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La Maîtresse d'Ixtepec

par Elena Garro

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1314165,008 (3.81)22
This remarkable first novel depicts life in the small Mexican town of Ixtepec during the grim days of the Revolution. The town tells its own story against a variegated background of political change, religious persecution, and social unrest. Elena Garro, who has also won a high reputation as a playwright, is a masterly storyteller. Although her plot is dramatically intense and suspenseful, the novel does not depend for its effectiveness on narrative continuity. It is a book of episodes, one that leaves the reader with a series of vivid impressions. The colors are bright, the smells pungent, the many characters clearly drawn in a few bold strokes. Octavio Paz, the distinguished poet and critic, has written that it "is truly an extraordinnary work, one of the most perfect creations in contemporary Latin American literature."… (plus d'informations)
Récemment ajouté parljml33, Yoxix, GabbadelaMoraP, Toresana, MRMP
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» Voir aussi les 22 mentions

Escrita con una prosa dotada de deslumbrantes poderes sensoriales, Los recuerdos del porvenir marcó el luminoso arranque en la trayectoria de Elena Garro. El pueblo de Ixtepec es quien cuenta en estas páginas una sucesión de episodios en los que se mezclan la crueldad y la fe, la pasión y el odio, la mentira y la perfidia, a través de un amplio reparto de personajes de las distintas capas sociales, desde las prostitutas y los campesinos hasta las antiguas familias y los religiosos.

Ixtepec se ubica en la tierra caliente del corazón de México, en un sitio que es todos y es ninguno, pues se trata del pueblo imaginario en que Elena Garro ambientó su representación de los convulsos años posrevolucionarios de un México en el que la injusticia del despojo de tierras, el racismo y la violencia contra las mujeres eran, como lo son hoy, un asunto de todos los días.
  bibliotecayamaguchi | Jul 20, 2020 |
ANAQUEL DEL CENTRO GAVETA NUMERO 3 DE ARRIBA HACIA ABAJO
  ERNESTO36 | Jan 2, 2020 |
Continuing my literary jaunt through Mexico, I picked up Elena Garro's Los recuerdos del porvenir, which I'd ordered online last year after searching for a cheap/used copy for a couple of years. While I'd wanted to read this book for a while, I hadn't done much of the preliminary internet searching I usually do as I prepare to read something by a new author. I knew she was married to Octavio Paz, and I'd heard that this book is considered an early, pre-García Márquez incarnation of Magical Realism. That's about it.

As I began reading, I was surprised to find that the narrator of this book is not a person, but rather the town of Ixtepec itself: in telling the story of its (her) citizens and post-revolutionary military occupiers, the town speaks of "my streets," "my memories, "my past and future." It also inserts itself into the collective "we" when discussing the town's collective struggles or their perceptions of the military men and the other recently-arrived foreigner, the young and mysterious Felipe Hurtado. I liked this unorthodox choice of narrator, and I was glad that it was handled with restraint, with the town staying in the background, occasionally reminding the reader of its identity without overshadowing the characters with its presence. It's a melancholy town, appropriately melancholy considering the grim reality of its inhabitants; but I'm glad that it didn't start complaining too much about the injustice of the world or anything like that.

Ixtepec tells us the story of the Moncada family, whose destiny is intertwined with that of General Fernando Rojas and his soldiers, who have been put in charge of the town and live in Don Pepe's hotel with their mistresses, cloistered away from the townspeople. Their rule is brutal: from time to time, they send one of the citizens, Rodolfo Goríbar, out to do their dirty work, and the next morning a few more bodies are hanging from the tree as an example to those faceless country folk who could potentially take part in an agrarian uprising against the unjust military regime. Don Martín and Doña Ana Moncada have three children: Nicolás, Juan and Isabel. Nicolás and Juan leave town in the first part of the book to work in the mines, while Isabel stays behind, strangely attracted to General Rojas. The general bears an intense, unrequited love for Julia Andrade, a beautiful woman whom he snatched from another town during one of his military campaigns. He desperately wants her to reciprocate his feelings for her, and he spends his nights pleading with her in their room at the hotel, hoping that she will one day accept and love him. He's prone to fits of jealousy, and he's worried by the presence of Hurtado, who seems to be connected to Julia's wild, pre-Rosas past. Often, his failures are followed by fits of anger and brutal orders carried out by Rodolfo. The townspeople see this and come to hate Julia for her power over the general. However, they are also irresistibly drawn in by her beauty and their eyes never leave her when she exits the hotel for a walk around the plaza.

