Archipiélago de mujeres, 1943 (novella)
Pasión y convalecencia, 1943
Al filo del agua, 1947 (The Edge of the Storm, 1963)
La tierra pródiga, 1960
Las tierras flacas, 1962 (The Lean Lands, 1968)
Espejismo de Juchitán, 1940
Esta es mala suerte, 1945
Genio y figuras de Guadalajara, 1940
Flor de juegos antiguos, 1942
Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, el conquistador conquistado, 1942 (biography)
El contenido social de la literatura iberoamericana, 1944
Alfonso Gutierrez Hermosillo y algunos amigos, 1945 (biography)
Don Justo Sierra, su vida, sus ideas y su obra, 1950 (biography)
Even as a child and adolescent, Agustín Yáñez (yah-NYAYS) had what he later called a “rigorous critical sense” as well as a “sentimental temperament” so intense that it “could not but manifest itself, even exaggeratedly, and ended in coloring his life absolutely.” The characteristics of seriousness, austerity, and preoccupation with artistic form shaped all his literary work.
Yáñez associated himself with other young writers of Guadalajara and founded a literary journal, Bandera de Provincias (provincial banner), the establishment of which was a national event. He received his law degree in Guadalajara and later moved to Mexico City, where he devoted himself to university teaching and writing and held several important public offices.
According to the aesthetic creed of Yáñez, the ideal of art is form. For him, the idea of literary form follows a movement inward, a theory of composition initiated by means of living the reality and then reliving it in the literary work until one completes it in the appropriate verbal form. “I never write–least of all when writing novels–with the intention of sustaining a premeditated thesis, committed to predetermined conclusions.” After intuiting a form, he would develop it until it took on consistency; it was then necessary that he follow it, striving not to falsify characters, situations, and atmosphere.
Yáñez as a writer was very conscious and cognizant of his function. His style is elaborate, reflective, grave, and refined. His knowledge of contemporary philosophy, of the Spanish classics, and of the resources of the modern novel infuses his work. Almost all of Yáñez’s works have reminiscence as a common ingredient. On the occasion of the commemoration of the fourth centennial of the founding of Guadalajara, he wrote two books: Flor de juegos antiguos, lyrical memories of his childhood and of the games of his province, and Genio y figuras de Guadalajara, in which he presents a brief description of this city in 1930 and character studies of its principal citizens throughout its history. In 1943 he published Archipiélago de mujeres, a collection of seven stories, each one called by the name of a woman who represents a step on the author’s “ladder of adolescence”: music, revelation, desire, beauty, folly, death, and love.
In The Edge of the Storm (the literal translation of the title is “to the edge of the water”), Yáñez produced his best novel and, according to many critics, one of the finest Mexican novels of the mid-twentieth century. In a prose that is dense, unhackneyed, and subtle, he presents the life of a typical pueblo of Jalisco. In the routine and monotony of everyday life, passion and religion are the two stimuli of these provincial small-town people. The dramas of conscience brought about by the conflicts of flesh and spirit are analyzed with subtle introspection.
Two other books complete his trilogy of novels about Jalisco, his native land–La tierra pródiga (the lavish land) and The Lean Lands. During the time he held the office of governor of Jalisco, he had the opportunity to obtain firsthand knowledge of the inhabitants of its coastal region. From this contact, La tierra pródiga was born as a portrait of the struggle between barbarism and civilization that results in humankind’s finally overcoming nature. In The Lean Lands he re-creates the atmosphere of The Edge of the Storm, namely, the secluded, traditional life of small towns, with arid lands and a people unfazed by the appearance of technology.
Yáñez’s studies of Mexican literature are well regarded. Particularly outstanding are those devoted to the chronicles of the Spanish conquest of Mexico and to the native myths of the pre-Hispanic epoch. Yáñez contributed to the modernization of the Mexican novel, and he is considered a forerunner of the Spanish American narratives of the 1960’s that achieved world acclaim.