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Rulfo’s unreal, sordid and brilliant curse

There is a certain flavour of good in “the bad” as told by writers such as the Mexican, Juan Rulfo. And even more if, as he did, the texts are expressed through the code of magical realism (or marvellous reality).


Antonio Paneque Brizuela


“It was rare not to see one of our men hanging by his feet from some pole on some road. They stayed there until they got old and curled up like uncured leather”, says Rulfo in “The Burning Plain” (1950), a story in which the use of magical realism preceded by 17 years the book “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1967) by Gabriel García Márquez. Rulfo’s “regionalised” description of this “barren, flat and exposed plain” that is more commonly known as “wasteland”, the abandonment of loneliness, the representation of death preceded by love, become universal because they also depict other wastelands in the world through related language.

This squalor of the barren and abandoned land, alongside the fertile and brilliant land, in the middle of the misery of poverty and war, of life in any of its extremes, are translated by Rulfo through magical realism, a stylistic concern that shows the ordinary and the everyday as something unreal or strange.

This literary trend of Latin American origin, mixed with the scent of earth, sweat and blood, through a kind of prophecy of the later dream-like message from García Márquez, also recalls the technique of Jonh Dos Passos in his Manhattan Transfer of transmitting smells of environments such as New York at the beginning of the 20th century.

García Márquez himself declared of “Pedro Páramo” (1955) that no other reading had impressed him so much as that, after Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”. Jorge Luis Borges qualified it as “one of the best novels of universal literature”.

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For Juan Nepomuceno Carlos Pérez Rulfo Vizcaíno (1917-1986), just these two works were enough, one story and one novel, to integrate modern thinking into the modern narrative.

The artistic impression that this writer left a long time ago, marking only the Mexican and Latin American pages to be printed, also in that of the great innovators of the 20th century.

For Rulfo’s exegetes, who last year celebrated the centenary of his birth, and last 7th January, 30 years since his death, the depicted landscape is always dry and arid and in it live solitary, silent and miserable people, peasants who have survived without hope since the Mexican Revolution.

In the case of “Pedro Páramo”, included among the 100 best novels in Spanish from the 20th century by the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo, the tale takes on narrative passages that reveal the aforementioned characteristics of his style:

“I came to Comala because I was told that my father, a man called Pedro Paramo, was living there. It was what my mother had told me, and I promised I would go and see him after she died. I held her hands as a sign that I would do it; as she was near death, and I would have promised her anything. “Don’t fail to go and see him,” she told me”.

Pedro Páramo”, this second book, that Rulfo confirmed he wrote in just five months, is for some anthologists a classic of Hispanic American literature and the best one written by a Mexican.

For many, it is a masterpiece that outlines, simultaneously, Mexican literature from the last century and the revolution of that country, whose novelistic tradition also recovers the text and masterfully implements the techniques and experiences of the avant-garde of the 20th century.

A writer translated into more than 40 languages (English, French, German, Turkish, Hebrew, Arabic, Polish, Japanese and, most recently, Nahuatl from several parts of Mexico), was also a great follower of new literary devices.

The techniques employed in his narratives by the writer born on the 16th May 1917 in the state of Jalisco, honestly implied the adequate employment and enrichment of great contemporary literary innovations.

Pedro Páramo”, for example, is told through a combination of the first and third person, but after the first part, Juan Preciado’s narration stops and the internal monologue of Pedro Páramo as omniscient narrator begins. (PL)

(Translated by Donna Davison –  Email:

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