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The Vanquished: A Novel

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Originally published in Puerto Rico in 1956 as Los derrotados, Cesar Andreu Iglesias's novel about a fateful Nationalist assault on a U.S. military installation in Puerto Rico is now available for the first time in English.

This tautly written story uncovers the personal histories of three middle-aged revolutionaries as they plan to kill a U.S. general. Andreu's cool treatment of their political objectives does not obscure his compassionate recognition of their human ...

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Overview

Originally published in Puerto Rico in 1956 as Los derrotados, Cesar Andreu Iglesias's novel about a fateful Nationalist assault on a U.S. military installation in Puerto Rico is now available for the first time in English.

This tautly written story uncovers the personal histories of three middle-aged revolutionaries as they plan to kill a U.S. general. Andreu's cool treatment of their political objectives does not obscure his compassionate recognition of their human limitations. Andreu makes clear his view that the Nationalist answer to Puerto Rico's problems had become an anachronism and that by the 1950s the union movement was better prepared to deal with the changes that industrial capitalism was thrusting upon the Puerto Rican people and their way of life. The afterword by Arcadio Diaz-Quinones provides a rich historical and literary context for The Vanquished.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Faithful to the historical setting, in which traditional colonial life was giving way to industrial capitalism, this compelling novel will be read gainfully by students of the Caribbean, Latin America, and twentieth-century anti-colonialist struggles in a variety of settings. (Francisco A. Scarano, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
From the Publisher
Faithful to the historical setting, in which traditional colonial life was giving way to industrial capitalism, this compelling novel will be read gainfully by students of the Caribbean, Latin America, and twentieth-century anti-colonialist struggles in a variety of settings. (Francisco A. Scarano, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Francisco A. Scarano
The Vanquished reflects Cesar Andreu Iglesias's understanding of the contradictions of Puerto Rican nationalism in the 1950s. The author, a highly respected independentista critic of the Nationalist Party, spent much of his journalistic career trying to align the struggle for Puerto Rican independence with Labor and other social movements. Faithful to the historical setting, in which traditional colonial life was giving way to industrial capitalism, this compelling novel will be read gainfully by students of the Caribbean, Latin America, and twentieth-century anti-colonialist struggles in a variety of settings.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Cesar Andreu Iglesias (1915-1976), a prominent intellectual and journalist known for his sophisticated writings on colonial politics and the Puerto Rican labor movement, was editor of The Memoirs of Bernardo Vega. The Vanquished is the first of his works to be translated into English.
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Read an Excerpt

The Vanquished

A Novel
By César Andreu Iglesias

University of North Carolina Press

Copyright © 2002 The University of North Carolina Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0807827460


Chapter One

Afterword by Arcadio Díaz-Quiñonesn

Cé Andreu Iglesias's novel The Vanquished appeared in 1956. It is a novel about hope in the midst of political defeat, written by a Puerto Rican Communist intellectual who was at the time awaiting trial under the harsh laws of the McCarthy era. Andreu (1915-1976) had taken refuge in a sort of internal exile near the small town of Maricao. He had good reasons to do so, given the climate of intolerance on the island, with close surveillance by both local and federal security forces, and given his own stormy involvement with the Partido Comunista. It is hard not to hear a personal resonance in the title of the novel. In the remote mountains of the old coffee region, he seems to have been able to pause and take stock. In that haven, he found the critical distance that writing can provide and completed his first novel. He seemed to have within him an urge to move forward. Albert Camus's insistence in the image of Sisyphus and the need to return to the struggle comes to mind. The stanzas by Victorian poet Arthur Hugh Clough that Andreu chose as the epigraph for the novel are centered on renewal and hope and seem to announce the author's stand: "Saynot the struggle naught availeth."

The Vanquished was an attempt to show through fiction the cultural foundations of political life and perhaps to find some key to the mystery of a very singular and complex colonial relationship and also to the ambiguity of the relationship between Puerto Rican Nationalists and Communists. In the novel, Andreu offers no direct critique of the Partido Comunista, of which he had been president. What emerges with particular force from the narrative is the sense of defeat that hung over radical opponents of the reconstructed colony, as well as Andreu's equally dogged faith in a new beginning. In the final analysis, practically all the men and women in the novel seem to be prisoners of a set of rigid values. The jail at the end of the story is not the only image of incarceration in the novel. However, as they confront the new personal and collective challenges, the author seems to say, colonial subjects have resources of knowledge and experience that might carry them through. An understanding of the anticolonial struggle, however, implies an awareness of the destructive potential of the process. A sense of defeat but also "a bias for hope," to quote the beautiful phrase used elsewhere by Albert O. Hirschman, could be the dialectical center that endows the novel with a certain ambiguity.

