Original language: español

Year of publication: 1964

Valuation: recommended (highly recommended for Mexicans)

“It’s very funny that someone is sensible in an absurd situation.” With these words Juan Villoro describes the work of Ibargüengoitia, who is a master of Mexican satire, and this novel is an excellent example of this.

Located in the chaotic post-revolutionary Mexican period, when the Díaz dictatorship gave way to a game of thrones with a hat and sarape, Ibargüengoitia offers us an alternative vision of Mexican History, distancing itself from traditional narratives and showing a perspective that is not at all glorified. In his story, the author unravels the heroic myths, revealing that behind the medals and pompous speeches, many of the so-called national heroes were nothing more than, as we would say in Mexico, ‘lucky assholes’.

The novel revolves around the supposed memories of General José Guadalupe Arroyo, a narrator as unreliable as any turncoat politician. Through his eyes, Ibargüengoitia immerses us in the cunning maneuvers of soldiers and politicians who seek to benefit from the remains of the revolution. All of this under the pretext of defending high revolutionary ideals, except when these ideals are inconvenient for his own interests, as shown in some speeches: “I propose to declare the constitution in recess as inadmissible.” General Arroyo considers that his memoirs will become part of the historical annals of the revolution, so he writes them in a grandiloquent style, which emulates the great novels of the 19th century, even when the situation does not warrant it:

“My general, Vidal wants to form a single party,” Trenza told me. The news didn’t shock me because I didn’t know what this was going to mean.

In this dispute for the presidential seat, the military begins a series of insurrections that are just as absurd as their political campaigns:

—If we beat them with a lack of organization, imagine what it will be like when we organize ourselves well.

The characters in this book develop in this tone, whether they are soldiers, rustlers or office workers, who, as Ibargüengoitia himself says in the epilogue, were only dedicated to self-destruction. Detestable and ridiculous characters, but well developed, rich in nuances and personality, a product of Ibargüengoitia’s simple and direct style.

That said, “Los Relámpagos de Agosto” may present certain weaknesses, especially for readers who are not Mexican. No matter how universal human greed and cynicism are, it is clear that we cannot completely abstract this novel from its historical and cultural context, which is very marked. Readers unfamiliar with this period may have difficulty fully understanding the allusions and humor related to specific historical events and figures in Mexico. However, anyone who enjoys political intrigue will find this book very entertaining.

Note: The cover of the edition presented here shows Pancho Villa, who does not enter directly into the plot of the novel. I suppose it was intended to increase his appeal to readers outside of Mexico by using a famous character. Personally I prefer the covers with paintings by Joy Lavile, Ibargüengoitia’s wife.

Signed: Alain Rios

Source: https://unlibroaldia.blogspot.com/2024/02/colaboracion-los-relampagos-de-agosto.html

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