Mexico Literature

The disappearance of some exemplary figures, which took place after the Second World War, seems to mark the end of an era for Mexican literature. In 1945 JJ Tablada died, in 1952 E. González Martínez, that is the last great representatives of modernist lyricism, the result at the same time of the influence of European symbolism and of an effort of national linguistic renewal. Still in 1952, two storytellers died like Mexico Azuela and JR Romero, participating in the travail that had led from naturalism to new forms of social and psychological realism. With the death of J. Vasconcelos, in 1959, it is a whole world of non-fiction, political and narrative experience – typical of the entre – deux-guerres, who had him in all these fields as a protagonist – to get away forever.

The new poem, begun by R. López Velarde (1888-1921) and articulated in the experience of the Contemporáneos group, or in the more limited but particularly revolutionary one of the estridentistas, continued its journey along the three main lines of surrealist analogism, of the lyricism classically addressed to nature and memory, and of the political commitment of a Marxist type. C. Pellicer (1889-1976) gathered all his previous collections in Material poético (1956), and in 1965 he added Teotihuacán y 13 de agosto, where his typical colourism, the solar exaltation (which likes to refer to the pre-Columbian heliocentric myths) and the moving eloquence often give way to a restless melancholy and the foreboding of death, as was already felt in the religious sonnets of Práctica de vuelo, written in 1956 and inserted at the end of the aforementioned corpus. In turn, J. Gorostiza (born in 1901) added very little to his previous work, always in the line of a pure lyric of Mallarmean ancestry. Even the work of the great X. Villaurrutía (1903-1950) practically stops at 1948, although in the posthumous summary volume Poesia y teatro de Villaurrutía (1966) there are numerous unpublished works, to reaffirm his vocation as a pessimist metaphysician and as an impeccable stylist. Still from the Contemporáneos group, J. Torres Bodet (1902-1974) accentuated his kinship with French surrealism both in the verses of Fronteras (1954), Sin tregua (1957), Trébol de cuatro hojas (1958), and in the hallucinated prose by Tiempo de arena (1955). These are his last important texts and also mark a recovery of the gongoresque tradition, despite the obstinate search for an excavation in the unconscious.

Ortiz de Montellano, who had been the editor of the magazine Contemporáneos and the animator of the group, died in 1949, at the age of fifty, and remains alive with the increasingly dull and literally refined work of S. Novo, born in 1904. But it will be an author younger than ten years, O. Paz, to take up the needs and proposals of these renovators in a completely different dimension, with a very different cultural depth and with a true genius of poetic creation. Paz, born in 1914, is today the central figure of Mexican literature. His work as a poet, philosopher and critic has long since crossed national horizons and has had numerous translations in Italy as well. We recall, among the main texts, at least El arco y la lira (1956), Freedom on Speech (1960), The Labyrinth of Solitude (1963), The Rotating Signs (1965), Alternating Current (1966), Salamandra (1966), East Slope (1969), Renga (1971); it is a poem of extraordinary intensity that alternates verse and prose in a dramatic momentum of affirmation of the word as an absolute meaning, beyond all current semantic determinations. Paz himself wrote: “The true ideas of a poem are not those that arise in the poet before writing, but those that, afterwards, through his will or not, spontaneously detach from the poem. The content is born from the form, and not the other way around “. Critical reflection, moreover, is an essential moment in Paz’s entire work, even in the books cited, and takes on reflections of irony and controversy in essays such as Claude LéviStrauss or el nuovo festín de Esopo (1967), Marcel Duchamp or el castillo de la pureza (1968), or in Le singe grammairien, which appeared in French in 1972. All of Paz’s work takes place in the sense of a discovery of the mythical and occult world, omnipresent in the dreamlike and passionate life of man, whose symbols must be deciphered with a technical work, not intended as an end to himself, but rather as the key to a revelation, the daily exercise of truth.

Other notable poets, who have appeared in the last twenty years, are A. Chumacero, from 1918, G. Amor, from 1920, MA Montes de Oca, from 1932, JE Pacheco, from 1939, H. Aridijs, from 1940, G. Zaid, of 1934. And we would like to point out separately T. Segovia, born in 1927, for his discreet and essential poetry, also recalling that Montes de Oca is the best known representative of political commitment, especially with his Cantos al sol que no se alcanza (1961), with evident reflections of Neruda and Maiakovskij.

