into Latin American literature.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Published in 1955, "Pedro Páramo" has become an established classic of twentieth-century Latin American literature, and was reputedly a big influence on the like of Gabriel García Márquez, who could apparently recite large chunks of it from memory - yet this is its first accurate and unabridged English translation. Perhaps this is because of the book's initial impenetrability: it's certainly no easy read, and I must confess that I came close to giving up after forty pages or so. However, persevere and the reasons for its classic status do become clearer.
The book's narrator, a young man by the name of Juan Preciado, travels to the Mexican village of Comala in fulfilment of a deathbed promise to his mother to seek out his father Pedro Páramo, the local landowner. On arrival in Comala, he discovers it to be quite literally a ghost town: one by one, he encounters doomed characters from the town's past, who gradually reveal Comala's (and his father's) macabre tale. For Pedro Páramo - unscrupulous philanderer, murderer and double-dealer though he was - is himself a tragic figure.
The ghosts of Comala flit by Juan in a dreamlike, hypnotic progression: the suicide Eduviges Dyada; a pair of incestuous lovers; disillusioned priest Father Rentería... and by the end of the book, Juan Preciado himself has become a ghostly, disembodied presence. The novel often seems to follow dream logic rather than any recognisable linear narrative: this ultimately becomes one of the book's great strengths, but it is initially disorientating. Apparently Rulfo had originally written a much longer novel, and it arrived at its final form - at a mere 122 pages, it reads like the condensed zip-file of a book of epic proportions, rather than as a novella - through a careful cutting and editing process. He once commented, "In my life there are many silences. In my writing too."
The combination of silence, mystery and striking, almost hallucinatory sensory images is what ultimately makes the book unique. Rulfo writes with extraordinary lyrical beauty about his flyblown wasteland village (the name "Páramo" is Spanish for wasteland), and Margaret Sayers Peden's translation sensibly keeps things as simple as possible, letting Rulfo's images speak for themselves: the dust; the rain; the echoing empty streets. Not an easy or a comfortable read, but a very beautiful book nonetheless.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 15 March 2007
You may not have heard of Juan Rulfo, but you've more than likely heard of the writers for whom his novella Pedro Páramo was a revelation - Márquez in particular, but also Fuentes, Asturias, Paz. It is a story with a deceptively simple plot: a man promises his dying mother that he will return to Comala, the town where she once lived, to meet his father, Pedro Páramo. So begins a story built on the experiences and reflections of different characters - alive and dead - narrating at different periods of time, whether in the days of Pedro Páramo's melancholy childhood, his rise as a despot, or the subsequent decline of Comala into a literal ghost town. In some sense a dictator novel, in others a family saga, a ghost tale or even a love story, Pedro Páramo is compulsive because of Rulfo's skill at conveying atmosphere, scene and believable irreality - what was later to be known as magic realism. The book is alive; terrible as it is, Comala is brilliantly painted and its inhabitants gritty, fatalistic and haunting. An indisputable classic of huge influence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2007
This novel is one of the most highly rated of the 20th c latin-american classics,Gabriel Garcia Marquez wished he had written it and this slim novel has become possibly the first of the great novels from the 1950's

Brevity is the key here,within 122 pages this novel is full of backgrounds and what ifs, as ghosts haunt the streets of Colama,where the despot Pedro Paramo cast his evil eye many years before.

The skill in Rulfo's style is where he manages to make the novel seem longer,small paragraphs follow mini-chapters where the meat of the story is laid.The dying despot sitting as his town starves is a great image, still causing distress even as he is dying.

The clipped style hints at so much more,the lives long faded and the intrigues,murders and deaths. Rulfo manages to bring southern mexico into the northern lands with the rain,the crops,the Villastas and many other small elements in this tale.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2014
Bought as a quick reference alongside the original Spanish, which is brilliant. This edition has some interesting commentary including the foreword by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and, apart from being a key text for students of Spanish literature, this edition offers an atmospheric, thought-provoking read in English.
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on 29 January 2014
One of the most remarkable novels I've ever read. It's short - only 100-odd pages - but the most perfectly-formed piece of writing I've ever read. It was Rulfo's only novel - how, after all, could he have topped this?! Wonderful.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2010
I bought this book out of curosity. I'd just visited Mexico and was keen to read something written by a good Mexican author. What I found was something written by a great Mexican author. Pedro Paramo is a unique experience. Juan Ruflo's descriptions are wonderfully fresh and so clear that you really do understand what it's like to be sitting in a house in Mexico listening to the rain. The book does jump between characters and times which is a bit disorientating at first but just go with it and you'll soon get the hang of his narrative style and find yourself eagerly devouring the book to find out what happens to all the characters and why they are the way they are. I would definitely recommend this book to any keen reader.
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on 15 January 2015
Strange. Poetic. Extraordinary. Highly recommended
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