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Juan Rulfo

Juan Rulfo Juan Rulfo[1†]

Juan Nepomuceno Carlos Pérez Rulfo Vizcaíno, better known as Juan Rulfo, was a prominent Mexican writer, screenwriter, and photographer[1†]. Born on May 16, 1917, in Apulco, Mexico[1†][2†][1†], he passed away on January 7, 1986, in Mexico City[1†][2†][1†]. Rulfo is most recognized for his two significant literary works: the novel “Pedro Páramo” (1955) and the collection of short stories “El Llano en llamas” (1953)[1†].

Rulfo’s writing, which consists essentially of these two books, has had a profound impact on 20th-century Latin American literature[1†][2†]. His work often explores themes related to the Mexican Revolution, leading many to view him as one of the last novelists of this era[1†][2†]. Despite his limited production, Rulfo’s influence extends to numerous Latin American authors who practiced what has come to be known as magic realism[1†][2†].

In addition to his writing, Rulfo also made significant contributions to the field of photography[1†]. His unique perspective and ability to capture the essence of his subjects added another dimension to his storytelling, providing a visual context to the themes and settings he explored in his writing.

Rulfo’s work continues to be celebrated for its depth, complexity, and contribution to literature. His legacy endures in the continued study and appreciation of his work in literary circles around the world[1†][2†][1†].

Early Years and Education

Juan Rulfo was born on May 16, 1917, in Apulco, Jalisco[1†]. However, he was registered at Sayula[1†]. His birth year was often listed as 1918 because he provided an inaccurate date to get into the military academy that his uncle, David Pérez Rulfo — a colonel working for the government — directed[1†].

Rulfo’s early life was marked by loss and hardship. His father was killed in 1923, and his mother died in 1927[1†]. After these tragic events, Rulfo’s grandmother raised him in Guadalajara, Jalisco[1†]. Their extended family consisted of landowners whose fortunes were ruined by the Mexican Revolution and the Cristero War of 1926–1928[1†].

In terms of education, Rulfo was sent to study at the Luis Silva School, where he lived from 1928 to 1932[1†][3†]. He completed six years of elementary school and a special seventh year from which he graduated as a bookkeeper, though he never practiced that profession[1†][3†].

Rulfo attended a seminary (analogous to a secondary school) from 1932 to 1934[1†]. However, he did not attend a university afterwards, as the University of Guadalajara was closed due to a strike and because Rulfo had not taken preparatory school courses[1†]. In 1936, Rulfo was able to audit courses in literature at the University, because he obtained a job as an immigration file clerk through his uncle[1†].

Career Development and Achievements

Juan Rulfo’s career was multifaceted, encompassing various roles in the cultural and literary fields[1†][4†][5†]. He began writing under the guidance of a coworker, Efrén Hernández[1†]. In 1944, Rulfo co-founded the literary journal Pan[1†], which marked the beginning of his literary career.

Rulfo held several jobs that allowed him to travel throughout Mexico. He worked as an immigration agent[1†], a foreman for Goodrich-Euzkadi[1†], and a wholesale traveling sales agent[1†]. These experiences likely influenced his writing, providing him with a broad perspective on Mexican society and culture.

His literary production, though consisting essentially of two books, had a significant impact on 20th-century Latin American literature[1†][2†]. His novel “Pedro Páramo” (1955) and the collection of short stories “El Llano en llamas” (1953) are considered masterpieces[1†][2†][1†]. The latter includes the popular tale “¡Diles que no me maten!” (“Tell Them Not to Kill Me!”)[1†].

Rulfo’s work often depicted the violence of the rural environment and the moral stagnation of its people[1†][2†]. He used innovative narrative techniques such as stream of consciousness, flashbacks, and shifting points of view[1†][2†]. These techniques would later be incorporated into the Latin American new novel[1†][2†].

In addition to his writing, Rulfo also held a number of culture-related jobs. He worked as an archivist[1†][5†], an immigration agent[1†][5†], a travel agent[1†][5†], and, for twenty-four years, an editor in the National Indigenous Institute in Mexico City[1†][5†]. As an adviser to the Mexican Center of Writers, he helped educate generations of Mexican literati[1†][4†].

Rulfo’s work continues to be celebrated for its depth, complexity, and contribution to literature. His legacy endures in the continued study and appreciation of his work in literary circles around the world[1†][2†][1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Juan Rulfo’s literary production, though small, had a significant impact on Latin American literature[2†][1†]. His works, consisting essentially of two books, are considered some of the finest in 20th-century Latin America[2†][1†].

  1. El Llano en llamas (The Burning Plain)[2†][6†]: This collection of short stories was first published in 1953[2†][6†]. Many of the stories in this collection first appeared in the review Pan[2†]. They depict the violence of the rural environment and the moral stagnation of its people[2†]. Rulfo used narrative techniques in these stories that would later be incorporated into the Latin American new novel, such as the use of stream of consciousness, flashbacks, and shifting points of view[2†].
  2. Pedro Páramo[2†][1†][7†]: This novel, published in 1955, is a tale of a man discovering a ghost town[2†][7†]. It is considered compulsory reading in schools around the Spanish-speaking world[2†][7†]. Thought of as one of the forerunners of the magical realism genre, it has had plenty of high-profile fans[2†][7†]. The novel examines the physical and moral disintegration of a laconic cacique (boss) and is set in a mythical hell on earth inhabited by the dead, who are haunted by their past transgressions[2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Juan Rulfo’s literary production, though consisting essentially of two books, had a profound impact on Latin American literature[2†][1†]. His works are considered among the finest in 20th-century Latin America[2†][1†].