In the second part, a new story comes to the forefront, with the military receiving orders from then-president Plutarco Elías Calles to take over the church and ban religious practices in Ixtepec. The military is later implicated in a violent crime against the town priest, whose bloody body is mysteriously taken from the patrolled streets of Ixtepec. As the tensions between the military and the townspeople build to a crescendo, a group of the Ixtepec aristocracy, including the Moncada patriarch, announce to Fernando Rojas that they wish to throw a party in his honor, showing him that they are willing to let bygones be bygones. The general is suspicious, but agrees to attend their get-together. At some point in the second half of the book, my attention started to wander, but the ending was really strong, and not quite what I expected.

It's a hard book to summarize. There are so many characters and so many different settings. I didn't even mention "El Presidente" Juan Cariño, the mentally infirm proprietor of the town brothel who plays an important role in the final sequence of events, nor any of the other townspeople who collaborated with the Moncadas in the grand old party for the general. I spent the first forty or fifty pages working hard to keep track of all the different names, but I found it was worth the effort, because by the end, I really felt like I knew the town and had a good idea of its various spaces and the way they fit together into a whole. I enjoy portraits of small towns because I once lived in a small town: I didn't grow up in one, I don't live in one now, but I did for about a year and half, and I like to recreate my time in a remote town through the stories of other, similar towns. I like to imagine my old friends and neighbors as characters in the books I'm reading, and create my own mental drama transposing the events of the book to the little Mongolian community where I lived. I think the enjoyment I derived from imagining a story of the forefathers of my Mongolian friends suffering through the Soviet incursion into Mongolia, with the Russians' repression of Buddhism mirroring the Mexican government's repression of the Catholic Church, speaks to the strength of Garro's portrait of Ixtepec. I also think my Mongolian neighbors would really enjoy the idea of a story told by a town.

I was surprised by the focus on post-revolutionary Mexican politics and the social issues resulting from the Mexican Revolution. I didn't expect the story to be so overtly political. In many ways, I saw this book as a compelling literary extension of some of the issues that come to light in Mariano Azuela's Los de abajo. He shows us the rise and fall of the idealistic revolutionary, eventually ending in anarchy, with everyone trying to grab as much money and as many valuable objects as they can. Ms. Garro shows us the spoils of power won by the victors of the revolution, and how they manipulated their military power to rule over the citizens of a small town like Ixtepec, essentially living in a continuation of the looting, freewheeling lifestyle of the revolution's later years. They've taken what they wanted, including the women they want, and they've got them imprisoned behind the walls of the hotel. I saw the looting in the anarchic later days of the revolution depicted in Azuela's book. This book gave me an idea of how life went on after the revolution ended, and how those same people who took what they wanted struggled, often unsuccessfully, to hold onto the power, women and riches they had taken.

I was also intrigued by the similarities between this book, published in 1963, and Gabriel García Márquez's 100 Years of Solitude, published three years later. Garro's novel could certainly be considered an early example of Magical Realism. In it, a town narrates its story, a woman changes into a stone, and a man mysteriously escapes town on horseback at the very moment when you know he is doomed to die. These magical events occur against a very real backdrop of military rule, agrarian uprisings in the countryside, violence, and power struggles between the Catholic Church and the Mexican state. I've never thought of myself as a particular fan of the genre, and my experience with it does not extend very far beyond the books of García Márquez, which I passionately read in high school and periodically return to as an adult. I don't feel particularly qualified to speak on the conventions of the genre, and I'm sure others could explain in greater depth the connection between Garro's book and later works by Latin American authors. What interested me in thinking of García Márquez and his Macondo was the form of this book, and the way it charted the rise and fall of the younger generation of the Moncada family. The book is divided into two parts, and as I finished, I thought that in some ways, the end represented the end of a cycle, the life cycle of some of characters and their time in Ixtepec. In the end, the town mentions the fact that her townspeople's lives would never be the same as they were before. Maybe García Márquez read this book and thought, why stop at one cycle if the political and military regimes keep coming, if young people continue to struggle to fulfill their destinies with each generation rising and falling, one after another, against a backdrop of rural corruption and violence, with rising and falling economic prospects. His book invites the reader to witness the rise and fall of Macondo; I wonder whether he saw some things he liked in Ixtepec and the magical flights from a brutal reality employed by Garro, realizing that he could write about cycles of liberal and conservative regimes and generations of José Arcadios and Aureliano Buendías in his own fictional, magical town.

