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by Paco Ignacio Taibo II
translated by Martin Roberts
Temporarily out of stock.

Product Details

10-digit ISBN0-938317-47-4
13-digit ISBN9780938317470
Page Count170
Publication DateFebruary 1, 2000
Starred Review5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars - see reviews
RightsPaperback and Film Rights Available
In this elegant and literate adventure novel set in 1920's post-revolutionary Mexico, Paco Ignacio Taibo II is searching for a hero, specifically a leftist hero, and he thinks he has found him in the person of Sebastián San Vicente. But everyone, including the baffled novelist, is trying to figure out exactly who San Vicente really is. There is some record of San Vicente in FBI records during the Wilson era, and some mention of him in anarchist records and rumors, but the rest has to be filled in. And who better to do this than Taibo? Meanwhile, with Taibo busy in the background trying to resolve the mystery of his hero's identity, San Vicente goes about his heroic avocation of organizing strikes against the capitalists, dodging thugs and hiding out from the Mexican Army.
Utne Reader
"..Just Passing Through is a rollicking, genre-defying, left-wing adventure. Amid a pastiche of telegrams, police reports, and varied first-person accounts, Taibo himself becomes a character, leaping into the pages of his novel with political and philosophical musings."
-  Visit Website
full review >>
Library Journal 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars
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 1920s. The problem is that no one, including the journalist narrator, is exactly sure who San Vincente 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 on 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.
Publisher's 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 re-imagines a historical figure—a mysterious Spanish anarchist named Sebastián San Vicente. 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, making 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.
Jerome Charyn
Once more, Paco Taibo, the marvelous magician uncovers a shadow of a shadow, San Vicente, a revolutionary who weaves in and out of Mexico’s past, present and future. The narrator is Paco himself, 29 years before he was born. It’s typical Taibo! Despairingly funny with all the heartbreak that one could ever need.

Boston Review Interview
No Happy Endings
John F. Baker and Paco Taibo discuss mysteries, Mexico, and Manhattan.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II is a teacher, unionist, activist, and editor, but above all he is a writer, an innovator of what he considers the most important art form of the late twentieth century: the mystery novel. Arriving for a public interview last December at the annual Club Med Mystery Forum, held this year on Columbus Island in the Bahamas, he was greeted by his Spanish-speaking peers—Cuban mystery writer Leonardo Padura, Colombian journalist and novelist Santiago Gamboa, and Joseph Angel Manas, from Spain—with cries of joys and shouts of laughter. Also enthusiastic were the French participants: Anne-Marie Metailie, his French editor at the publishing house that bears her name; Francois Guerif, the legendary mystery editor from Rivages; "noir" mystery writers Chantal Pelletier and Thiery Jonquet. Less welcoming, perhaps, were some of the American editors and writers attending the event, of whom one, responding to a journalist's query about a particularly caustic commentary on American publishing from Taibo, snapped: "I never pay attention to anything Paco says."

Born in Spain in 1949, Taibo has lived in Mexico since 1958, where he's published a dozen popular mystery novels, of which most—unusual for a Mexican writer—have been translated in English. Anthologist, historian, and essayist, Taibo has also been an ever-present voice in the small chorus of Mexican dissidents, relentlessly criticizing the corruption of his country's government, incarnating his politics not only in his always subversive fiction but in such works as his celebrated biography, Ernesto Guevara: El Che. With indefatigable energy, fueled by an ever-present Marlboro and an always-open can of Coke, Taibo answered questions posed by John F. Baker of Publisher's Weekly, of which a portion is excerpted below.
—Patrick Erouart
full review >>
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
An opening series of notes playfully dodges an obvious question: How much of this documentary novel recounting the Mexican author’s effort to trace the life of mysterious ‘20s anarchist, labor activist, and left-wing hero Sebastian San Vicente is non-fiction and how much invention? A thriller, even a detective story in a way, it’s unconventional as either, a time-jumping mix of politics, history, and journalism from a unique literary talent.
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