Juan Rulfo is known for two major works, his novel Pedro Páramo (1955, rev. 1959, 1964, 1980; English translations 1959, 1994) and his collection of short stories. Rulfo also wrote a novelette, screenplays, and essays of literary criticism. In 1994, the posthumous Los cuadernos de Juan Rulfo was published.
Juan Rulfo’s two major works have been translated into more than ten languages. His novel Pedro Páramo is widely credited with changing the course of Mexican literature. Rulfo received two fellowships to the Center for Mexican Writers (1952-1954) and was awarded Mexico’s National Literature Prize in 1970. He was elected to membership in the Mexican Academy of Letters in 1980 and received the Príncipe de Asturias Prize from Spain in 1983. He was honored after death by the creation of the Juan Rulfo Latin American and Caribbean Literature Award.
Juan Rulfo’s work is considered to be at the forefront of Latin American modernism and Magical Realism. Discuss Rulfo’s use of such techniques as disrupted narrative and time sequences, surrealism, unreliable narrators, and fantasy in both Pedro Páramo and The Burning Plain.
Rulfo’s work is often set against sterile and bleak landscapes. Discuss how heat, drought, and dust are used to define characters’ lives and actions.
How does Rulfo view family relationships in his work? In particular, what kinds of relationships exist between fathers and sons?
Pedro Páramo is set in a ghost town, where the inhabitants relate their stories in a series of scenes told out of chronological sequence. How does this choice affect the way you read the novel and your understanding of the separation between the living and the dead?
Several of Rulfo’s stories detail various political rebellions taking place in twentieth century Mexico. Research the background of political activism in Mexico and discuss how Rulfo’s work chronicles concerns with class divisions and land ownership.
Sort out the chronological sequence of the plot of Pedro Páramo.
Rulfo is often credited with the ability to create stunning visual imagery through the use of poetic and concrete language. Identify examples of this type of language in Pedro Páramo and The Burning Plain.
Rulfo’s world is one of violence, vengeance, and pain. What characters are usually the victims of this violence, and how do they react to their suffering?
Burton, Julianne. “A Drop of Rain in the Desert: Something and Nothingness in Juan Rulfo’s ‘Nos han dado la tierra’ [‘They’ve Given Us the Land’].” Latin American Literary Review 2, no. 3 (Fall/Winter, 1973): 55-62. Analysis of Rulfo’s use of absences (“nothingness”) such as barrenness, poverty, isolation, in combination with the presence (“something”) of elements like the buzzards that symbolize death and magnify the sterility of the locale and the people’s lives.
Ekstrom, Margaret V. “Frustrated Quest in the Narratives of Juan Rulfo.” The American Hispanist 2, no. 12 (November, 1976): 13-16. Discusses “No Dogs Bark,” “Talpa,” “The Burning Plain,” and “Macario” in relation to the actual journeys and symbolic quests undertaken by Rulfo’s characters, who are “unsuccessful” heroes on frustrated quests.
Janney, Frank, ed. and trans. Inframundo: The Mexico of Juan Rulfo. New York: Ediciones del Norte, 1983. Collection of critical articles by major Latin American authors like the Nobel-prize-winning Gabriel García Márquez, along with Rulfo’s story “Luvina” and nearly a hundred of his stunning black and white photographs illustrating the Mexico described in his works.
Jordan, Michael S. “Noise and Communication in Juan Rulfo.” Latin American...
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