Calling All Heroes: A Manual for Taking Power

Taibo, II, Paco Ignacio

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin
  • Date of entry: May-20-1997
  • Last revised: Dec-06-2006


This short novel is based on the student-led Mexican uprising of 1968. The reader discovers that the protagonist, Nestor, is in a hospital bed one year after the government's brutal suppression of the rebellion, recovering from a stabbing at the hands of a "prostitute-assassin" he had confronted in his post-rebellion duties as a "yellow journalist." With plenty of time to think about the failures of the previous year, Nestor decides to finish off the revolution from his sick bed, and elicits the help of his heroes, both actual and fictional, to carry out his plan.

The various heroes Nestor calls upon include "the hound" from Hound of the Baskervilles and Sherlock Holmes; the Earp brothers and their companion, Doc Holliday; the four Musketeers; the Light Brigade; and various other anti-colonialists and anti-imperialists, including Norman Bethune (see film annotation, Bethune: The Making of a Hero), the Tigers of Malaysia, and the Mau-Mau. These characters are summoned by Nestor (and Taibo) as a means to revivify the "Movement of '68" that ended in the massacre of 49 students, the wounding of 500 others, and the detention of 1500 persons on October 2nd of that year.

Jorge Castaneda notes in the preface to this novel, "only fairy tales or adventure stories could heal the wounds and keep the promises of the streets . . . "(p.vii). It is the imagined hero's power to reconfigure events to which the desperate Nestor turned in his attempt to heal the past.


Taibo's novel is built around a character engaged in a project of remembering. But the author's complex post-modern construction of the work brims with an awareness of the ethical responsibility inherent in reconstructing experience. Thus, Nestor seeks multiple sources for--and competing interpretations of--events, and is openly self-critical, especially in regard to becoming nostalgic.


The novel won the Grijalbo Prize for Fiction when it was first published in 1982. Translated by John Mitchell and Ruth Mitchell de Aguilar. Distributed by Talman Co., 150 Fifth Avenue, N.Y., N.Y. 10011.



Place Published

New York



Page Count