Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Narrative and (Meta)Physical Paradox in "Grande Sertao: Veredas" and "Pedro Paramo"

  • Author(s): Schneider, Caroline LeFeber
  • Advisor(s): Slater, Candace
  • et al.

The canonical Latin American novels Grande Sertão: Veredas (João Guimarães Rosa, 1956) and Pedro Páramo (Juan Rulfo, 1955) mirror each other across their linguistic and other divides due to their uses of literary and regional spaces. Previous studies of both works often focus – as do many studies of the works individually – on a perceived dichotomy between local regional material, and innovative, even "universal" aesthetic technique. However, the relationship between setting and form in the works in fact has little to do with conflict. Rather, concurrent analysis of the novels shows that, in both, their archetypal regional landscapes are the detailed foundations for the narrative construction of complex (meta)physical spaces that are central to the works: spaces at once spiritual and placed. The true paradox of the novels, their apparent dichotomy which is nonetheless unity, lies in the confluence of physical and metaphysical realms in both the sertão of Riobaldo's journeys and the Jalisco of Juan Preciado's terrible heritage: one a land and paths (sertão and veredas) in which God and the devil may reside, and one a town in which wrought evil and spiritual corruption have resulted in a land-bound and interactive purgatory.

The complexity of these (meta)physical realms is executed through the innovative narrative techniques of the works, in both the protagonists' communicated concerns and experiences, and in the forging of paradox, uncertainty, and textual lacunae in the narratives themselves. In many ways, the spaces are their narratives: the sertão and Riobaldo's paths through it are as the redemoinho of his refrain, a whirlwind of narrative; and the Comala of Juan Preciado's experience, and in consequence the reader's own, is a woven quilt like that of the sown and abandoned fields, their harvest the voices of the unredeemed dead. The works' textures, their forged openness, plus their further narrative bridges to the reader, create spaces of participation, even integration: literary spaces of a reader/author co-construction of telluric spaces of (meta)physical landscape.

Setting and form are not at odds: it is due to the works' complex and creative narrative techniques that the sertão and Comala are built, in collaboration with the reader, into powerfully internalized geographies of both material and immaterial origin – (meta)physical geographies to explore the works' concerns about identity, violence, redemption, and human relationship to land.

Main Content
Current View