Boyd Carter

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 556

The participation of López y Fuentes in the Revolution was more limited than that of Azuela or Guzmán but sufficiently committing to give him enough first-hand experience to assimilate its physical details and movement as well as its idealistic and ironical under- and overtones. Moreover, as a native of the state of Veracruz with roots deep in the psychology and customs of Indians and mestizos, as one of the unsuccessful defenders of Veracruz against the U.S. occupying force of 1914, and as an adherent to the Carranza faction, he acquired a set of experiences and perspectives that differed somewhat from those of [other writers]….

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The geographical proximity of the state of Veracruz to the state of Morelos facilitated the opportunities of López y Fuentes to study and to understand the rôle of the most pure in motive of the revolutionary figures. Emiliano Zapata, in the eyes of his partisans, the leader sans peur et sans reproche, who simplified the purposes of the Revolution to the two demands of land and withdrawal of federal troops, could not but appeal to a man of López y Fuentes' sincerity, integrity, generous sentiments, and human sympathies. Land (Tierra, 1932) is the story of Zapata from 1910 to 1920. The author solves the structural problem of reducing chronological breadth to compositional unity by having Zapata serve as the hub, the developments of each of the ten years as spokes, and the peons and their echelon leaders as the raw source of power to keep the revolutionary wheel turning. (p. 147)

Land, in theme, execution, and significance merits more attention than Mi general (1934) or Bivouac (Campamento, 1931). The latter, López y Fuentes' first novel on the Revolution, is an audio-photographic close-up of a military unit as it rests for a few days between engagements. In no novel thus far published on the Revolution does one find such a concentration of details or greater success in distilling dramatic interest from an essentially undramatic and amorphous situation. The author circumvents monotony through stylistic skill, periscopic shifts of focus within the camp, the interlarding of alerts, rumors, arrival of prisoners, and a trial of deserters. His talent in conferring graphic saliency on trivial incidents is such that the killing of a chicken, of a cow, a quarrel, amputation of a leg, bananas stealthily fried behind shutters, the diversified and sometimes promiscuous functions of the women campfollowers, these and scores of other petty happenings acquire an animation that fixes them indelibly in the memory. That López y Fuentes is a writer "pour qui le monde visible existe" is amply illustrated on each page. Nevertheless, one feels that behind the façade of his objectivity he finds it difficult to restrain the impulse to sympathize, in the manner of Dickens and Alphonse Daudet, and to interpret analytically like Martín Luis Guzmán. (p. 148)

El Indio, the most widely read of López y Fuentes' novels, ranks at the top of Spanish-American fiction dealing with the Indian. Only Ciro Alegría's El mundo es ancho y ajeno has won comparable recognition. Although published three years after Land, El Indio precedes it in the chronology of events dramatized and in fact may well be viewed as its companion piece. (p. 149)

Boyd Carter, "The Mexican Novel at Mid-Century," in Prairie Schooner, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2, Summer, 1954, pp. 143-56.∗

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