Friday, July 21, 2006

With Rulfo from Rodier

It appears that though things are logistically complex I may just be able to get my photos back. This makes me very happy.

Many years ago in a hostel in deepest darkest Montmartre I got chatting with a group of Mexicans out to discover the delights of Paris. Asking them what Mexican literature they could recommend I was greeted with a chorus of 'Juan Rulfo' (amongst others who I shall continue to track down - Octavio Paz was another who's poetry I bought and loved). Yesterday, having found the book in a second hand shop, I sat down in a cafe with an ice coffee and a fine piece of cheese cake to read half the canon of one of the most renowned Spanish language writers.

A strange tale, Juan Rulfo wrote only two pieces of fiction, Pedro Paramo, which I read in the cafe, and The Burning Plane. With these two short works, his name in Spanish language literature is often lauded alongside the likes of Borges and is said to have influenced many including Marquez. It may be through more vicarious means but I can see parts of his writing in some of the mid 20th century American authors too, whose style is often simplistic and powerful.

This book is a strange weave of past and present, living and dead, that the Mexicans seem to write about so well. Starting off with the journey of a man to find his father, the story blends several timeframes into an almost continuous narrative which at times is confusing but always infused with the same dry, desolation, revealing the dead town's past and downfall.

The book has apparently been filmed several times, and twice the script was written by Marquez. Sounds like a fantastic combination which I'll be on the lookout for. It definitely reads like something Gilliam should be involved with.

I'd be interested to hear anyone who has read the Spanish and English versions of this to tell me how much I'm missing. The answer may be a lot but the language itself is actually very simple in the translation, I believe this is deliberate.

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Now, coming up to Friday evening, it's a lovely chance to spend it with my family again after so long away. I don't count myself as very religious at all but I do value the particular aspects of family and community that Judaism brings with it.

2 comments:

Adrian said...

I have just found too late your excellent review on Juan Rulfo's works. I've never read a review on Pedro Páramo as good as yours, taking into account your condition as a foreing reader. Congratulations, it seems that you grasped the books very well.
As for your question, yes, there is a very marked difference between the Spanish version of Pedro Páramo and the English one. I've read both, and, of course, I prefer the former. It is not that the English was not accurate, but simply it does not catch the vitality and the essence of Rulfo's prose. It is pretty challenging to translate both works into almost any language. True: you're missing a lot if you do not read it in Spanish. And it is not only deliberate that the language is simple but it is part of Rulfo's style and narrative technique.
It is not only said that Marquez was influenced by Rulfo's texts but Marques himself reckons that influence in his own works.
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Yours is a good blog. Keep on writing.
Please, visit my blog. Don't forget to leave a comment. By the way, I'm mexican. Greetings from Mexico.

Jonathan Shock said...

Hi Adrian, many thanks for the kind remarks. Please see your later comment (August tenth) for a full reply.

All the best,

Jon