The Mexican novelist Mariano Azuela (1873-1952) initiated the novel of the Mexican Revolution, employing realism as a means of denouncing social injustices.
Mariano Azuela was born on Jan. 1, 1873, in Lagos de Moreno, in the state of Jalisco, where he received his primary education. Later he went to Guadalajara, the state capital, to pursue a career as a surgeon in the institute which had replaced the University of Jalisco.
Dr. Azuela's literary career began in 1896 with the publication in a Mexico City newspaper of a series of articles entitled Impresiones de un estudiante (A Student's Impressions). In 1907 he published his first novel, Maria Luisa, followed by Los fracasados (The Failures) in 1908 and Mala yerba (Weeds) in 1909. The theme of these novels was fate, continued in Esa sangre (That Blood), a posthumous novel published in 1956.
Having completed his medical studies, Dr. Azuela began practicing in Jalisco, where he acquired a drugstore and established his home. When Francisco I. Madero was elected president of Mexico in 1911, Dr. Azuela became mayor of Lagos and then director of education in Jalisco.
He became disillusioned with politics, however, and published Andrés Pérez, maderista (1911), his first novel on the theme of the Revolution; this was followed in 1912 by Sin amor (Without Love). With the downfall of President Madero, Azuela, persecuted by his enemies, joined the revolutionary forces of Julián Medina as a doctor and witnessed many aspects of the bloody struggle. When they were defeated, he emigrated to El Paso, Tex., and there in 1915 he wrote Los de abajo (The underdogs), his most famous novel. Its literary merit was not recognized until 1925; since then it has gone through many editions and been translated into numerous languages.
Many other novels about the Revolution followed. In 1917 Dr. Azuela moved to Mexico City, where he worked in a public dispensary, at the same time making penetrating observations of life among the lower classes, which he later used in many of his works.
In 1943 he began giving lectures in the Colegio Nacional on Mexican, French, and Spanish novelists, as well as recounting his own literary experiences. Several of his novels were dramatized, and others were made into movies. He retired after practicing medicine for 25 years.
In 1949 he won the National Prize for Literature. He died in Mexico City on March 1, 1952, and was buried there in the Panteón Civil in the Rotunda of Illustrious Men.
Azuela's contribution to the modern Mexican novel is assessed in Joseph Sommers, After the Storm: Landmarks of the Modern Mexican Novel (1968). See also John S. Brushwood, Mexico in Its Novel: A Nation's Search for Identity (1966).
Herbst, Gerhard R., Mexican society as seen by Mariano Azuela, New York: Abra Ediciones, 1977.