Authors: Mariano Azuela

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Mexican novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

María Luisa, 1907

Los fracasados, 1908

Mala yerba, 1909 (Marcela: A Mexican Love Story, 1932)

Andrés Pérez, maderista, 1911

Sin amor, 1912

Los de abajo, 1916, revised 1920 (The Underdogs: A Novel of the Mexican Revolution, 1929; new translation 1963)

Los caciques, 1917 (The Bosses, 1956)

Las moscas, 1918 (The Flies, 1956)

Domitilo quiere ser diputado, 1918

Las tribulaciones de una familia decente, 1918 (The Trials of a Respectable Family, 1963)

La malhora, 1923

El desquite, 1925

La luciérnaga, 1932 (The Firefly, 1979)

Precursores, 1935

El camarada Pantoja, 1937

San Gabriel de Valdivias, comunidad indígena, 1938

Regina Landa, 1939

Avanzada, 1940

Nueva burguesía, 1941

La marchanta, 1944

La mujer domada, 1946

Sendas perdidas, 1949

La maldición, 1955

Two Novels of Mexico, 1956

Two Novels of the Mexican Revolution, 1963

Three Novels, 1979

Short Fiction:

María Luisa y otros cuentos, 1937

Drama:

Los de abajo, pr. 1929

Del Llano Hermanos, S. en C., pr. 1936

El buhoen la noche, pb. 1938

Nonfiction:

Pedro Moreno, el insurgente, 1933 (serial), 1935 (book)

El padre Don Agustín Rivera, 1942

Cien años de novela mexicana, 1947

Páginas autobiográficas, 1974

Miscellaneous:

Mariano Azuela: Obras completas, 1958-1960 (Alí Chumacero, editor)

Epistolario y archivo, 1969

Biography

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.{$I[AN]9810000272}{$I[A]Azuela, Mariano}{$I[geo]MEXICO;Azuela, Mariano}{$I[tim]1873;Azuela, Mariano}

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. At the first opportunity he resigned from active participation in events. In Andrés Pérez, maderista, he documented his critique of the failing revolution. Azuela’s prudence probably saved his life after the old forces returned to power under General Victoriano Huerta. Toward the end of 1914 some allied forces of Pancho Villa reached Lagos de Moreno, at which point Azuela was able, though belatedly, to join the revolution. He was unprepared for the revolutionaries’ split into warring factions, or for chance marking him as one of the “villistas,” who were the losing faction in the internecine struggle.

Azuela underwent a year-long odyssey that led him through half of Mexico, from one defeat to the next, in the strategic and many times chaotic retreat of Villa’s forces to their northern base. There, however, they were confronted with the U.S. support of their adversaries. It was under these circumstances and from the perspective of the crushed in the revolutionary process that Azuela started to plot his greatest novel, The Underdogs, one of Mexico’s founding fictions. By the time he slipped out of his war-torn country and reached El Paso in the fall of 1915, he had completed the bulk of the first version, and he finished the novel as it was being printed as a weekly supplement of a local paper. There were several subsequent book editions, but the novel remained largely unknown until it was discovered in the mid-1920’s and became a contemporary classic.

Azuela substantially reworked the novel for the 1920 edition; he strengthened its structure, achieving a narrative carefully planned and masterfully executed with attention to the smallest detail, yet he managed to maintain the freshness of the original version. In the story, the effaced narrator lets his characters engage in a truly polyphonic dialogue. The discourse mixes lyricism, rough language, and satire, and it is saturated by references to the popular culture produced by the revolution. Nature symbolism and a story line that proceeds concentrically give the narrative a mythical frame. In the work personal experience, myth, history, and culture blend into a powerful expression.

In the chaos that ensued after the rout of the villistas, Azuela, in disguise, returned to Jalisco to move his family to Mexico City, where he established his practice in the city’s poor districts. He continued to be a keen observer and critic of the Mexico emerging from the revolutionary upheaval, although none of his later novels achieved the recognition of The Underdogs. In 1942 he was awarded the National Prize for Literature and in 1949 the National Prize for Arts and Sciences.

BibliographyGriffin, 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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