Andreu did not want to blur the boundaries between historical account and fiction. But he did follow many of the conventions of realism. The characters move in a specific time and place. Historical actors are seldom mentioned by their name, with the exception of the radical Nationalist leader and powerful orator Pedro Albizu Campos (1891-1965), whose influential words and speeches are remembered by the characters; Luis Muñoz Marín (1898-1980), the charismatic leader who was by then governor of the Estado Libre Asociado (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico); and some historical figures such as Ramón Emeterio Betances, José de Diego, and Luis Lloréns Torres. In contrast, the pages of the novel are saturated with names of the streets of Old San Juan and its new wealthy residential areas, the working-class barrio of Villa Palmeras in San Juan, the road to Caguas, and even New York, places that can be actually located in geographical reality. There are also many allusions to local radio commercial advertising, food, the coastal culture, U.S. Marines walking into bars, the bleak reality of La Princesa prison. The protagonist, Marcos Vega, travels-he is a traveling salesman-and we are offered the narration of a journey through the island until he reaches the coffee plantation in Maricao. Characters are pictured in terms of their surroundings, whether domestic or public.

Andreu gradually builds up a portrait of Puerto Rico in the post-Second World War years, after the successive triumphs of Muñoz Marín and the establishment of the Estado Libre Asociado (1952), and in the period of repression following the 1950 Nationalist uprising on the island and the attack on the U.S. Congress in 1954 carried out by followers of Albizu Campos, the charismatic leader of the Partido Nacionalista Puertorriqueño. Not the least of the merits of this novel is that Andreu insisted on debate and made an effort to open up the possibility of critical reflection not only on the singularity of U.S. imperialism but also on the weaknesses and failures of Puerto Rican opposition.

In rereading Los derrotados in the superb translation by Sidney Mintz, it becomes clear again that the full story of Puerto Rican twentieth-century culture and politics cannot be told without nacionalistas, independentistas, or comunistas; nor can it be told without rethinking what those words meant to the many Puerto Rican men and women who were involved in the struggles, including the behaviors and internal contradictions connected with them. The 1950s was a decade of political conversion that tested loyalties and forged new alliances, with opponents frequently co-opted or silenced and consistently marginalized. But it was also a period in which the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueñ, under the leadership of Gilberto Concepción de Gracia (1909-1968), became a vibrant political force participating in the electoral system and the legislature to further its cause. On the other hand, during those same years, waves of Puerto Rican migrants were creating new social and political identities for themselves in New York and along the East Coast of the United States. What the novel most powerfully suggests is that the political climate had changed as much as the cities and rural regions of the island and that new thinking and alliances were necessary. It would seem that for Andreu the very notion of "liberation" necessarily meant going beyond traditional political understandings of the nation-state but also against the idea, dominant among followers of Muñoz Marín, that it represented an "anachronism" that had to be sacrificed in the name of a more "progressive" politics.

In spite of the risks involved, Andreu never wavered in his belief in Puerto Rican independence and in socialism; neither did he fail to muster the courage to debate with other independentistas. Like many others, he saw himself as part of a revolutionary tradition going back to the nineteenth century-to Ramón Emeterio Betances and to a literary tradition that had taken shape slowly since then. Andreu spent most of his life in Puerto Rico, where he experienced political events that were each in their own way a turning point in the island's history and were to be identified with him for the remainder of his life. I can give here only the briefest sketch. He was two years old when Congress conferred U.S. citizenship on Puerto Ricans in 1917, a citizenship that has been both a continuing source of dispute and a symbol of unity. In his youth, Andreu witnessed the poverty of Puerto Rico as a U.S. sugar colony, as well as the growth and spread of social discontent. Serious moments and movements of opposition occurred in the 1930s, and often the most visible and best-organized participants were the Nationalist and socialist militants. Andreu saw how the depression, the founding of the Puerto Rican Communist Party in 1936, and the rise of Nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos, as well as the massacre of Puerto Rican Nationalists that took place in Ponce in 1937, unsettled the political smugness of the colonial government.

By the 1930s U.S. colonial rule had marked indelibly Puerto Rican culture and society, dividing its citizens. It also provided a context in which a modern movement of national self-assertion could emerge. There were clear signs then that a dramatic fissure could occur in the system of military and political domination that had been in place since 1898. What was striking was the way the new Nationalist and socialist movements collaborated with each other and prevailed in the political imagination of younger generations. As a young adult, Andreu was drawn into labor organizing, and during the Second World War he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He witnessed the coming to power of Muñoz Marín and the stable and lasting Popular Democratic Party, which ruled until 1968. Finally, he knew firsthand the harsh repression of both Nationalists and Communists during the 1950s under McCarthyism, particularly after the Puerto Rican Nationalist uprising of 1950 and the attack on the U.S. Congress in 1954. All these events and struggles played a key role in shaping his thought, as can be seen in his important and shrewd political essays. Before the publication of The Vanquished, Andreu was already known for his polemical texts and for journalistic pieces characterized by his wit and flair for political satire.

