In Mexico a new novel is being created. It is simple in art, realistic in subject, and rooted firmly in native Mexican life and culture. Because it is a social novel, written with a vigor new to modern Mexican letters, drawing its inspiration, ideals, and much of its subject matter, from the Mexican Revolution of 1910, it has become known as the "Novel of the Revolution". The word "Revolution" in the title itself indicates the importance of the new novel, for only significant economic and social reforms and the cultivation of national arts and crafts are popularly identified by Mexicans as outgrowths of the Revolution.
[There are] … three main figures responsible for this literary creation,—Mariano Azuela, Martín Luis Guzmán and Gregorio López y Fuentes…. (p. 23)
Gregorio López y Fuentes is the most important, for although he is a newcomer and little known abroad, in Mexico his novels are in great demand. In the United States there is a growing interest in them, several having been very favorably reviewed in newspapers and periodicals. And now his latest work, El indio, has just been published in an English translation….
López y Fuentes has rapidly risen to fame in Mexico through his steady output of novels. Each successive work marks an advance in technique and reveals a deeper understanding of the social problems of his country. With Guzmán self-exiled in Spain, and Azuela entering his sixties, López y Fuentes—just turned forty—is likely to become Mexico's most prominent contemporary novelist. Certainly he seems the most promising at this moment. (p. 24)
The reader will recall that the Revolution awakened Mexico to the serious plight into which it had been thrown by four centuries of military abuse, feudal land conditions, and Church corruption…. [Toward the end of the conflict the "revolutinary ideals" originating in the people's discontent] … were permanently synthesized, and embodied in the Mexican Constitution of 1917. In essence, this notable document insists that labor be granted equality with capital, that land be redistributed fairly among Mexicans, and that the indio and the Mexican be made the basic considerations of every social, economic, and cultural manifestation of the nation's life.
These ideas López y Fuentes uses as focal points in his examination of Mexican life. A survey of his novels will show the direction his social criticism takes as well as his rapid development in skill as a novelist.
Campamento marks the beginning of a satire that is to strike deeper and deeper in his later novels at the roots of social evils. Here the thrust is light, yet he manages through a study of revolutionary masses to point out the wide gap between revolutionary ideals and the actual conditions under which people are forced to live during war. He is an objective observer. His descriptions are vivid. The Indian, who in real life turns out to be the chief protagonist in the drama of revolution, is portrayed in this novel as the victim of all the warring factions. A nameless Indian guide runs beside the general staff's horses, driven on by the trampling hoofs, until he dies of exhaustion…. His death elicits a few pitying remarks from the soldiers. Nevertheless, the same men—most of whom also have Indian blood in their veins—who watch him die with the blood spurting from his exhausted lungs, will witness similar brutality again and again without uttering a word of protest!
In this work of brief span—fifteen hours of life in a military camp—the author relies upon the unities of time and place to integrate his vivid and precise descriptions of the Revolution. The restless human beings act out their individual rôles of tragedy upon the serene and beautiful stage of the Mexican Valley. Their actions are natural. As individuals they play petty parts; as a group they reach epic grandeur in their tremendous struggles, sacrifices, and accomplishments.
The style of the author is supple, well suited to his task. His pages are crowded with turbulent military masses madly fighting for ideals that are vague but...
(The entire section is 1727 words.)