Synopses & Reviews
The publication of Rebecca West's Survivors in Mexico
marks an important literary event: the rescue from oblivion of a daring and important work by an major twentieth-century writer. This book is West's exploration of Mexican history, religion, and culture a work the author clearly conceived as a companion and sequel to her masterpiece about the Balkans, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
(1941). Although West never brought Survivors
to completion, she left behind a series of extensive drafts and revisions that Bernard Schweizer has meticulously assembled and edited. The result is a welcome addition to the Rebecca West canon a compelling travel memoir/history comparable to her best work, and one certain to gain readers and critical acclaim.
West's narrative takes on Mexican history the conquest by Spain, the Mexican Revolution, and the muralist movement and explores the inner lives of such figures as Cortes, Montezuma, the Reclus brothers, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Dr. Atl, and Leon Trotsky. The author's concern is to distill meaning from the complex and often incoherent mass of data that characterizes the process of history. She draws fascinating connections between consciousness and material life, between subjective desire and social agency, and between art and politics. She sheds light on the revolutionary impulse and outlines a philosophy of history that acknowledges darkness yet documents the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.
"[T]he book everyone who has ever written anything would love to write. Witty and entertaining, substantive and reflective, insightful and well documented, in splendid and uncommon prose...a model of British sophistication..." Jorge G. Castaneda, The New York Times Book Review
"West endeavors to understand Mexico as a whole....West's bold strokes make for compelling writing....Note the relentless emphasis here on greatness, which is what West gets from Mexico, and what she gives to it." Jori Finkel, Village Voice Literary Supplement
"[R]eaders should come to Survivors in Mexico expecting less of Mexico and more of the vital mind of Rebecca West, but that's not a bad thing." Sam Quinones, The Washington Post Book World
"[A]n astonishingly fertile book, full of sharp impressions and stimulating insights....Some of her notions may seem far-fetched, but what we are reading is more a working paper than a final draft." Merle Rubin, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"[T]here can be no doubt about Rebecca West's abiding love for the land and people of Mexico, on whom she brought to bear her formidable intellect and her warm heart." Martin Rubin, San Francisco Gate
"[West's] writing can be both exquisite and precise....No reader has ever turned what she read into material that carries her own stamp and characteristic way of looking at things more than did West..." Stephen Goode, Washington Times
"West portrays an intricate ancient culture with compelling authority and dazzling wit. Her luminous, heretofore unpublished meditation on Mexico...is a gift from the twentieth century to the twenty-first, a magical masterpiece." Sandra M. Gilbert, coauthor of Madwoman in the Attic and No Man's Land
"A wonderful contribution to literature....It is thrilling to have this major work available for both scholars and general readers." Carl Rollyson, author of Rebecca West: A Saga of the Century
The publication of West's book marks an important literary event: the rescue from oblivion of a daring and provocative work by a major 20th century writer. This is West's exhilarating exploration of Mexican history, religion, and culture. Illustrations.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 219-254) and index.
Rebecca Westand#8217;s never-before-published Survivors in Mexico
to readers a daring and provocative work by a major twentieth-century author. An exhilarating exploration of Mexican history, religion, art, and culture, it explores the inner lives of figures ranging from Cortand#233;s and Montezuma to Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Leon Trotsky.
and#147;Witty and entertaining, substantive and reflective, insightful and well documented, in splendid and uncommon prose, Rebecca Westand#8217;s travelogue . . . is a model of British sophistication and knack for seeing the other.and#8221;and#151;Jorge G. Castaand#241;eda, New York Times Book Review
and#147;An enthrallingly readable book . . . full of sharp impressions and stimulating insights.and#8221;and#151;Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times Book Review
and#147;Luscious reading. . . . The book succeeds beautifully as a travelogue thanks to Westand#8217;s intellect and experience, with Mexico serving as the vehicle for it all.and#8221;and#151;Sam Quinones, Washington Post Book World
About the Author
Rebecca West (1892-1983) wrote prolifically through most of the twentieth century. Her first novel, The Return of the Soldier
(1918), is the only novel by a major woman writer to deal with World War I experiences. West wrote additional novels, journalistic studies of the Nazi war crimes trials in Nuremberg, and a travel memoir/historical meditation on Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
, for which she is best known.
Bernard Schweizer is assistant professor of English at Long Island University (Brooklyn). He is the author of Radicals on the Road: The Politics of British Travel Writing in the 1930s and Rebecca West: Heroism, Rebellion, and the Female Epic.
Table of Contents
Mexico City I 3
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo 8
Leon Trotsky 20
Mexico City II 40
Race Relations I 43
Chapultepec I 52
Anthropological Museum I 54
Aztec Society 58
Anthropological Museum II 75
Chapultepec II 78
Juan de Zummaraga 85
Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain 92
Minerals and Mines 99
Hernan Cortes 112
Dona Marina 116
Religion and Sorcery 129
Race Relations II 166
Dr. Atl I 172
Elie and Elisee Reclus 175
Dr. Atl II 185
Dr. Atl III 199
Benito Mussolini 203
Dr. Atl IV 207
Appendix: Three Book Reviews by Rebecca West 209