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The Underdogs [Hardcover]

Mariano Azuela , Frederick H. Fornoff
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 1992 The Pittsburg Editions of Latin American Literature
Mariano Azuela's masterful novel about the Mexican revolution, freshly translated by Frederick H. Fornoff, is the first of a series of definitive texts from Latin America and the Caribbean translated into English and accompanied by critical and bibliographical essays. Originally published in instalments in an El Paso newspaper in 1915, "Los de Abajo" ("The Underdogs") has steadily gained in literary stature in Mexico and in Latin America. By the time of Azuela's death in 1952, it had achieved widespread recognition as a classic among the scores of Mexican novels about the revolution.

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From Publishers Weekly

If Los de abajo , long considered one of the masterpieces of revolutionary literature in Mexico, has not received wide recognition north of the border, it is not for lack of trying. This is its fourth translation into English. Azuela himself described the book as "a series of sketches and scenes of the constitutionalist revolution," at the center of which is Demetrio Macias, an Indian farmer who, following a petty fight with the local boss, became a bandit--which in 1913-1916 was basically the same thing as a revolutionary. His heroism must be read in the context of fellow rebels, like Luis Cervantes, the sometime journalist who spouts heroic claptrap between bouts of cowardice and avarice, or the brutal and crude Margarito. Unlike Azuela, who was a medical officer with Pancho Villa's forces, Macias does not know for whom or what he is fighting and is eventually trapped. Fornoff has wisely avoided translating the quickly outmoded Spanish slang into equally transient English; rather, he leaves Azuela's spare, lucid prose to tell its own story of the tyranny of revolution. This volume in the Pittsburgh Editions of Latin American Literature also includes scholarly essays by Carlos Fuentes, Seymour Menton and Jorge Ruffinelli.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Azuela was one of several well-known Latin American writers, among them Martin Luis Guzman, Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes, and Rafael Munoz, who worked in the genre known as the "novel of the Mexican Revolution." Although Azuela (1873-1952) wrote Los de Abajo ( The Underdogs ) in 1915, it didn't begin to have a following until almost a decade later. Azuela received the Prize in Letters from the Mexican National Society for the Arts and Sciences in 1940 and remained Mexico's foremost novelist until his death. The novel chronicles the conflict between the revolutionaries and the federales (government troops), focusing on war and its effect on the people. This translation, accompanied by critical essays, is the first volume in a series that promises to introduce authoritative new English editions of classic works. Recommended for libraries that purchase Latin American literature.
- Peggie Partello, Keene State Coll., N.H.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a classic Nov. 9 2003
Format:Library Binding
You have to know something about the Mexican Revolution and, specifically the early period from 1913-1915 to understand this book, because it is aimed at readers who are very familiar with that time period. It explains more clearly than any other book of the time what went wrong with the Mexican Revolution and why it turned out the way it did. The writing style is very innovative for the period in which it's written. It's experimental because it breaks with traditional narrative patterns and is very minimalist at times because it skips over details and presents only little glimpses of what's going on. Azuela chose that style because it conveys the chaos of being in the middle of a revolution, and it also shows the confusion of the characters. Demetrio represents a new trend in fictional characters, because he's got both good and bad qualities. He's not a traditional hero, but he's not a villain either. He's just a confused man who doesn't know what he's fighting for. There is a tragic quality to the story, because people are trapped in patterns they can't break. If you want to understand modern Mexico, this is essential reading. It's not a book you would just sit down and read for fun, but it's worth the effort to read and understand it because it will give you a good feel for what it was like to live in Mexico in the war years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A guide to the spirit of Mexico Sept. 3 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a marvelous book, especially for Gringos who want to understand a major element of the psyche of Mexico.
But first, some background. In 1810, when Fr. Hidalgo issued his immortal 'Grito del Dolores' that launched Mexico's War of Independence from Spain, the average Mexican was better off than most Americans. The American Revolution, then the French Revolution, ignited the fires of freedom throughout the Americas. Mexico was one of the first to raise the proud banner of freedom.
Conservatives fought back, as they did in the 13 Colonies, and turned Mexico into a savage battleground. In the United States, successful Revolutionaries exiled defeated "United Empire Loyalists" to Canada, the Caribbean and England; in Mexico, in one form or another, both factions fought for a century. More than half of Mexico, what is now the US Southwest and California, was lost. The continuous war, plus an invasion by France, plundered Mexico of its wealth. In 1876, Porfirio Diaz imposed order; by 1910, after 34 years of the increasingly brutal Porfiriato despotism, the "underdogs" were ready to explode.
