A DANGEROUS PLACE: An Unofficial Portrait of Mexico by Hugh Fleetwood

A DANGEROUS PLACE: An Unofficial Portrait of Mexico

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The danger that lurks over these wanderings around Mexico does not stem from bandits, social upheaval, or crooked police, but from a deeper flaw: a culture adrift. The author everywhere finds a deadening, narcotic lack of idealism. The people find consolation in flowers but not in dreams. The first work of non-fiction by a novelist and painter is, like the best travel writing, a journey of the mind. As such, it is an idiosyncratic and philosophical study of Mexico, art, culture, magic and religion. Though the British author is very much the civilized man and artist in this Mexican milieu, he is self-effacing. In fact, he likens the artist in society to a buffoon in the Duke's court, very much a dependent and a performer. Yet, he finds Mexicans are superficial, spiritless: a failure that reflects a larger failure of the society itself. Fleetwood is an amusing iconoclast, manifest in a biting tirade on the painter Frieda Kahlo after a visit to the house that is now a gallery of her works. He also finds the ""artist's colony"" at San Miguel, extolled as one of the country's jewels, ""a little grey vision of hell."" Expanding the artistic failure more generally, he argues that Mexicans favor their European over their Indian heritage, but only fall between the two, creating a spiritual void. He finds that this fosters a dangerously pervasive racism, a prejudice insidiously masked as an aesthetic judgment. The often-heard comments about ""the ugliness of the race"" are ugly indeed. Though always aware of his own ethnocentricity, Fleetwood finds the native veneration of European civilization a paralyzing force. A compelling and opinionated artist's travelogue, which contends that Mexico's natural beauties mark a distressing, even dangerous spiritual resignation.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton--dist. by David & Charles