In the narrative prose the foundations of the new Mexican season can be found in A. Yáñez, born in 1904, who in La creación (1959) took up the characters and the material of Al filo del agua twelve years earlier, showing a growing interest in experimentation of unusual fictional structures, and reached full expressive maturity with La tierra pródiga (1960) and Las tierras flacas (1965), works traversed by a breath of epicity, in the complex motion of the soul that relives national history as if it were a autobiography, a personal “line of destiny”; and in J. Revueltas, born in 1914, who with En algún valle de lágrimas (1956) and Los horrores (1964) resolves in lyrical and dense writing the faulknerism that had characterized him from the beginning, in the famous El luto humano of 1943, where the peasant environment was configured as particularly congenial. But – without forgetting R. Pozas, born in 1912 – the fact remains that the two most “new” and most prestigious storytellers are now J. Rulfo, of 1918, and C. Fuentes, of 1928. Rulfo revealed himself with the stories by El llano en llamas (1953) and immediately contrasted the baroque emphasis of many of his contemporaries with dry writing, devoid of ornamentation. His narrative is entirely made up of facts, the gestures of men are more decisive than the tortuous plot of thoughts: but it is not a question of realism in the nineteenth-century sense, on the contrary Rulfo seems to favor extraordinary destinies, cases that escape the norm. The novel Pedro Páramo (1955) is now a classic, and has served many scholars for understanding the Mexican revolutions, from P. Diaz to Obregón, more than many history books. It is the story of a man who goes in search of his father, and arrives in a deserted village, where only the voices of the dead are heard. The whole past returns, in fragments, in powerful glimpses, and with it the end of a class, that of landowners, overwhelmed by the relentless fury of history. They were solitary, silent people, closed in their own incommunicability, and who now seem to ask their descendants, posterity, the tribute of a difficult and austere piety. For Mexico 2015, please check

Fuentes also made his debut with a book of short stories, Los dias enmascarados (1953), which five years later was followed by the novel La región más transparente, where the cosmopolitan background of the author, son of a diplomat, is visible. The novel is a pilgrimage through the big city, from the shacks of the oppressed to the palaces of the powerful, with a strong accentuation of the sexual elements and representative rawness, not without echoes of Joyce. The following Las buenas consciencias (1959), on the theme of adolescence, unfolds on the thread of memory, in more subdued forms. World fame came to Fuentes from La muerte de Artémio Cruz (1962), biography of a man of the people who rises to the heights of capitalist power thanks to his ability to keep himself afloat in subsequent political convulsions. But in doing so he cancels his own personality, and this “death”, this killing, is also the symbol of the self-destruction carried out on itself by what was the radical and revolutionary bourgeoisie at the beginning of the century. In the final pages, in delirium, A. Cruz recovers the squalid good, the poor innocence, of his life as a child abandoned by everyone. In the next novel, Cambio de piel (1967), Fuentes carries out a sensational anti-novel or meta-novel experiment, aligning himself with the avant-garde research. Dreamlike elements and cultural memories, sociological observations and glimpses of pure lyricism alternate and mix, in a sort of kaleidoscope that alludes to the most tumultuous and obscure states of consciousness. The other works of Fuentes – Zona sagradaCantar de ciegos, etc. – are decidedly minor.

Other narrators worthy of attention are R. Garibay, of 1923, S. Galindo, of 1926, S. Elizondo, of 1932, V. Lesnero, of 1933, and J. Agustín, of 1944, the youngest revelation of this often uncertain between an impulse of critical realism applied to the national reality and the suggestion exercised by the nouveau roman and other overseas poetics. Nor should the late R. Castellanos (1925-1974) be forgotten, gifted with a subtle psychological intuition. And, finally, to the list of narrators must be added that of playwrights: where, to the already consecrated names of R. Usigli, C. Gorostiza, J. Bustillo Oro, etc., those of the younger ones now overlap: E. Carballido, del 1925, LG Basurto, from 1921, S. Magaña, from 1924, Luisa J. Hernández, from 1928, H. Mendoza, from 1932, J. Ibargüengoitia, from 1928, FS Mayans from 1924, Mexico Villalta, from 1924, W Canton, from 1921; all a little limited by a theatrical situation where, if in the field of entertainment there is a continuous flowering of initiatives, the writer’s place is almost never well defined, caught between the arrogance of the directors and the massive importation of foreign works. Equally long would be the list of essayists; but we think we can summarize it in the name of L. Zea, born in 1912, who proved to be the most acute and philosophically accomplished among the analysts of Latin American culture and its history, and a worthy follower of A. Reyes.

Mexico Literature