I'm excited to read more books by Elena Garro. This is her most famous book, considered by many to be her masterpiece. However, Argentine author César Aira disagrees. In his Diccionario de autores latinoamericanos, he states: "looking back on the author's career, critics have continued to refer to this book as her most important work. In reality, the peculiar genius of Elena Garro only timidly peeks out in its pages." I think I'll take Aira's statement as an invitation to check out some of her later books, which I hope to enjoy as much as I did this one. ( )
3 voter msjohns615 | Jun 15, 2011 |
"And Elena Garro, that I adore. I think as a writer is great, one of those that appear once every hundred years. I think it's the greatest novelist of the twentieth century." --Cesar Aira, thru Google Translate.

Thanks for the recommendation, Mr. Aira. I feel like usually when I read a book, I start out really excited about it, and then half-way through I still like it, but my excitement drops. But my excitement never dropped while reading this book. Too bad more of her books aren't translated to English.

It's a book with a serpentine, though also kind of straight-forward, plot. The book is narrated by the town of Ixtepec, describing its own townspeople and the General who ruled over the town. Often, the town would say something like "And then the Moncada brothers walked through my streets" or something, which is kind of amusing, but also thankfully doesn't happen enough to be annoying.

I don't know how to describe what happens. Basically you get to know a BUNCH of people. Some have larger roles than others, but they're all brought to life with very human characteristics and seem very real (though the prose is sometimes surreal or magically-real). We have the whores in the whorehouse, the main families and all their relatives, we have a madman, we have some old widows and a few traitors, we have the General and his men and the hotel owner and the baker, etc. etc. Anyway, you really get invested in their lives because Garros is able to inhabit their thoughts, dreams, and memories through the town's voice.

Then, umm... stuff happens to them, and it's told in tangents and slow reveals, and split in two parts. The first part is all about Julia (the General's mistress) and a mysterious stranger who came to town. The first part ends pretty climactically and leads to (and casts a shadow on) what happens in the second part. I love the way she writes only part of the story, and as a reader you just have to trust that things will be explained later on. I felt partially in the dark most of the time.

I'd really love to discuss this book with someone who's read it, but unfortunately it seems like not many people have read it. A few interesting things (SPOILERS follow):

- Garro is saying something about illusion. The play was the illusion that the town needed in part 1, and perhaps the whole first part gave people a sense of false hope, but we find out how that was dangerous in the second part.
- I don't like the ending of the book; I was really saddened and perplexed at Isabella's actions. For the longest time I thought that she was playing a game to somehow get back at the General, but when it seemed like she really did love him, it really puzzled me. I was saddened that the book ended on her instead of the townspeople. What did her betrayal mean?
- The General's feelings towards the end of the book are a little confusing and worth examining further. It seems the Moncada family have really defeated him (emotionally), but I just don't know if I'm convinced of it yet. Partly because Isabella was able to force him to think about the absence of Julia, but was that it? Or also maybe make him feel ashamed? I loved how even the worst villians in this novel, like the General, had very fleshed out emotions and thoughts and are very human and relatable.
- Memories of the future, past, time standing still etc. is a recurring theme.
- Obviously this is a political novel, but more than that, it's about how people cope or are able/unable to face a bleak situation.
- The people of the town are all trapped, almost like they are in jail, nobody ever comes or goes except for the stranger and Julia, and the few people who leave have to come back somehow. Is this related to the theme of time standing still? Time being also trapped? People being trapped in the past? Or trapped in illusion? As a way to deal?

Lastly, this book was so enjoyable to read that I didn't want it to end and also part of me felt guilty for enjoying it so much since such horrible things happen in it. ( )
2 voter JimmyChanga | Jul 13, 2010 |
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This remarkable first novel depicts life in the small Mexican town of Ixtepec during the grim days of the Revolution. The town tells its own story against a variegated background of political change, religious persecution, and social unrest. Elena Garro, who has also won a high reputation as a playwright, is a masterly storyteller. Although her plot is dramatically intense and suspenseful, the novel does not depend for its effectiveness on narrative continuity. It is a book of episodes, one that leaves the reader with a series of vivid impressions. The colors are bright, the smells pungent, the many characters clearly drawn in a few bold strokes. Octavio Paz, the distinguished poet and critic, has written that it "is truly an extraordinnary work, one of the most perfect creations in contemporary Latin American literature."

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