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Juan Rulfo

Ask any Mexican who likes to read “Who’s the best Mexican writer?” and there’s a good chance the answer you get will be “Juan Rulfo.” Not bad for a file clerk who only wrote one short novel and a handful of short stories, don’t you think?

El llano en llamas

Rulfo’s fame is based on two books: the first was El llano en llamas (“The burning plain,” 1953), a collection of short stories. The stories show the harshness of life in revolutionary and post-revolutionary Mexico for the rural poor. The tales tend to start out depressing and get worse. For example, “Es que somos muy pobres” (“It’s that we’re very poor”) tells the story of a poor rural family where the elder daughters have left the home to become prostitutes in the city. The youngest will marry because the family has one cow to use as a dowry. Then the rains come and destroy the farm and drown the cow. Cheery!

Pedro Páramo

Rulfo’s 1955 novel, Pedro Páramo, is a dazzlingly depressive masterpiece. The novel follows protagonist Juan Preciado as he journeys to a town called Comala to find his father. What he finds, however, is that Comala has been turned into purgatory and is inhabited only by the echoes of the dead. The story is told through these echoes and murmurs, as the voices of the dead tell us the tragic story of Pedro Páramo and his lost love, Susana San Juan.

Writing Style and Prevalent Themes

Rulfo’s style is dry and descriptive and Pedro Páramo has an innovative narration that makes it a challenge to read. It’s best to read it twice: the first time, you’ll be utterly baffled. The second time, you’ll think it’s brilliant.

Rulfo’s themes – death, despair, lost love – struck a chord with his fellow Mexicans and he was honored during his life. He’s a writer’s writer in that other Latin American novelists including Gabriel García Marquez and Carlos Fuentes consider him among the best of his generation.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Mexico: Monumento a la Independencia, Teotihuacan History, Porfirio Diaz, The Mexican Revolution, Pueblo Fantasmo, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, The Ciudad Juarez Murders, Who Killed Luis Donaldo Colosio?, History and Politics of Mexico and Emiliano Zapata.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
06 May 2009

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