Rulfo’s works are characterized by their focus on the rural environment and the moral stagnation of its people[2†]. His narrative style, which includes the use of stream of consciousness, flashbacks, and shifting points of view, has been influential in the development of the Latin American new novel[2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Juan Rulfo’s work is considered to be at the forefront of Latin American modernism and Magical Realism[8†][9†]. His narrative style, which includes the use of disrupted narrative and time sequences, surrealism, unreliable narrators, and fantasy, has been influential in the development of the Latin American new novel[8†][9†].

Rulfo’s style and narrative structure in his two major works, “The Burning Plain” and “Pedro Páramo”, are striking[8†][9†]. As in modernist poetry, his prose strips away nonessentials and relies upon dialogue and stunning visual imagery[8†][9†]. In “Pedro Páramo’s” memories of his youth, the drops of rain moisten the roof tiles, shake the branches of the pomegranate tree, and awaken his memories of his love, Susana San Juan[8†][9†]. In the short story “Nos han dado la tierra” (“They Gave Us the Land”), the men walk like insects across the parched and cracked land, featureless in the dust, almost becoming part of the dry landscape[8†][9†].

The most unusual feature of Rulfo’s brief novel “Pedro Páramo” is the use of disrupted narrative[8†][9†]. The story begins in a fairly straightforward manner but rapidly becomes a series of brief vignettes that shift rapidly and often with little explicit transition to a series of stories spanning three generations of the town of Comala[8†][9†]. Shadowy characters come and go, and sometimes the reader hears only voices[8†][9†]. The reader eventually learns that all of the characters in the novel are dead, even the narrator Juan Preciado[8†][9†]. The technique is reminiscent of other modernist works, such as T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” (1922) or the novels of William Faulkner[8†][9†].

Rulfo is often credited with being a forerunner of the technique known as Magical Realism, a technique most associated with Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez[8†][9†]. Magical Realism introduces surreal elements of fantasy in startling juxtaposition with realistic narrative[8†][9†].

Personal Life

Juan Rulfo was born on May 16, 1917, in the village of San Gabriel, Jalisco, today Ciudad Venustiano Carranza[10†]. He was born into a family of landowners, lawyers, bureaucrats, and politicians[10†][11†]. His family was impoverished by the Mexican Revolution[10†][4†]. His father died when he was six, and his mother passed away two years later[10†][4†]. The brutality of the countryside Cristeros uprising of 1926 to 1929 persisted in his memory[10†][4†].

Rulfo had a grim childhood, witnessing some of the more violent episodes of the Cristero religious war as a little boy[10†]. This turbulent period saw his family lose most of their land, and he lost most of his family[10†][11†].

After his death in 1986, the Juan Rulfo Foundation was founded[10†][7†]. The foundation organizes international events to mark the anniversary of his birth and to reintroduce or introduce him to readers[10†][7†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Juan Rulfo’s work has left an indelible mark on Latin American literature[7†]. Despite authoring only one novel, “Pedro Páramo”, and one short story collection, “El llano en llamas”, Rulfo achieved extreme fame and admiration from other writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and established himself as a pivotal influence on Gabriel García Márquez[7†][12†].

His narrative style, which often depicted the harsh realities of life and the torments of memory, turned away from the explicit goals of social realism and turned toward the expression of a more interior reality[7†][9†]. This unique approach to storytelling has given Rulfo the dignity of a tragedian[7†][13†].

Rulfo’s fiction can be read as a series of ‘centripetally-efficient’ works of irony but his allusions to context through centrifugal irony are given a heuristically useful framework in the form of postcolonial theory[7†][14†]. This emphasizes the urgency of analyzing fictional narratives within the context of political projects of economic and cultural dominance[7†][14†].

A series of international events have been organized to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, and to reintroduce - or introduce - him to readers[7†]. His legacy continues to inspire and influence writers around the world[7†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Juan Rulfo [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Juan Rulfo: Mexican writer [website] - link
  3. Kiddle Encyclopedia - Juan Rulfo Facts for Kids [website] - link
  4. eNotes - Juan Rulfo Biography [website] - link
  5. GradeSaver - Juan Rulfo Biography [website] - link
  6. Encyclopedia.com - Rulfo, Juan (1918–1986) [website] - link
  7. BBC News - Juan Rulfo: The great Latin writer you may want to know about [website] - link
  8. eNotes - Juan Rulfo Analysis [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Juan Rulfo World Literature Analysis [website] - link
  10. MexConnect - The few, the proud, the work of Juan Rulfo (1917-1986) [website] - link
  11. Cambridge University Press - A Companion to Juan Rulfo - Chapter: Introduction: Life and Literature [website] - link
  12. The Artifice - The Legacy and Influence of Juan Rulfo [website] - link
  13. eNotes - Juan Rulfo Rulfo, Juan (Contemporary Literary Criticism) [website] - link
  14. Cambridge University Press - The Fiction of Juan Rulfo - Chapter: Conclusion [website] - link
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