Mariano Azuela (ahs-WAY-lah) is considered the leading Mexican novelist of the first half of the twentieth century. He produced not only the highly acclaimed cycle The Underdogs, but until his death chronicled assiduously the unfolding drama of Mexican history in his times. Azuela was born into a middle-class family; he studied medicine in Guadalajara and returned to his native city to practice in 1900. Soon his office became a meeting place for members of the local intelligentsia. He married that same year, and he and his wife had ten children together. He seemed assured of the peaceful, comfortable life of a recognized provincial doctor.
In 1907 he published María Luisa, which is based on a tragic case he observed during his student years in Guadalajara. Already in his earliest writing, Azuela raised his voice against the social ills he perceived in Mexico, which was undergoing the first stage of modernization under the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. Azuela reached the peak of his early maturity in the novel Marcela: A Mexican Love Story, a powerful indictment of the feudal landholding system still prevalent in Mexico at that time. In its melodramatic story line, naturalistic precision, social critique, and depiction of the confrontation of human beings and nature, the work is characteristic of the Latin American “novel of the land” of the 1920’s and 1930’s. In Mexico the mystique of the land was suffused with history.
When the Mexican Revolution erupted, Azuela, who supported Francisco Madero’s side, was named political head of his native town. Yet he realized very soon how skewed the revolutionary process was and how self-destructive the idealist Madero....
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