Francisco Goldman on Juan Rulfo
Pedro Páramo is the most beautiful modern novel in Spanish—by modern I mean everything written from Don Quixote to today. It is also one of the most original, one of the most mesmerizing and strange. Juan Rulfo’s entire published literary output amounted to Pedro Páramo and one equally slender, and also classic, collection of short stories, El llano el llantas. That doesn’t seem all that surprising, because Pedro Páramo seems almost too unprecedented and singular. What would you do if, after writing a novel this uncompromisingly original and perfect—considering the role of luck along with everything else in this kind of perfection—you could never again match it? Gabriel García Márquez, living in Mexico, before he wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude, was so beguiled by Pedro Páramo that he memorized it. He could recite the whole book out loud! As if maybe then the book might begin to yield its secrets—its formal secrets, certainly, for there had never before been, I believe, a novel structured anything like this one. And yet it seems so effortlessly, naturally, seamlessly, and inevitably narrated. People talk about novels sculpting time in a new way, or defeating or subverting time, or of novels creating a world apart, in somehow autonomous relation to our usual reality: a life all their own, which is also ours. Pedro Páramo seems to do all of that. Yet its voices are so human they can easily seem even more human than those we hear ever day. And the “soul” of this book gets inside you and haunts you.