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Adela Pineda Franco

Summing up the literature of the Mexican Revolution involves the challenge of defining, assessing, and comparing an extensive and heterogeneous corpus of novels, chronicles, testimonial accounts, and short stories under a set of organizing principles, which cannot be thought of as static and invariable. It is important to consider the connection of this literary corpus with the historical event known as the Mexican Revolution; the defining role of this literature in forging a postrevolutionary national culture in Mexico; and the aesthetic and cultural significance of its main practitioners in and beyond Mexico. Besides fictionalizing events related to the revolution’s armed phase, the literature of the Mexican Revolution provides myriad interpretations on the revolution’s outcome and legacy. Hence, as historical inheritance, these literary works were intricately linked to the sociopolitical and cultural struggles of their own time, during the 20th century. Yet, even novels that were published in the 19th century, such as La bola (1887) by Emilio Rabasa, La parcela (1898) by José López-Portillo y Rojas, and Tomochic (1893) by Heriberto Frías, have been included in this corpus, since they foreshadowed the revolution’s outbreak. Los de abajo by Mariano Azuela is considered the foundational novel of the Mexican Revolution. Originally published in 1915, it set the precedent of approaching the revolution as a potentially emancipatory movement gone awry. Its second edition (1920) marked the beginning of the revolution’s literary historiography, a process of selection, exclusion, and reinterpretation of myriad works under the influx of postrevolutionary nationalism. Many literary works of the Mexican Revolution exceed simple classifications. This is the case of José Vasconcelos’s four-volume autobiography; Nellie Campobello’s enigmatic collection of tales Cartucho: Relatos de la lucha en el Norte de México (1931); and novels, such as El águila y la serpiente (1928) and La sombra del caudillo (1929) by Martín Luis Guzmán, Se llevaron el cañón para Bachimba (1941) and ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! by Rafael F. Muñoz, Al filo del agua (1947) by Agustín Yáñez, and El luto humano (1943) by José Revueltas. Such works entail inventive intersections of life-writing and experimental fiction, mordant critiques of power relations; self-reflexivity, intertextuality, and intermediality, among other formal and thematic features. A revisionist overview of this literature sheds light on the significant role that underrepresented actors played in the history of the revolution and its literature. It also brings forward the actuality of the literature of the Mexican Revolution in the 21st century, prompting a reflection on the role of literature as a lens, capable of turning history into a meaningful dimension of the present.