Jose Yglesias Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to his novels, José Yglesias (ee-GLAY-syahs) contributed many articles and short stories to such respected publications as The New Yorker, The Nation, Esquire, The Atlantic, and The Sunday Times Magazine. He also translated novels by Juan Goytisolo and Xavier Domingo from Spanish into English. His four major nonfictional works have been praised for their clear narrative prose. Focusing on Spain and Latin America, these works provide the American reader with the all too rare opportunity to meet individual Spaniards and Latin Americans, to see their socioeconomic and political situation from their own perspective. In The Goodbye Land (1967), which first appeared in serial form in The New Yorker in the spring of 1967, Yglesias recounts his 1965 trip to Galicia, Spain, where his father, a native Galician, returned home to die. Some forty years after his father’s death, Yglesias visits his father’s birthplace in search of the many unanswered questions concerning his last years. In uncovering the truth about his father, Yglesias also discovers the captivating beauty of the Galician people. His second book of nonfiction, In the Fist of the Revolution (1968), describes the everyday life of a small town, Mayarí, in postrevolutionary Cuba, while Down There (1970) is a broader analysis of Latin American reality. Based on interviews he conducted in 1969 with various groups of politically involved Latin Americans (in Cuba, Brazil, Chile, and Peru), the book captures many of the hopes and frustrations experienced by Latin America’s militantly anti-American youth. In The Franco Years (1977), Yglesias presents a candid analysis of the controversial Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and the alternatives facing post-Franco Spain.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

José Yglesias’s many contributions to magazines such as The New Yorker made his name both known and respected throughout the American literary establishment. Several of his stories appeared in Best American Stories (1972 and 1975). His books on Spain and Latin America have been recognized for not only their documentary value but also literary merit. Yglesias’s fluid narrative style and seemingly effortless ability to describe the complex and diverse realities of the Spanish-speaking world brought him several prestigious academic awards. He was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship both in 1970 and 1976. As a result of these grants, he produced a penetrating analysis of Franco’s waning influence in contemporary Spain, The Franco Years. In 1974, he was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Because of his bilingual upbringing (his father was Spanish and his mother Cuban), he was the ideal writer to visit postrevolutionary Cuba. He spent three months there in the spring of 1967 with the people of Mayarí. On the basis of this unique experience, he wrote In the Fist of the Revolution, a rare glimpse of the Cuban people as they truly are, and not as Americans prefer to imagine them. Curiously, it is Yglesias’s nonfiction that has received the greatest praise from reviewers and critics. His novels, for the most part, have not enjoyed such acclaim. Possibly, given that each novel deals with a Cuban American or Mexican Americanprotagonist, a better understanding and appreciation of Latin American reality would allow the American critic to view these works with a broader perspective, opening areas of literary investigation.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Baskin, Leonard. “Jose Yglesias.” Tampa Review 13 (1996). This article examines Yglesias, the literary influence of his work, and his overall literary life.

Ivory, Ann, ed. “Jose Yglesias.” In Contemporary Authors. Vols. 41-44, first revision series. Detroit: Gale Research, 1974. Lists a chronology on Yglesias and his Cuban American background. Mentions Yglesias’ interest in recording the lives of Hispanic people and his travels to Spain, the first of which resulted in The Goodbye Land, described here as a work of “warmth and kindness.” This study includes some extracts of reviews on his work, such as Publishers Weekly’s appraisal of The Kill Price (a “splendidly written ... deeply probing story”). There are scant critical resources on Yglesias; this is the most comprehensive available, and a sympathetic one too.

“Jose Yglesias.” In Contemporary Novelists. 6th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1996. This reference article provides an overview of Yglesias’s significant work and highlights a few of his books.

Nelson, Milo G. Review of Double Double.” Library Journal 99 (May 15, 1974): 1410. Not a favorable look at Yglesias, the reviewer taking exception to what he terms “the clichés that abound by trendy conversations of political movements, such as Black Panthers.” The book, he asserts, is nevertheless “greatly uplifted by the surprise ending.” There is no mention made, unfortunately, of the sensational times to which this book is faithful.

Review of The Kill Price. Booklist 72 (May 1, 1976); 1244. Calls this work, in which the main character is a terminal cancer patient, a “painful, honest, rather talky novel of discovery.” Offers insight into the author’s essential dilemma that the only healing will come through death. Applauds Yglesias for including sexual content without being sensational.