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Just Passing Through Hardcover – February 1, 2000

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Just Passing Through + Railroad Radicals in Cold War Mexico: Gender, Class, and Memory (The Mexican Experience)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As an activist in Mexico in the '60s, Paco Ignacio Taibo II began a search for figures in leftist history that his generation could look up to. Today an internationally famous detective novelist (An Easy Thing, etc.), the writer has validated his quest with a novel-documentary, in which he reimagines a historical figure--a mysterious Spanish anarchist named Sebastian San Vincente. Casting himself in a tale set 29 years before he was born, Taibo chronicles his present-day research and depicts a range of first-person characters (some of them real figures) who engage with the elusive anarchist. His first creation is a 16-year-old orphan called Pablo, who meets San Vicente as the anarchist arrives in Tampico from the U.S. in 1920. On the run from the FBI, San Vicente immediately plunges into revolutionary agitation in the port city, supporting himself as a mechanic. Taking Pablo under his wing, he initiates the boy into the mysteries of engine repair and the writings of the revolutionary Bakunin. But soon San Vicente makes his way to Mexico City, where he falls in with the CGT, an opposition labor union. Narrowly escaping an assassination attempt (the would-be assassin is another first-person Taibo elaboration), he becomes a secretary for the group. In 1921, he is arrested with an American Communist, Richard Francis Phillips, and deported to Guatemala. But San Vicente is soon back in Mexico, where more activism and a final arrest result in his deportation to Spain in 1922, marking his last appearance on the historical record. Incorporating historical documents or documents based on fact--letters, telegrams, police files, etc.--the author further blurs the boundary between fact and fiction. Taibo's affectionate account of working-class culture in a phase of heroic struggle is a perfect little jeu d'esprit. (Feb.) FYI: This book was originally published in Mexico in 1986 as De Paso.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

First issued in Spanish in 1986 as De Paso, this purports to be a documentary account - complete with footnotes - of the career of anarchist Sebastian San Vincente in post revolutionary Mexico of the 1920's. The problem is that no one, including the journalist nasrrator, is exactly sure who San Vicente is. We hear from the doctor who operated on him in a local brothel, from the office of the president of Mexico, from his fellow radicals and labor organizers, and from FBI reports accusing him of an assassination plot against President Wilson. The individual pieces of the puzzle are gems, and while the pieces never do quite fit together, the ultimate result is a hilariously funny novel that satirizes every possible aspect of the politics and social fabric of 20th-century Mexico. Taibo is one of Mexico's most popular writers, known for his detective fiction and more mainstream novels like Leonardo's Bicycle. Then again, mainstream may be the wrong word - in the latter two titles, as in this, Taibo plays with the definitions of novel, history, politics, and time. Very highly recommended. - May Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville,
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press; First Edition edition (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0938317474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0938317470
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,325,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Art Taylor on March 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've long admired Paco Ignacio Taibo II's detective fiction, particularly his series featuring Hector Balascoran Shayne (and even more particularly the book Some Clouds, with its existentialist overtones). When a new Taibo comes into translation, I feel a palpable excitement and anticipation; his hard-boiled characters are strikingly human and his Mexican settings are rich with atmosphere and dense with detail. But I'll admit that I've grown to experience some trepidation about Taibo's non-detective fiction. While his experiments with style and structure are often playfully challenging (take Leonardo's Bicycle, for example), they are just as often difficult to navigate. And while his knowledge of Mexican culture and history (specifically political history) is admirably broad, I've sometimes felt at a loss to understand his allusions to historic figures and, because of this, at a loss as well to fully understand the context of these tales. Such has been the case with Just Passing Through, which mixes fact and fiction, reportage and postmodern play, in exploring the story of revolutionary Sebastian San Vicente. While I've enjoyed the book on one level (it's been advertised as an adventure tale, which is not entirely the case), I had a lurking suspicion that I was missing another level of the story -- even with the annotations provided by translator Martin Michael Roberts to help readers like myself less familiar with Mexican history. While Just Passing Through is a good read, it's not Taibo's most accessible work. And with this in mind, I'd have to say that I'd recommend this one to more serious readers, to those a little more up to a modest challenge, than to fans of Taibo's brilliantly engaging mystery fiction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John R. Lindermuth VINE VOICE on October 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is not an ordinary novel and it's difficult to say what genre it might fit. But, as Taibo himself says in a note, "Just what the hell is a novel?"

The novel is a brief "biography" of Sebastian San Vicente, an internationalist labor organizer who was twice deported from Mexico by the Obregon government in the 1920s.

It's an odd mix of fiction, anarchist and radical labor movement history and social commentary in a style combining magic realism as well as telegrams, government reports and narrative from a variety of viewpoints including that of the assumed hero, Sebastian San Vicente, his associates and enemies and even the author.

For the reader unfamiliar with Mexico and labor history it may prove confusing, though the translator does a good job of providing footnotes to provide enlightenment on key figures and events.

This English translation of De Paso was brought out by Cinco Puntos Press of El Paso which is dedicated to opening a window on the culture and people of Mexico and the Southwest.

Taibo is best known in the United States for his mystery series starring the quirky Hector Balascoran Shayne. This book is definitely a departure from that but was still a fun and interesting read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Pratt on January 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not Taibo's best work but an insightful view into differences between anarchists and communists of the 1920's and 30's. Overall a fun, short read.
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