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The Novel of the Mexican Revolution

Manuel Gutierrez

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online October 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0032
The Novel of the Mexican Revolution

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The term Novel of the Revolution refers to a group of narrative works inspired by and based on the events of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. These writings focus on the military actions, popular uprisings, political and social transformations, and the overall human suffering caused by the decade-long war. The canon of the Novel of the Revolution comprises an assortment of novels, short stories, autobiographies, biographies, and testimonial accounts of the war. During the armed conflict, authors coined the phrase Novel of the Revolution to describe narrative works that portrayed the violent events of the war. However, the term gained critical acceptance and a more precise definition after the war. In the polémica de 1925 critics eschewed foreign esthetic influences and encouraged writers to create a national literature. They proposed writing literary works that portrayed the military and sociopolitical struggles of the era. Though written ten years earlier, Mariano Azuela’s novel Los de abajo: Cuadros y escenas de la revolución actual (1915) (The Underdogs: Scenes and Portraits of the Ongoing Revolution) satisfied this criterion and was recognized as the first and paradigmatic Novel of the Revolution. Set in the battlefield and centered on the character types that participated in the war, Los de abajo became an example for Mexican novelists interested in creating a socially committed national literature. From 1915 to 1947 as many as one hundred different authors wrote approximately two hundred and eighty Novels of the Revolution, as discussed in Moore 1941 (cited in Bibliographies). Due to this enormous body of work, critics often disagree on which narratives should be classified as Novels of the Revolution. Some limit the canon to works that deal specifically with the destructive, military phase of the Revolution. Other scholars propose broader parameters for the genre and include works that are set in the period of fighting as well as those that depict the era of postrevolutionary reconstruction. Finally, some critics offer an even more inclusive definition, labeling Novels of the Revolution literary works that narrate the important historical events of modern Mexico before and after the war of 1910. This complex definition signals the richness of the subject and its scope. Critics generally agree, however, that the Novel of the Revolution began with Los de Abajo (1915) and concluded with Agustín Yáñez’s Al filo del agua (1947), a modern and experimental novel that portrays the effects of the Revolution on a small, traditionally religious town. Authors born under the regime of Porfirio Díaz, who witnessed the revolutionary war and sometimes participated in either the actual fighting or reconstruction, constitute the first generation of novelists of the Revolution. These include Mariano Azuela (b. 1873–d. 1952), José Vasconcelos (b. 1881–d. 1959), Martín Luis Guzmán (b. 1887–d. 1976), and José Rubén Romero (b. 1890–d. 1952). The second generation was born between 1895 and 1902. Adolescents during the war of 1910, many of these authors witnessed and experienced it viscerally, lending their prolonged support to the different fighting factions. These included José Mancisidor (b. 1895–d. 1956), Gregorio López y Fuentes (b. 1897–d. 1966), Rafael F. Muñoz (b. 1899–d. 1971), and Nellie Campobello (b. 1900–d. 1986). The last generation was born between 1904 and 1914. Before they reached adolescence the war was over. In a more peaceful country they honed their literary skills. However, the topic of the Revolution was still central to their literary production. The two best-known authors of this generation are Agustín Yáñez (b. 1904–d. 1980) and José Revueltas (b. 1914–d. 1975).

Article.  13168 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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