Rarely does one include the novels of Mexico's long nineteenth century on a reading wish list. They are agonizingly long, overly sentimental, complicated, and far-fetched; none other than Carlos Fuentes blasted them for being shortsighted, dogmatic, and chauvinistic. Terry Rugeley's edited translation of Manuel Sánchez Mármol's 1903 novel Antón Pérez proves these prejudices wrong.

Although representative of the often-cloying romantic literature that sought to immortalize Mexico's mid-nineteenth-century heroic struggle against European colonialism and Mexican monarchism, this tragic love story of a small-town pardo, set in the Gulf Coast state of Tabasco, has a darker tone, its depictions more realistic and unforgiving, its message exempt from the priggishness and predictability of earlier patriotic moral tales.

Antón Pérez also tells the story of a momentous, transformative conflict in which the good guys beat the odds and won. But unlike more saccharine depictions, Sánchez...

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