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Underdogs: With Related Texts: Pictures and Scenes from the Present Revolution [Paperback]

Mariano Azuela , Gustavo Pellon

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Book Description

1 Oct 2006
In addition to a fresh translation of Los de Abajo , Azuela's classic novel of the Mexican Revolution, this volume offers both a general Introduction to the work and an extensive appendix setting the novel in its historical, literary, and political context. Related texts include contemporary reviews of Azuela's book, an excerpt from Anita Brenner's Idols Behind Altars (1929), and selections from John Reed's Insurgent Mexico (1914).

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Co, Inc; Tra edition (1 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872208346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872208346
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13.3 x 21 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 176,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Pellon's translation marks a clear improvement over the previous English versions of this seminal novel. Pellon captures the crisp, tense, and terse dialogue of Azuela's original, and I believe that his decision to leave some words in Spanish is a good one, given that most of the words involved are already well known to the non-Spanish speaking public. The retention of these Spanish words adds flavor to the translation without turning it into a 'Taco Bell' version of the novel. I am so enthusiastic about Pellon's translation that I believe it should become the standard edition of Los de Abajo read in America... In short, this new translation is worthy of the classic on which it is based. I will certainly use it in my courses, but more to the point, I will recommend it to my colleagues teaching courses on English literature, Comparative literature, and American studies. --Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, Sterling Professor of Hispanic and Comparative Literatures, Yale University Gustavo Pellon has produced a flowing, readable new translation of Mariano Azuela's Los de Abajo that avoids the sometimes stilted English of the still popular 1929 translation by Enrique Mungia. Not only is Professor Pellon's English more readable but the translation is made smoother by his decision to leave certain difficult-to-translate words in the original Mexican Spanish. For those who cannot grasp the meaning of these words from the context, a glossary is provided at the end of the book. In addition to the new translation Professor Pellon has provided an important service to those who will use this novel in college classes by including an appendix that outlines the most important events of the Mexican revolution, discusses the novel in historical context, and explains Azuela's particular literary contributions. Finally Pellon attempts to come to grips with Azuela's views of the revolution. Also extremely welcome are the selections from John Reed's and Anita Brenner's writings on Mexico from approximately the same period. In short, this volume provides an integrated analysis of a novel that, while always said to be revelatory of the nature of the revolution, is generally not adequately contextualized... To his credit, in his appendix Professor Pellon addresses the question of whether the novel is revolutionary or counter-revolutionary. --Ann Zulawski, Metamorphoses This edition of Los de Abajo is a most welcome addition to the available literature for undergraduate teaching of the history of Mexico as well as Mexican and Latin American literature. As a teaching tool, it strikes me as clearly superior to the other editions. Pellon's Introduction and appendices are quite accessible and touch on the major historical and literary aspects of the novel. Pellon sincerely wants to help students understand and appreciate the novel. --Timothy J. Henderson, Auburn University Montgomery

About the Author

Gustavo Pellon is Associate Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature, University of Virginia.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book 9 July 2007
By Eric Schroeder - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent timepiece about a specific part of the Mexican revolution. The translation is very good and the additional texts help to place the time and situation to the reader in a simple manner.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book, good extras 11 Sep 2010
By Bureizu - Published on
I order this book and obtained it in no time. The story was a good read the the glossary in the back helped with understanding some if the terms used. This was an interesting read and an interesting look into the Mexican Revolution.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will the Revolution accomplish anything? 6 Feb 2014
By R. M. Peterson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Translator Gustavo Pellón writes that THE UNDERDOGS is "universally hailed as the most important novel of the Mexican Revolution and a foundational work of modern Mexican and Latin American literature". Thus, there are good reasons for students of certain nooks of history and literature to read it. But it also is a decent novel and reading it was rewarding for a generalist such as myself.

The novel follows one band of revolutionaries, led by Demetrio Macías (a full-blooded Indian) over a two-year time span (1913 to 1915). They are local, with local grievances. Local "caciques" call in the Federales to exterminate them, but Macías and his men prevail. With success, Macías attracts many new followers, his army swells, and he becomes entangled in the more national "Revolution". Living off the land, he and his men take to drinking, whoring, looting, and murdering -- oppressing the campesinos they encounter much like they had been oppressed by the caciques. They defeat the Federales, but the guerilla warfare continues, now among the different factions of revolutionaries (or, different warlords). At one point, one of Macías's key lieutenants blurts out, "But what I really can't get through my head is how come we gotta keep on fighting. . . . Didn't we lick the Federales?" THE UNDERDOGS (the Spanish title "Los de abajo" literally means "the ones below", or those on the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder) poses the question, Will the Revolution accomplish anything?

That question is phrased prospectively rather than retrospectively (i.e., "DID the Revolution accomplish anything?") because Mariano Azuela actually wrote the novel during the Revolution, based in large part on his own experiences serving as a field doctor with the army of Julián Medina, one of Pancho Villa's supporters. Azuela eventually withdrew from the revolutionary whirlwind to El Paso, where he wrote and published THE UNDERDOGS in 1915.

For a novel from 1915, THE UNDERDOGS is remarkably modern. It also is quite realistic. Neither the peasants nor the revolutionaries are airbrushed or mythologized. The novel is profane and raunchy at times. It proceeds at near breakneck speed. There are some rough edges to the writing, and on occasion the dialogue is not convincing, especially when one of the characters launches into a hortatory or political speech. But the novel is good enough from a literary perspective to be more than an historical or regional curiosity.

There are at least two other English translations of THE UNDERDOGS currently in print, including one by Carlos Fuentes published by Penguin Classics. My guess is that the novel is assigned reading in many college courses and that the publishers are competing for sales to that captive audience. I can't offer an opinion as to which translation -- Pellón (Hackett Publishing) or Fuentes (Penguin) -- is better. Points in favor of this Hackett Publishing edition are that it includes an excellent afterword on the historical and literary context of the novel, a useful chronology and map, as well as fifty pages of "related texts" (two book reviews and excerpts from John Reed's "Insurgent Mexico" and Anita Brenner's "Idols behind Altars"). Plus, as of the posting of this review, this Hackett Publishing edition is a little cheaper than the Penguin Classics one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant author(s) 2 Sep 2012
By Kay Brown - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a history buff and especially interested in the South West and how it got that way,this selection of readings is marvelous. The translators choice of additional texts couldn't be improved. Mariano Azuela has an exceptional eye and his writing is a reflection of what he sees. Look forward to more Azuela. Brenner's "The Wind That Swept Mexico" would be a good companion.
4.0 out of 5 stars Mexicans love when you've read this book! 2 April 2014
By Atriportwo - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Was surprise at the length of the novel. Short. A very quick read, but loaded with nuances, implications, and effects of the Mexican Revolution. Loved this edition with the notes on the translation and the attached bibliography at the end. It was hard to imagine how this guerrilla band continued to function in total isolation to the rest of the revolution. Left me wondering how this all would have worked out without the addition of machine guns, airplanes, and bombs. Had the opportunity to talk about the book with a museum curator in Guadalajara. His excitement for my interest in Mexican history, resulted in a more in-depth explanation of the exhibits and an opportunity to hear the recorded voice of Guillermo Flores Reyes, the last known survivor of the Mexican Revolution.
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