A Mexican Comedy of Errors in Jorge Ibargüengoitia’s Self-Correcting Independence History

  • Brian L. Price


The word “curmudgeon” is typically associated with cantankerous, surly old men. We think of grumpy septuagenarians with heavy jowls who misanthropically watch a parade of idiocy pass before their rockers. Oftentimes misunderstood as cynics, naysayers, and doomsday pessimists, more often than not curmudgeons are social commentators who bring a unique and oftentimes surly perspective to bear on the contrived man-ner in which people and institutions govern themselves and others. They are the sarcastic voice of reason in a world where madness prevails. In the Anglo-American tradition, we think of Mark Twain, W. C. Fields, H. L. Menken, Andy Rooney, and Lewis Black, while in Mexico figures like Salvador Novo, Juan José Arreola, Carlos Monsivâis, and Enrique Sema come to mind. But the most talented one of his generation was Jorge Ibargüengoitia, whose curmudgeonly style is best exemplified by a warn-ing he offers at the beginning of his final play, El atentado (1962), that any similarity between his work and the historical record is not accidental but a matter of national shame. The implication of this somewhat impertinent forward and all the historical fiction that he wrote afterward is that history is made up of words, actions, and events that do not fit within the neatly cohesive narratives that form the basis of national identity, and that these disjunctive fissures in the texture of national narratives are an “embarrassment… because the utopian is measured always by its failure, and failure, in our historiography, is shame” (Greil 18).


National Identity Independence Movement National Narrative Historical Fiction Colonial Administrator 
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© Brian L. Price 2012

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  • Brian L. Price

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