Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Underdogs- A Novel of the Mexican Revolution by Mariano Azuela

Few novelists have managed to create a successful short novel- some that instantly spring to mind are Turgenev (Father and Sons, Rudin), Juan Rulfo (Pedro Paramo), Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Fiftyfive Five ), even Flaubert (Madame Bovary) and perhaps a few more complete the list.

To this short list also belongs Mariano Azuela's classic novel about the Mexican Revolution: The Underdogs. In a mere 150 pages, Azuelo captures the tribulations of an Indian peasant leader- Demetrio MarcĂ­as and through him, the tribulations of the Mexican Revolution. Suffice would be to quote a a few lines from the novel that also serves as the summary of the novel:

Villa? Obregon? Carranza? Who do I care? I love the Revolution like I love the volcano that's erupting! The volcano because it is a volcano; the Revolution because it's the Revolution!... But the stones left above or below after the cataclysm? What are they to me?

...

"Why do you keep on fighting, Demetrio?"

Demetrio, frowning deeply, absentmindedly picks up a small stone and throws it to the bottom of the canyon. He stares pensively over the precipice and says:

"Look at the stone, how it keeps going..."
The stone falling into a bottomless precipice is allegorical about the fate of the Mexican Revolution itself.

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9 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

Really good post. You should write his book cover.

bhupinder singh said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Renegade Eye.

Alok said...

Have you read Pedro Paramo? I have been looking for it for a long time. I think I will buy a copy since my library here doesn't have it...

I haven't read any other latin american writer other than Marquez, Borges and Llosa. Have seen your latin american literature related posts and got a few ideas now!

Alok said...

And yes, there is only one five in that Vonnegut book not two ;)

bhupinder singh said...

You are right on Slaughterhouse 5, I have somehow always remembered it as Slaughterhouse 55 :-)

I was led to Pedro Paramo via Garcia Marquez's remark somewhere that a writer writes only one book in his life.

Two important writers that you wont find much mention of on my blog are Carlos Fuentes and Julio Cortazar. In case of Fuentes, I probably made a wrong selection but in case of Cortazar, I read Hopscotch, his best known work. However, both authors have left me cold.

Writers besides Marquez and Mario Llosa I would highly recommend are Roberto Bolano, Ignacio Padilla and Tomas Eloy Martinez (specially The Peron Novel).

Alok said...

Thanks Bhupinder! I had read about Roberto Bolano before but after reading it here, I will definitely be on a look out for his books. I remember reading a review of his book Night in Chile. Is that his best known book?

bhupinder singh said...

Yes, and also Distant Stars, reviewed earlier on this blog.

Freudian Slip said...

Excellent post! I have read the book and can say this is certainly an excellent summary!
Matt

bhupinder said...

Thanks, Matt. Glad you liked the short review.