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Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes
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Terra Nostra (1975)

by Carlos Fuentes

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English (6)  Spanish (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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?
12 vote rebeccanyc | Jun 30, 2010 |
A vast, hugely ambitious novel aiming at nothing less than the unification of the myth systems of Europe and the Americas. Time, as we typically think of it, is meaningless in Terra Nostra. Layer upon layer of history, image, symbol, and allusion make the experience of reading the book more like losing oneself in a complex painting. The eye barely knows where to fall next, and this makes it delightful and fascinating for readers who crave difficult, astonishing books. It's also one of the most delightfully anti-Christian books I've ever read, which is just a wonderful added bonus. ( )
  eluminati | Jun 27, 2009 |
This book is on the same lines as "One Hundred Years of Solitude," though I don't find it as lyrical. Perhaps this needs to be reread several times. ( )
1 vote Mdshrk1 | Aug 2, 2008 |
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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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Classic. History of Spain and South America.

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