Short review - Amazing
Long review - I was very impressed with this book. The story - if it can be summed up so simply - is of a man who goes to the town where his father lived on the request of his deceased mother. He wanders about the dead town, running into the ghosts of previous residents, discussing his father with them and getting a glimpse into their lives.
The story soon shifts focus away from him - and the 'I' narration - and instead moves about from person to person, each little experience illuminating the life of his father, Pedra Paramo, in greater detail. In some people's minds he was a villain, in others, a good man, in others, simply a rich man who did what rich men do. Occasionally little snippets of conversation float through the book, often these aren't attributed to anyone and would require a re-read to recognise as the reader becomes more familiar with the characters.
Later, the narration moves away from 'he said she said' back to 'I', but this time the 'I' is Pedro himself. Here he pines for his dead wife, Susana, and his thoughts are only of love and glorifying her image. Yet, generally in sections immediately following it, we witness scenes where he either takes part in or is a silent witness to horrible deeds, so we are left to wonder just what sort of man Pedro Paramo is? And the best part of the book is that it does not try to answer this for us.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez lists Rulfo as one of the two great influences of his life, as well as Kafka's Metamorphosis, and it shows. In Comala, people who die never really leave and an air of magic and realistic exaggeration (if that makes sense) permeates every person and every action. The seeds of Macondo (from 100 Years of Solitude) are more than evident here, in some ways this seems like the skeleton novella for Marquez's masterpiece. Often this was a bad thing, in that I felt I was getting a watered down version, but in other ways it was simply amazing to read another take - and the original Latin American take - on magic surrealism.
This book is short, 124 pages, and a quick read. I highly recommend it, particularly if you enjoy Marquez.