This collection of erudite biographical essays is held together by the singular worldview of its author, one of the leading members of Mexico’s literati. Krauze’s long, loving ode to his mentor and friend the Nobel Prize–winning writer Octavio Paz could stand on its own as a major contribution to the literature on Paz and twentieth-century Mexico. In it, he traces the poet-philosopher’s journey from his father’s Zapatista faith back to his grandfather’s nineteenth-century antireligious liberalism. In other sketches, Krauze savages Argentine First Lady Evita Perón, the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for the cults of the great leader and the authoritarian military caudillo that they have led, “a distant echo both of Moorish sheiks and Christian warlords.” The liberal Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa compares favorably, in Krauze’s sketch, to the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, whose journalism “did not practice magic realism so much as socialist realism.” Krauze finds value in the originality and complexity of the Cuban independence fighter José Martí and in the brilliance of the Peruvian philosopher of indigenous Marxism José Carlos Mariátegui. Throughout, Krauze warns against the temptations to seek redemption through revolutionary violence, heroic martyrdom, and political absolutism. He also helps readers understand the two separate strains of anti-Americanism in Latin America -- “the abstract ideological disdain of the Southern Cone and the grievance-fueled resentments of the Caribbean” -- that are very much alive today.
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