Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera is best known as principal initiator in Mexico of literary Modernism in the late nineteenth century: a lyrical poet of refined sensibility combining graceful estheticism, romantic melancholy and sprightly sense of humor; the author of imaginative short stories and artistic literary chronicles. He was extremely active in the journalistic medium, and many of the fruits of this activity have not been collected until fairly recently: one group of “chronicles” edited by E. K. Mapes in 1943, another in 1956 by the same Professor Carter who brings us this new collection.
Boyd G. Carter, long noted as a Gutiérrez Nájera specialist, renders a truly distinguished service in publishing (with the assistance of Mary E. Carter) the complete Plato del día series of 264 journalistic pieces of Nájera, brought together for the first time in a single volume, with Carter’s critical introduction, notes and bibliography. This contribution is especially significant in that it reveals to the reader of today a long-overlooked aspect of Nájera’s literary art, that of politico-social satirist.
In his useful introduction, Professor Carter explains the situation of Gutiérrez Nájera’s multiple use of pennames for various series of articles, often corresponding to different complementary literary personalities and styles as well as allowing the desirable anonymity appropriate for the free exercise of social satire. All the articles here collected were written under the pseudonym of Recamier, which partially coincided with the name of a French restauranteur famous in Mexico at the fin de siècle. Many of the Plato del día series have playful subtitles of a culinary nature such as “Bacalao a la Vizcaína,” “Fiambres batidos,” “Plátanos fritos,” “Ensalada rusa,” and use culinary metaphors in making satirical allusion to a wide diversity of topics and events of the day in the politico-social, educational and literary-cultural realms. Carter goes on to define Nájera’s literary qualities as a satirist, which embrace those of humorist, rapid narrator and especially an extraordinary linguistic virtuosity as a satirical punster, constituting a sub-style of Nájera hardly visible in his better-known works. The reader will then most assuredly proceed to plunge into the savoring of Nájera’s texts, participating with relish in his effervescent satirical exuberance, frequently surprised at the “relevance” for here and now of his critical observations on governmental foibles or indeed amused at his insistent whimsical jibes at the pervading monopoly exercised by a certain prestigious funeral agency which, incidentally, is still active today. This is satirical journalism at its very best, of a high literary caliber and ever-timely universal appeal which are unusual. Thank you, Dr. Carter.