Thursday, September 07, 2006

Mariano Azuela's The Underdogs

I just read Mariano Azuela’s The Underdogs (which I am including in the sidebar), a novel of the Mexican revolution first published in 1915. Another professor had said he used it in his Latin American politics class, and in the past few years I’ve been incorporating fiction into my classes (this semester I am using Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden) so I thought I would take a look.

It was a very compelling novel, and though it lacks a plot as we normally understand it, that seems to be a metaphor for the war itself. No heroes, no nice stories that get neatly tied up, no relief from the war. The main character, Demetrio Macías, is lauded for his bravery but admits he has no idea why he’s fighting, and gets caught up in the rape, looting, and drinking that characterizes most of the soldiers in the book. Another character sums it up toward the end of the novel:

I love the revoluton like a volcano in eruption; I love the volcano because it’s a volcano, the revolution because it’s the revolution!

Later, Demetrio returns to his wife, who asks him why he keeps fighting. He throws a stone to the bottom of a canyon, and says, “Look at that stone, how it keeps on going…”


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