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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Pedro Páramo

Juan Rulfo

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To purchase Pedro Páramo

Title: Pedro Páramo
Author: Juan Rulfo
Genre: Novel
Written: 1955 (Eng. 1994)
Length: 126 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Pedro Páramo - US
Pedro Páramo - US (Spanish)
Pedro Páramo - UK
Pedro Páramo - Canada
Pedro Páramo - France
Pedro Páramo - Deutschland
Pedro Páramo - Italia
Pedro Páramo - España
  • Spanish title: Pedro Páramo
  • Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden
  • With a Foreword by Susan Sontag
  • The new 2023 translation has a Foreword by Gabriel García Márquez
  • Previously pubished in an English translation by Lysander Kemp (1959), and now in a new translation by Douglas J. Weatherford (2023)

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Our Assessment:

A- : haunting

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Nation . 5/6/2006 Carmen Boullosa
New Statesman . 11/3/1994 Amanda Hopkinson
The NY Times Book Rev. . 7/6/1959 Selden Rodman
The NY Times Book Rev. . 6/8/1995 James Polk
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction A+ Summer/2003 Laird Hunt
TLS A 3/3/2000 Michael Eaude

  Review Consensus:

  A classic

  From the Reviews:
  • "Like murmurs, the novel has an astonishing acoustic quality; its dialogues and interior monologues feel improvised, as if the author let the characters speak on their own, like actors in a Cassavetes movie. The text’s popular expressions, colloquialisms, idioms, sayings and proverbs give it an authentic lightness, a regional flavor, a very Mexican and picaresque salsita. (Unfortunately, neither of the English translations fully captures this taste and variety.)" - Carmen Boullosa, The Nation

  • "With its dense interweaving of time, its routine interaction of the living and the dead, its surreal sense of the everyday, and with simultaneous -- and harmonious -- coexistence of apparently incompatible realities, this brief novel by the Mexican writer Juan Rulfo strides through unexplored territory with a sure and determined step." - James Polk, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(I)t would be hard to recommend a work more highly." - Laird Hunt, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Composed of seventy short fragments, the novel is pared down to the bone. Its influence on the magic realists lies in its experimental structure and bitter vision of a ravaged continent of corrupt rulers, broken priests and impoverished peasantry. (...) He shows us he can tell a conventional story, and then deliberately subverts our expectations. His descriptions of the deserted village and his brief characterizations are masterly, but he does not try to develop atmosphere or character." - Michael Eaude, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Pedro Páramo tells the story of Juan Preciado's journey to Comala, where his father is said to live. It is a lost place, crushed by Juan 's father, Pedro Páramo, a place of desolation and, at best, memory.
       Juan's dying mother implores him to go to Comala, and: "Little by little I began to build a world of hope centred on the man called Pedro Páramo". It is soon apparent that the centre Páramo holds is one of despair, not hope, all of Comala in his dark, dark clutches.
       Juan's mother's plea suggests some of what he might expect: she wants nothing -- and she wants everything:

     "Don't ask him for anything. Just what's ours. What he should have given me but never did . . . . Make him pay, son, for all those years he put us out of his mind."
       Comala and Páramo remain elusive: Juan finds it hard to get a fix on the place, much less his father. The first local he meets says he is also Páramo's son -- and that their father is dead. And all of a Comala seems haunted by past and present, with those that died still as much of a presence as any of the living. The town is one big echo-chamber:
     The town is filled with echoes. It's like they were trapped behind the walls, or beneath the cobblestones. When you walk you feel like someone's behind you, stepping in your footsteps.
       Indeed, throughout, it's: "as if time had been telescoped", with an overlap of past and present, dead and living. The narrative, too, jumps back and forth between the present and Páramo's (and the town's) past, describing also how, through trickery and sheer force of will (and some slaughtering-excesses), Páramo came to dominate the town so entirely.
       "He flourished like a weed", and in his small descriptions of place and people Rulfo conveys the force and tenacity of the evil man. It's a remarkable and effective portrait -- in part also because of the presentation, so very different from anything one might have expected, both surreal and yet also ringing vividly true.
       Deaths haunt the book, including that of another of Páramo's sons. Death -- and the dead -- are also inescapable, permeating the place:
What happens with these corpses that have been dead a long time is when the damp reaches them they begin to stir. They wake up.
       The past here is so ugly that it's only appropriate: Comala is, because of Páramo, hellish, a place of the living dead -- and the dead living.
       Lyrical, sweeping (even in so few pages), vividly drawn, Pedro Páramo is an impressive and evocative little book.

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Pedro Páramo: Reviews (* reviews of a different translation): Juan Rulfo: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mexican author Juan Rulfo lived 1918 to 1986.

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© 2006-2023 the complete review

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