The 1950s era was not a more innocent time. Andreu was well enough aware of how vulnerable the situation was for independentistas and comunistas, as they were all targets of federal investigations. On the other hand, the pro-American rhetoric could be equally shrill and loud. Andreu's narrative requires us to imagine the singularity of that context. The picture he draws is a sort of composite portrait of a section of Puerto Rican society, a portrait to be found in the book's plotting and fictional characters and in its many moments of silence and waiting. The novel tells us a great deal of what happened to both winners and losers in the battle for the nation during the late 1940s and early 1950s and also of the author's personal doubts and uncertainties concerning violence. However, it is a mark of his achievement to have produced a novel that also leaves many questions unanswered or hidden in the dreams, memories, and personal histories of the deeply solitary characters who become embroiled in feelings and self-discoveries with which they are largely incapable of dealing.

In this respect, it is most revealing to observe how the narrative brings together personal emotional concerns of home and domesticity with public issues, thus thematizing the split, and the need for reconnection, between the world of affect and the world of politics. The structure of the chapters seems to follow a system of confrontation and collision, political and emotional, that also serves to frame the reader's attention. Moreover, the author makes use of the political debates and the class concern circulating in melodrama, a radical idea that counters trite attacks on the genre as ahistorical and escapist. The novel is also a story with an existentialist savor, perhaps the influence of Sartre's works. All the characters are painfully confined by their social status, education, or gender, and they betray their uneasiness and frustration. Love is all but impossible, and there is a profound discontent and resentment. Marcos's marriage is perceived as a form of imprisonment, pointing to failures of another kind. The Vanquished, like Richard Rorty's philosophy, is a "mirror of nature"-human nature, reflecting human aspirations and hopes, ambivalences and failures. On the other hand, one has the feeling that Andreu is always there in his writing. The novel is not openly autobiographical, but in the portraits of characters and everyday life conveyed to the reader we constantly sense his presence.

The Vanquished was intended as a political fiction that would position the author in relation to the politics of the period and encourage debate. Today, almost fifty years later, it cannot be read as a "historical" novel, but it is a historical object, a novel that might be important for its intrinsic worth and can still be more important for the new questions we bring to the text, even detaching it from its intended context. Much precise information and a great many new sources for the period are certainly now available. But despite the accumulation of knowledge and lengthy theoretical reflection in the past decades, this novel is an invaluable source to reach other truths that otherwise remain inaccessible. And this is true to a large degree because Andreu succeeded in standing in a complex posture inside and outside his own period, with enough distance to see it as a novelist. In the book's sometimes minute description of place, Andreu's characters find themselves in a new and rapidly changing urban landscape and in the upheavals created by the rising speed of transportation and communication. They also find themselves face to face with great issues, such as the meaning and price of modernization, freedom, death, the subordination of women to men, sexual repression, and the yearning for heroes.

The novel also provides an interesting counterpoint to contemporary discussions of masculinity and the anxieties of gender and social roles in the deeply melancholic works of writers such as Ren‚ Marqu‚s (1919-1979), who explored Puerto Rican nationalism in Otro día nuestro (1955) and in other stories. One of the most interesting features of the novel is how Andreu bridges the gap between "women's" genres, such as romance and melodramas, and "men's" genres, especially action films and novels. Although the novel is ostensibly about the real dilemmas faced by Marcos, some of the most compelling scenes occur between him and others and the female characters in very specific rooms. And there is a close link between gender and place, as the displacements of Delia illustrate. Politics is very much a man's world, but women characters-Sandra, Marcos's wife; Delia, his lover; Antonia, the prostitute; María Encarnación, the resigned Nationalist who idolizes the man who rejected her; and Monse, the Nationalist who is not allowed to participate in the attack-have a vital importance. The narrative is always asking whether personal erotic passion can have, after all, any place in a life that is shaped and ruled by heroic longings and illusion.

On the other hand, men negotiate with one another their personal and political concerns, but there seems to be little affection, intimacy, or even trust among them. The characters combine the need to act with a desire to hear their own voices repeat the memories and the motivations that accompany the process and their hidden and unconscious struggles, often creating a web of contradictions and a state of uncertainty in the reader. The latter part of the novel, the failure of the Nationalists' conspiracy, is increasingly dominated by a mistrust of one another that from the beginning threatens their operation, something that the hallowed clich‚s of patriotism cannot hide. This adds considerable complexity.

Ultimately, the Nationalists were vanquished. Recognition of defeat informs this moving book. The author reminds us, however, that only at the risk of serious simplification can Nationalists be considered "pathological" or more aberrant than other political groups.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Vanquished by César Andreu Iglesias Copyright © 2002 by The University of North Carolina Press
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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