Wednesday, 21 July 2010

pedro paramo [juan rulfo]

[An aside. Someone said the other day that the way to make this website more popular would be to unleash a more sardonic tone of voice (which can occasionally be found here) on a more regular basis. Instinctively, that felt wrong. Occasionally I describe myself as a critic, (the title page does so too), but that's not really the function of this site/ book. A critic implies someone who makes a judgement (I just tried to find its etymology, without success). Whilst a notion of judgement, or evaluation, is implicit in the giving of a reaction to a work of art/ literature, that's of only secondary importance. Especially given that I have no readers to influence. In which case, what is the function of this site? Firstly, it's a record. When I was a child, I kept a black notebook and wrote down the names of the books I read in it. Lots of Huxley, Hesse, Camus and their ilk. I maintained the record into my late 20's and then let it slide. There's something anal about this, of course, but it also seems to me that given the flood of information we are inundated with, is does no harm to have a place to refer to what has been, what has enrichened, or not. Secondly, and more importantly, this is the journal of an enthusiast. There's no space to go into any great detail of the role of art in our society, but if one holds it to have some value, as I suppose I do, then it feels in some way positive to create a space where access to that art can be offered. It's probably fair to say that this seems particularly the case within an introspective culture such as the one I inhabit, (no matter how broad it believes its remit to be). As such, should anyone stumble across this site, far from offering the satisfaction of seeing something knocked down, or criticised, I would hope that it might prompt curiosity for some of the rich worlds of writers, filmmakers and the like who I have been fortunate enough to discover over the course of recent years.]

Including, of late, Juan Rulfo. A name I'd heard talk of, but knew nothing about. Le Clezio's reference to him in the last book I reviewed prompted me to read him. Rulfo, so I've learnt, only published two books. Sontag writes an affectionate introduction, explaining something of his life. As such, he's a maverick, someone who belongs to Vila Matas' compendium of near-silent authors. Paramo is a simple/ complex fable, which operates on a host of different timelines, which whispers various stories, all inter-connected, all leading back to the eponymous anti-hero. It's a breathy, brief book, which feels like it could be re-read a hundred times and still contain secrets the reader hasn't gleaned. As Le Clezio notes, it feels like a tract from another world, with another way of seeing things. Of all the writers I've read of late, it's dreamscape most resembles the work of Couto, another writer whose work seems informed by a tradition with another vision of time, one that's not linear,but fractured, belonging to a world where death is not omnipotent. Where the dead live alongside the living, or perhaps the living live alongside the dead. It's also a story where the density of the narrative seems to belie the sheer number of pages: my version of the book contained 122 pages, and took no more than a couple of hours to read, but the number of threads that are spun from these words seem nearly unquantifiable.

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