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Terra Nostra (1975)

by Carlos Fuentes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6901134,042 (4)66
Chronological time is abolished and space concentrated into one area in a multi-dimensional pageant of Spanish history and culture that touches upon a facets of human experience.
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» See also 66 mentions

English (8)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
wow. just wow. ( )
  jaydenmccomiskie | Sep 27, 2021 |
A Möbius striptease.
Time is a permeable membrane.
Cervantes and Caesar, Bosch and Quetzalcoatl.
Historical figures rise, maggot-ridden from their tombs to conquer, make love, philosophize and dissolve in the polychromatic strobe of dreams. These fantasies fuse with antiquity, birthed from moldered tomes, exhausting the faiths of pious men, eviscerating kings, and bleeding across timelines.

The symbolic journey of this novel is an intense, dense, immense expedition through Old Spain, New Spain, and lands beyond, fraught with wordplay, wigwams, and wampeters. The repetitions, revolutions, and rhythms blossom in the final pages, recalling the mythological wheel of time, the mechanics of Fate, God playing 'ghost in the machine,' and ouroboroses in a boudoir. As Kundera explains in his afterword, the novel spreads its wings to encompass interior and exterior worlds, landscapes of the mind and the abyss of the heart.

A novel of conquest, submission, doom, and the many frightened cries of the powerless souls lost in the continuous apocalypse of the past. The past rests on our shoulders, like a prolapsed soul, weighty, invasive, and recurrent.

The Nature of existence, echoing the edenic ambitions human beings inherit from the great puppeteer in the cosmic theater. A bold deathly pale specter hovering over Mexican literature, this monolithic masterpiece bends your ear gently, only to scream its nightmarish hymn into the echo chamber of your brain.

An unforgettable, Joycean whirlpool of perennial, Imperialist themes, set to a constant boil until the precipitate becomes a Kraken with its myriad limbs straddling the limits of temporal awareness and physical sensation.
( )
  LSPopovich | Apr 8, 2020 |
This massive meditation on the Conquest and its effect on imaginations, moralities and all related matters pertaining to worlds both New and Old hit me like a cinder block. I recall going to Day's Espresso at the time, such a locale offered magnificent lattes, they made me fat. I didn't care. I loved this book. There is a well of intertextuality within which is nerdy yet effective. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
This is an extended dream, more or less working on a biography of Charles V of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor. We meet his master huntsman, and enabler, Guzman, and Tiberius, the roman emperor, Elizabeth I of England, somehow married into the Spanish Royal family, and many or conflated portraits, combining the entire sixteenth century. But it never grabs me with the immediacy of "The Old Gringo". Readable, and full of "Look! there's X!" moments. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Feb 6, 2014 |
This massive, 778-page novel is unlike anything else I have ever read. Over the past six weeks or so, there were times when I despaired of understanding what was going on, but I persevered because of my admiration for Fuentes' ambition. I started it originally for the May Reading Globally theme read on Mexico, as it is considered one of the masterpieces of modern Mexican fiction.

Terra Nostra translates as Our Earth. In this book, Fuentes creates a world -- or worlds -- that he peoples with characters based on historical and literary figures, characters derived from mythical and mystical traditions, and characters that spring forth from his own remarkable imagination. Then some of these characters seem to be other characters, or reincarnated in some way in other characters, and the timeline of history is fluid, to say the least. It is often unclear, even within a chapter or section, who is who and who is talking. And mixed in with all of this is symbolism galore, much of which probably went right by me, at least as far as understanding what it was about: numbers, especially the power of the number 3, but also 33 1/2, 5, and 20; crosses on the back and six toes on each feet; pyramids that go up and stairs that go down, Catholic beliefs in contrast to "heretical" Christian beliefs, dreams vs. reality etc., etc.

So what is the book about? The first part (The Old World) nominally tells the tale of Felipe, the Senor, based on Phillip II of Spain, the builder of the Escorial, his increasing fanaticism and longing for death, and his interactions with his bizarre family and the schemers of the court -- with the action set in motion by the mysterious arrival of three identical strangers with the said crosses on their backs and six toes on each foot. The second part (The New World) takes us to pre-European contact Mexico, but still involves some of the same characters. The third part (The Next World, which the NY Times review said should have been The Other World) mixes all of this together, along with trips to an even earlier past as well. The end takes us to a vision of the end of the world at the end of the 20th century (the book was written in 1975.)

But that's just the plot. As far as I can tell, what the book is really about is the circularity of history, the repetition of events and people, and the way the church, meaning the rigid Catholic church of 16th century Spain, imprisons us. The writing is lyrical, at times hallucinatory. And in the end, we wonder, was it all a dream?
13 vote rebeccanyc | Jun 30, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carlos Fuentesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kundera, MilanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peden, Margaret SayersTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volpi, JorgéIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Flesh, Sphere, Gray Eyes Beside the Seine Incredible the first animal that dreamed of another animal.
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Chronological time is abolished and space concentrated into one area in a multi-dimensional pageant of Spanish history and culture that touches upon a facets of human experience.

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