By my own definition, The Underdogs would not be a roman Ó clef because the characters are all obscure. I'm not certain where you would classify straight journalism in which the names are all changed. I imagine most writers would explain that it is true, but that "the names have been changed to protect the innocent." It would be a rare case indeed in which journalism would masquerade as a novel. I have no reason to believe that Azuela did not invent his characters, even if he created them from bits and pieces of people that he had known. Don't novelists do this all the time? Guillermo, is there any reason to believe that the characters and events in The Underdogs are literally nonfiction?
It is interesting to me that you believe The Underdogs to be closer to reality than Herzog, when the latter is explicitly autobiographical. Indeed, the real person on whom Valentine Gersbach is based wrote an "answer" novel that presumably presents his side of the Herzog story. So the Bellow novel may be much closer to reality than The Underdogs.
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