A poet's poignant memoir of village life in revolutionary Mexico

NOTES OF A VILLAGER: A MEXICAN POET'S YOUTH AND REVOLUTION by Jos'e Rub'en Romero Translated by John Mitchell and Ruth Mitchell de Aguilar Kaneohe, Hawaii: Plover Press 223 pp. $15.95 ``Notes of a Villager: A Mexican Poet's Youth and Revolution,'' by Jos'e Rub'en Romero, is a refreshing addition to the autobiographical genre of Spanish-American letters that is only beginning to be translated into English.

Many North American readers are already familiar with the magical kingdom of Macondo, portrayed by Gabriel Garc'ia M'arquez, in his ``One Hundred Years of Solitude,'' or the bitter realities of dictatorships and revolutions exemplified in the narratives of Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, and Ariel Dorfman.

Romero is well known in Latin America for his picaresque novel ``The Futile Life of Pito Perez,'' published in 1938. That novel, his only other work previously translated into English, has become a national classic.

In ``Notes of a Villager,'' he paints a marvelous portrait of his upbringing in a village in the state of Michoac'an. Eccentric relatives, a powerful mother, and a poignant description of his house covered with colorful wildflowers are central to his lyrical and straightforward narration.

But Romero also describes in vivid detail the political background of the Mexican Revolution in 1910. He recounts, as well, the betrayal by his own comrades that almost resulted in his execution during the dictatorship of Porfirio D'iaz.

``Notes of a Villager'' provides a profound yet unpretentious picture of life in rural Mexico at the turn of the century.

Marjorie Agos'in teaches Spanish at Wellesley College.

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