Earl Shorris In the Yucatan: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780393049213

In the Yucatan: A Novel

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9780393049213: In the Yucatan: A Novel
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In this stark, unsettling novel, set in a Mexican prison, present-day events resonate with the ancient history and wisdom of the Maya. Graham Greene meets Carlos Castaneda.

In the central Yucatan a group of Maya Indian workers revolt against the corrupt oligarchy of government, business, the official union, and the press. Two young men―a traditional Maya leader and a Mexican-American lawyer―are drawn into ever deeper commitment to the struggle. When they are caught in a trap and thrown into jail, the lawyer declares a hunger strike. The story of the Maya workers, and of their village, is narrated in a series of vivid flashbacks that alternate with the grim deprivations and interrogations in the prison. Day by day, the young lawyer approaches death, and in his discussions with his friend and cell mate, there emerge two different definitions of love, loyalty, and courage, each man's version determined by the culture from which he springs. One of the chief delights of this rich, intense storytelling is the introduction it provides to the Maya understanding of time, medicine, and proper behavior. Although everything that happens in the novel could have appeared in the latest news stories out of Mexico, nothing happens quite as expected, and the startling conclusion could only have taken place in the Yucatan.

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About the Author:

Earl Shorris (1936–2012) was the author of many works of both fiction and non-fiction including Latinos, Under the Fifth Sun, In the Language of Kings, and Riches for the Poor. He was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Clinton for his founding of the Clemente Course in the Humanities®, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly:

Better known for his numerous nonfiction titles (Latinos: A Biography of the People; A Nation of Salesmen; New American Blues; etc.), this time around Shorris tries his hand at Latin mysticism and political commentary in fictional form. John Mendoza is a Mexican-American lawyer who marries a Maya woman and becomes involved in local politics. Andr?s Chay is a traditional Maya leader and mystic who enlists Mendoza's help when the pig farmers of the village of Sac May in the Yucat n peninsula mount a strike and attempt to start a Maya worker's union, independent of the corrupt Sindicato de Obreros Mexicanos. Twenty-one strikers, and then Mendoza and Chay, are tricked into jail, and in a fit of anger Mendoza swears to go on a hunger strike until all the strikers are freed. The narrative focuses on jail-cell conversations between the Maya mystic and the American lawyer about love, loyalty and courage, and is intercut with romantic flashbacks, sociopolitical commentary and scenes of torture, dysentery and death by starvation. Although the language is often powerful and poetic ("She was too young to speak words; she spoke to him through the dimple beside her mouth on the left side, above her heart"), the book has several flaws. The first-person narrator, Chay's cousin Ak, is superfluous; implausibly, no one goes to the American consulate until 36 days after American citizen Mendoza is detained; and the ending is too abrupt. One cannot help comparing this novel to Manuel Puig's The Kiss of the Spider Woman, another story of two men bonding in prison. Shorris's novel is impressively steeped in Maya culture and unflinching in its depiction of Mexican provincial political abuses but, in failing to establish credibility, it shortchanges the reader. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9780393342024: In the Yucatan: A Novel

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ISBN 10:  0393342026 ISBN 13:  9780393342024
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000
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