In one form or another, Revolution lasted until 1929. Peace finally came to Mexico when the Party of the Institutionalized Revolution (PRI) organized a national government and held power until the year 2000, when the presidency was won by Vincente Fox Queseda of the National Action Party (PAN).
Los de Abajo, printed in 1915 as a serial in an El Paso newspaper, was the first novel of the Revolution of 1910. It is still the finest description of the mood of people who made the revolution; a blunt description of the sheer joy of total destruction by people who had been crushed until all hope was lost.
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5.0 out of 5 stars REVOLUTION FOR THE FUN OF IT! Jan. 29 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I teach sophomore and junior English at a public high school in California. During the first fifteen minutes of each class, my students engage in SSR (silent sustained reading), and I model reading for them by not grading papers during this time, but by reading a book of my own choice. Every day in every class I looked forward to reading The Underdogs during SSR. It's a fast read and provides a spring board into the historical context of which it speaks. This book has made me a student of the Mexican Revolution.
The main character, Demetrio Macias, and his band of revolutionaries at once attract and repulse you until, at the novel's end, the reader understands how bitterly disillusioned Azuela had become with the likes of the generals and foot soldiers who turned their noble cause into a pretext for their own personal gain. Thus, the revolution implodes upon the idealists who gave her birth and, in the end, the generals and foot soldiers of the revolution become comsumed by the same base impulses that once fueled their enemies.
The dialogue, of which there is plenty, burns through the storyline like a prairie fire, so real, so vibrant, and so poetic is it. The narrative draws the reader along seamlessly, and the numerous descriptions of nature dazzle his mind's eye like an apocalyptic vision.
In my opinion, a good novel engages me in the lives of its characters. Demetrio, Manteca, Luis Cervantes, Camilla, War Paint, et al. remain vivdly in my mind as victims of injustice, heroes of liberty, and perpetrators of pointless mayhem.
I fell so much in love with Azuela's style and his masterful use of imagery that I ordered the Spanish language version Los de Abajo! I can't wait to read this novel in the original Spanish.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Message Dec 23 1999
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
When I first started reading this book I thought it was really boring, but when I was finished I was glad I read it. I don't know that I like Azuela's writing style, but the message he was trying to convey was wonderful. His message was: power corrupts. This book is centered around a poor Mexican peasant named Demetrio, and his group of men rebelling against the Mexican government. At the beginning of the book the men all want a less oppressive government. Their goals are good, and their ideals are good. But as they gain more power and prestige they become more corrupt. They do cruel things to innocent people, they steal, and they are cruel to each other. Azuela makes the point over and over again that the men are poor and ignorant, they know nothing of politics, and they don't understand why they are fighting. Although I thought this book was boring, it has a very good message. It's worth reading just to understand that message.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Underdogs
Underdogs is a story about a farmer named Demetrio Macias in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. The story follows Macias from the beginning of his involvement in the revolution... Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004 by Jeanette Jacquez
1.0 out of 5 stars GOD ALMIGHTY - the leader of the many Mexican revolutions
In my review, I will mainly be focusing on the writer's style. Personally, I did not like the book that much and the author's style of writing did not help me to enjoy it. Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2002 by S. Poe
3.0 out of 5 stars A world classic? hmm....
This novel's style is very minimalist; it is often critisized as having no plot and flat characters. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2001 by AD
1.0 out of 5 stars waste of time
I read this in my sophomore year in high school and i thought it was a major waste of time. I didn't enjoy reading about a man who becomes a general in a rebel army then soon... Read more
Published on June 11 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Message
When I first started reading this book I thought it was really boring, but when I was finished I was glad I read it. Read more
Published on Dec 23 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars The Making of a Revolutionary
The book shows how a revolutionary ideal is brought about by injustice. It brings to the forefront the fact that if one is hungry there is nothing left to lose. Read more
Published on Dec 14 1999 by Jose N. H. Galvan
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, metaphorical account of hope vs. despair
I was assigned to read this book for a Mexican Literature class, and I was expecting it to be just another boring history novel. Read more
Published on Oct. 18 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book that utilizes a strong form and method.
This book is excellent. It depicts the revolution in a very unique way. Azuela truly had a great talent. Azuela produces questions as to the reasoning for the revolution. Read more
Published on June 9 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars You are just an idiot margondosh
you dumasses acorse you don't understand it you either are white or you are a moron
Published on March 8 1999
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