THE PRISON NOTEBOOKS OF RICARDO FLORES MAGON by Douglas Day

THE PRISON NOTEBOOKS OF RICARDO FLORES MAGON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fictional notebooks in which a historically real Mexican anarchist intellectual describes his country's revolution of 1914, his experiences with Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, and his thoughts about the cause to which he has given his life. Day (Journey of Wolf, 1977) based the notebooks, which he portrays as written in Leavenworth prison in 1922, largely on Flores Magnon's letters, many written to an admirer who called herself Ellen White. And obviously the author has done his homework, as the book meticulously details much of the ebb and flow of the extraordinarily complicated struggle to overthrow Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915) and his successors, not neglecting its color and passion. But Day doesn't tell it chronologically, which may confuse readers seeking to grasp the essentials of the revolution through a fictionalized account. In an introduction, however, he makes it clear that the book is chiefly about its narrator and not about the events of history, although all the characters (except for an invented revolutionary woman whom Flores Magon loves) were actual people. The narrator, on which the book stands or falls, is an ironist who has seen too many hopes abandoned or betrayed, and as he writes, he distances himself somewhat from his earlier, enthusiastic self. Somehow, though, he doesn't ring true. A gringo intellectual is sensed behind this too self-conscious Mexican. Even the outsized figures of Villa and the Zapata brothers are diminished by being filtered through the consciousness of a man who seems to have settled for being ineffectual. What does come through unreduced is the sorry role the US played in this popular revolt, brutally fought by both sides. A vivid chapter in Mexican history but told by a less-than-vivid narrator.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich