What was it that flew over with such a terrifying roar? Was it, as many said, the devil, or was it that thing a few had heard of, a flying machine? And those electric lights at Jacob Gallo’s farm, were they witchcraft or were they science?
The theme of this harshly powerful novel is the impact of modern technology and ideas on a few isolated, tradition-bound hamlets in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. The old ways are represented by Epifanio Trujillo, the cacique of the region, now ailing and losing his grip on things; by ancient Madre Matiana, the region’s midwife, healer, counselor, and oracle; by penniless Rómulo and his wife Merced. “Progress” is represented by Don Epifanio’s bastard son Jacob, who acquired money and influence elsewhere during the Revolution and who now, against his father’s will, brings electricity, irrigation, fertilizers, and other modernities to the lean lands—together with armed henchmen. The conflict between the old and the new builds slowly and inexorably to a violent climax that will long remain in the reader’s memory.
The author has given psychological and historical depth to his story by alternating the passages of narrative and dialogue with others in which several of the major characters brood on the past, the present, and the future. For instance, Matiana, now in her eighties, touchingly remembers how she was married and widowed before she had reached her seventeenth birthday. This dual technique is superbly handled, so that people and events have both a vivid actuality and an inner richness of meaning. The impact of the narrative is intensified by the twenty-one striking illustrations by Alberto Beltrán.
About the Author
Agustín Yáñez (1904–1980), recognized as one of Mexico’s greatest novelists, was long a leading figure in the cultural and political life of his country. He wrote seventeen books and held numerous political offices, including Governor of Jalisco and Secretary of Public Education.
Table of ContentsTranslator's Note
Part One-Betania: The Land or the Machine
Good morning and God bless you
Keep calm, don't be impatient
Forward in the name of the cross
Part Two-Jerusalén: The Return of Miguel Arcángel
Take your music somewhere else
Like a file of ants, the people
Part Three-Belén: Violence Unleashed
There were shepherds in Belén
A man can have no worse enemy
The storm winds had begun
Part Four-Babel: The Day of Judgment
They stood gazing
The clouds, the deceitful clouds
There is no escape
Part Five-Damasco and Galilea: The Coming of Electricity
Relics of the past
Not forgotten for a single moment
Some of the things were credible
God's will be done. Good night