Mariano Azuela

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Apart from his long fiction, Mariano Azuela (ahs-WAY-lah) also tried his hand at theater and biography. He wrote three plays, Los de abajo, a dramatization of the novel of the same title that had its premiere in 1929; Del Llano Hermanos, S. en C., based on Los caciques and staged in 1936; and El búho en la noche (pb. 1938), based on El desquite, which never reached the stage. He also wrote biographies: Pedro Moreno, el insurgente (1932) and El padre Don Agustín Rivera (1942). All these works were made available in volume 3 of Azuela’s complete works, put out by the Fondo de Cultura Económica in Mexico City in 1960. Some of Azuela’s novels have made their way to the big screen, but it was only the film version of Los de abajo (1940), directed by Chano Ureta, with musical accompaniment by Silvestre Revuelta and camera work by Gabriel Figueroa, which met with any real acclaim.


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Mariano Azuela’s masterpiece, Los de abajo (The Underdogs), is an important work on the Mexican Revolution. Though largely unrecognized by the literary establishment in his early years, Azuela was showered with literary honors in later life. He was awarded the Premio de Letras by the Ateneo Nacional de Ciencias y Artes in 1940, and he became a member of the Seminario de Cultura Mexicana and of the Academia de la Lengua in 1942. He was one of the founding members of the Colegio Nuevo in 1943.


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Griffin, Clive. Azuela: “Los de abajo.” London: Grant and Cutler, 1993. An excellent study of Azuela’s masterpiece The Underdogs, with separate chapters on the historical backdrop to the Mexican Revolution as well as on realism, characterization, and structure.

Herbst, Gerhard R. Mexican Society as Seen by Mariano Azuela. New York: Ediciones ABRA, 1977. Studies eight of Azuela’s novels and deduces his vision of Mexican society. Shows that although Azuela became embittered once Pancho Villa, whom he supported, was defeated, he nevertheless maintained a faith in the common person.

Leal, Luis. Mariano Azuela. New York: Twayne, 1971. Leal, a prominent scholar of Latin American literature, provides an overview of Azuela’s life and work with insightful comments on Azuela the person and Azuela the writer.

Martínez, Eliud. The Art of Mariano Azuela: Modernism in “La malhora,” “El desquite,” “La Luciérnaga.” Pittsburgh, Pa.: Latin American Literary Review, 1980. A study of Azuela’s lesser-known novels. Particularly good is the chapter on The Firefly, which discusses the novel chapter by chapter and shows how Azuela uses avant-garde techniques to enhance his message. Martínez argues that The Firefly is Azuela’s best novel.

Parra, Max. Writing Pancho Villa’s Revolution: Rebels in the Literary Imagination of Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005. Focuses on The Underdogs and novels by other authors as well as on chronicles and testimonials written from 1925 to 1940 to examine how these works depicted Pancho Villa’s rebellion and either praised or condemned his style of leadership.

Robe, Stanley L. Azuela and the Mexican Underdogs. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979. Compares the first version of The Underdogs, serialized in 1916, with its definitive version, published in 1920. Also provides a detailed picture of the two years of political unrest, 1914 and 1915, in which this novel is set.

Schedler, Christopher. “Mariano Azuela: Migratory Modernism.” In Border Modernism: Intercultural Readings in American Literary Modernism. New York: Routledge, 2002. Schedler compares the works of Mexican, Native American, and Chicano modernists with their European and Anglo-American counterparts. Concludes that Azuela and other writers who worked in the borderlands of Mexico and the United States produced a new type of literature that sought to modernize the “native” literary traditions of the Americas.

Sommers, Joseph. After the Storm: Landmarks of the Modern Mexican Novel. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1968. The section on The Underdogs was the first to argue convincingly that Azuela’s novel focuses so much on the carnage and immediacy of the Mexican Revolution that he does not understand, or indeed reveal, its causes.

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