Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mariano Azuela: THE UNDERDOGS

I stumbled across this book among the cheap paperbacks at my local used bookstore. The back of the book tells me that it was originally published in “small El Paso paper” so I had to read it. It was written in 1915 and tells of the recent chaos of a generally chaotic Mexican Revolution, as seen by one Demetrio Macías. Demetrio becomes a revolutionary out of anger at the cruel policies of the Federales. He puts together a small army that become renowned for its fantastic marksmanship, which leads to a few stunning victories over much larger groups of government troops. But the real story of the novel is the degeneration of Demetrio—who is far from an ideologue—from acting as an instrument of revolution to a war-loving tool of tyrants. As such the real purpose of the books is to describe Azuela’s own disillusionment with the country and the revolution that he fled, coming to the United States where he wrote his novel. He does this by peopling his book with small-minded peasants and crazies and drunkards, who barely, if at all, understand what they are fighting for or against, and by the end don’t even seem to care if they are being used.