31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Stories of Mexico before Disney and Taco Bell,
This review is from: The Night Visitor: And Other Stories (Jungle Novels) (Paperback)
To say that B. Traven captures the essence of old Mexican life outside the big cities, coming from a reviewer who has yet to set foot in Mexico, might seem a bit rich ! But I've heard that his novels and stories are required reading in Mexican schools. That may give more than just a little insight into what Mexicans think of his work. The pleasingly-written stories are well-constructed around themes of interest to everybody---history, poverty, work, love, dreams, animals, and humor. Throughout, Traven's respect for the common people of Mexico shines like an unwavering beacon, though he never idolizes them.
The title piece, about an American stuck away in remote jungles, who reads his way through a library of rare books on pre-Columbian Indian civilizations, and reaps an amazing result, cannot fail to grip readers. Stories like "Effective Medicine", "Assembly Line" and "The Cattle Drive" reflect Mexican life as seen through American (or foreign) eyes, while "Burro Trading" is one of the most humorous stories I've read in a long time. Mexico is no doubt in the grip of the 21st century already---traffic jams, pollution, the Internet, privatisation, globalisation, and sweeping political change. These stories might harken back to a simpler time of less justice but less uncertainty, when social status was more fixed and Mexican ways had not been sullied by MTV, MacDonalds, and Madonna. Mexico is no doubt better off nowadays. The view of Mexico provided by the history of the Conquest and by the broad strokes of Rivera, Orozco, and Sequeiros is not the only one. This group of stories, by a talented, somewhat-mysterious writer, ought to be much better known than they are because of their attention to smaller details on a more daily plane. I strongly recommend THE NIGHT VISITOR.