The Prison Notebooks of Ricardo Flores Magon

Douglas Day, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $21.95 (270p) ISBN 978-0-15-174598-2
Day ( Journey of the Wolf ) has discovered a fascinating protagonist for this novel of ideas--the eponymous Flores Magon, the anarchist journalist and failed lawyer (1873-1922) who became the voice and the conscience of the 1914 Mexican Revolution. Part biography and part polemic directed against the failed opportunities of the Revolution, the book takes the form of notebooks scribbled by Flores Magon in the Leavenworth (Kans.) penitentiary where he is imprisoned for having violated United States neutrality laws. Flashbacks cover Flores Magon's life from his birth in Oaxaca through the last days before his mysterious death in his cell. Through its pages pass the arrogant Pancho Villa, the reluctant revolutionary Emiliano Zapata and the string of Mexican dictators against whom they fought. Joe Hill and Emma Goldman, who becomes Flores Magon's lover, also make brief appearances. Day adopts a lean, muscular style, but it takes a special writer to make this masculine prose work, and Day is neither a Malraux nor a Montherlant; ultimately, the hero's voice is not strong enough to propel the novel. The one altogether fictional character, the sultry lover of both Zapata and his brother, is treated rather badly, and an unpleasant strain of sexism runs through the work. The rich historical material here, however, exerts a pull on the reader's imagination. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1991
Release date: 11/01/1991
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