This dense and scholarly selection, first published in Mexico in 1958 (El ensayo mexicano moderno), is expertly translated by Harry W. Hilborn of Queen’s University. As José Luis Martínez states in his lucid introduction, there are many kinds of essays— he manages to distinguish ten—and the works which the translator excluded fall into those categories not directly pertinent to the objective of this anthology. Several common traits tie these essays together. Martínez believes that “they distinguish the Mexican character: sobriety, delicacy, a profound nationalistic instinct, measured gravity, a longing for universal understanding.” The book is a harvest of the Mexican “literature of ideas” that goes back to Justo Sierra, undisputed father of the modern essay in Mexico.

The Modern Mexican Essay has fulfilled the objectives of the translator, i.e., to present a Mexican outlook and to impress the English-speaking reader with the high quality of the essays chosen. On the other hand, even if the leitmotif may sound a bit repetitive, the reader will find a great variety of ideas and points of view that will appeal not only to those who are interested in Mexican culture, but also to people who are interested in good nonfictional literature.