A Town of Ghosts
by rejoyce on August 3, 2007As a promise to his dying mother, Juan Preciado returns to Comala to visit his father Pedro Paramo only to find a town inhabited by ghosts. The novel becomes a kind of chorale of voices and orchestration of sounds not unlike Woolf's The Waves. Considered one of the finest Latin American fiction writers of the 20th century, Rulfo's oeuvre is small and his fame rests on Pedro Paramo, published in 1955, in which he intended to capture the regional speech of his home state Jalisco, Mexico.
The social themes of the novel include the Mexican Revolution, religion and the clergy, and the cacique (boss) system, while his broader themes are love, hate, vengeance, violence, solitude, time, and the anguish of human existence. By evoking the campesino (peasant) through his simple yet poetic speech, the author elevates the character to mythic status. One of the novel's innovations is its structure which is composed of the fragmentary remembrances of Comala's deceased residents. "I sought dead characters who do not exist in time nor in space," Rulfo said. "There is a structure in Pedro Paramo but it is a structure of silences, of threads in a tapestry, of scenes cut short, because everything is happening in a time that is simultaneously a non-time." The post-revolutionary elemental landscape of Jalisco, where Rulfo's father, uncle and grandfather were murdered and life coexists with death, is suggested by the novel's names: Pedro (stone), Paramo (aridity), Comala (heat). The novel has influenced Gabriel Garcia Marquez among others. A harsh, haunting tale.
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