Source books in the field of Latin American studies are always welcome and Harold Davis’ collection has the added advantage of falling into the frequently neglected area of social history. The work presents thirty-six Latin American authors divided into the four major trends of enlightenment and independence, liberalism and utilitarianism, positivism, and twentieth century. At least four-fifths of the writings have been translated by Davis and his student collaborators and thus appear for the first time before an English audience. Along with the expected classics—works of Bolívar, Sarmiento, Rodó, Sierra, and Freyre—emerge some lesser known authors, including Ramón Rosa of Honduras and Alejandro Deustua of Peru, and a number of contemporary politicians such as Figueres, Arévalo, Frei, and Betancourt. Brief analytical essays introduce the four major trends and shorter studies of a page or two describe each author’s life and bibliography.
As in all such works the judgments and selections cannot please everyone. The attempt to lump together the complex issues of contemporary Latin America under the heading of twentieth century may be necessary in an anthology, but the essay introducing this section fails to sort out the factors and clarify the complicated but challenging intellectual puzzles. The reader is left with the impression that indigenismo is a recent development and with vague ideas of major intellectual currents such as Krausismo and Marxism. The depth and accuracy of background material on individual authors vary considerably, from the excellent presentation of Juan Montalvo to the abbreviated and misleading introduction of Ricardo Rojas.
From a practical standpoint it is perhaps unfortunate that the format was not enlarged to make a double-column cuarto volume possible rather than compressing material into the bulky octavo. Printed in Monterrey, Mexico, the cost is still a high $5.00 for the paperback edition, and the numerous misprints, particularly in dates, hardly recommend its reliability as a reference. This reviewer also cannot escape the uncomfortable impression that the student sufficiently advanced to absorb the content of these selections should be reading entire works or at least chapters—preferably in their original language—instead of ten-to-fifteen-page excerpts.