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Topic: Latin American literary luminaries

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Subject: Latin American literary luminaries
Date Posted: 3/27/2011 6:04 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Four Mexican writers whom I can recommend, because I have read them, are: Mariano Azuela (1873-1952); Martín Luis Guzmán (1887-1976); Octavio Paz (1914-1998); and Juan Rulfo (1918-1986).   With three of these penmen, I will recommend a particular title:  Los de abajo, 1916 - The Underdogs, (1929);  by Azuela; El águila y la serpiente, 1928 - The Eagle and the Serpent, (1930), by Guzmán; El laberinto de soledad, 1950/Rev. 1959, The Labyrinth of Solitude, (1961), by Paz; and Pedro Páramo, 1955 - Pedro Páramo ( 1959), by Juan Rulfo.

The Underdogs is a Latin American classic, a historical novel chronicling the Mexican Revolution (1910).   Written in three sections, of which the first reflects hope, the last two sections  are grim and gritty and reflect the author's despair when he wrote his eye witness impressions of the intense, futile events of that time.

The Eagle and the Serpent , also about the Mexican Revolution (against Porfirio Diaz's dictatorship), is a book that melds literature and history, and truth and fiction.  The book's two parts are divided into seven "books" each, one part detailing Guzmán's own adventures just prior to the peak of the fighting, and the other recounting deeds that took place during the most turbulent years of the conflict.   The account of "The Carnival of the Bullets" has remained in my memory ever since I read this.

The Labyrinth of Solitude is subtitled Life and Thought in Mexico (Vida y pensamiento de México)   It's a book of essays by the thoughtful and scholarly man who was acknowledged as the greatest poet of contemporary Mexico.  If you don't care for such 'heavy' reading, perhaps you could become acquainted with Paz through his Piedra de sol (1957) which can be read in English versions.

For the brave readers among you, there is the very strange, "Magical Realism" novel, Pedro Páramo.  All its characters are dead, and these souls in pain are presented as if they were living in another world, in a strange limbo of memory.  While each 'soul' remembers his or her own life (and those of others), at the same time, intemporality pervades the story.  Weird enough for you?    Still, for an introduction to "Magical realism" and an insight into rural Indian life in Mexico, this is  the book.

I once heard "Magical Realism" encapsulated by someone out at our nearby university as "Writing in which the Extraordinary is treated as altogether ordinary, and the Ordinary is treated as altogether extraordinary."   Personally, I've never cared for literature about the supernatural, but  this book is intriguing.

Last Edited on: 12/27/12 5:48 PM ET - Total times edited: 11