(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Lean Lands portrays a transitional moment in the history of the Trujillo family, the sociopolitical center of the region. The action involves an internecine war among three half brothers to gain access to the power center held by their ill father, Don Epifanio (Pifanio, Don Pifas).

Consistent with the hacendado system (a parafeudal system of land ownership), throughout his life, Epifanio has conformed majestically to the traditional functions of the cacique (chieftain), the Arawak term for tribal chief.

Arrogantly, he has subjugated all in the region to his arbitrary and willful nature in various ways. Chief among them is the long-held prerogative of having multiple “wives” to create an enormous progeny. Sensuality is totally lacking in the “conquests,” which are motivated strictly by sociopolitical considerations. Nor is sentiment valued, for Epifanio selects from the children those whose characters promise the same uncompromising attitude that he holds toward the weak.

These chosen few are brought to the Big House for watchful training to polish their ruthlessness. It seems pleasingly ironic, then, that, though the region is impotent to withstand him, it is his own potency as prolific father and his deficiencies as a guide which are the seeds of his demise and of the destruction of the region.

Two of his sons, Don Jesús, “the Snake,” and Don Felipe, “the...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Clark, Stella T. “Agustín Yáñez.” In Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria I. Abreau. Vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989. Offers an in-depth profile of Agustín Yáñez’s life and career. Many of his works are discussed in detail, including The Lean Lands.

Detjens, Wilma E. Home as Creation: The Influence of Early Childhood Experience in the Literary Creation of Gabriel García Márquez, Agustín Yáñez, and Juan Rulfo. New York: Peter Lang, 1993. Examines the influence of Yáñez’s childhood experiences in the formation of his novels.

Flores, Angel. “Agustín Yáñez.” In Spanish American Authors: The Twentieth Century. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1992. A good overall view of Yáñez’s work. Offers a brief critical analysis of selected novels and common themes that thread through Yáñez’s fiction.