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Malinche by Laura Esquivel

Malinche (2006)

by Laura Esquivel

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Book on CD performed by Maria Conchita Alonso

Malinalli was a Native woman from Tabasco, who was given as a slave to the conquering Spaniards. Her ability to speak Spanish as well as two native languages – Mayan and Nahuatl – brought her to the attention of Hernan Cortes, and eventually she became his mistress and bore him a son. For centuries, she has been reviled as a traitor for her role in helping the Spaniards conquer the Aztec empire, but more recent research has pointed to a more complex reality.

In this lyrical, poetic novel, Esquivel gives us a strong woman with deeply held beliefs who wanted to free her people. Believing that Cortes was a reincarnation of the God Quetzalcoatl, she agreed to help him speak with Montezuma. She could not possibly have known the consequences, and she realized her mistake far too late.

I love Esquivel’s writing. Her imagery is vivid and tangible. She gives equal attention to scenes of a happy childhood or vibrant festivities, as well as to scenes of destruction or death. I felt the heat and humidity, heard the cacophony of a busy marketplace, smelled the stench of a battlefield, tasted the tropical fruits and delicacies of a royal feast.

This is a decidedly Mexican novel. Esquivel infuses the story with magical realism, mysticism, and spirituality. It reminds me of the oral story traditions of my grandparents. And yet, her Malinalli is a real woman, with conflicting desires; a woman who loves or hates, feels pain and joy, and does her best to survive with her dignity and integrity intact.

Maria Conchita Alonso deserves five stars for her performance of the audiobook. She made me think of summer evenings spent sitting in the dark on my grandmother’s porch hearing stories of the old days and legends of conquest or victory. ( )
  BookConcierge | Dec 2, 2016 |
The story of Malinche is a rather interesting one.

And yet it was also a book I didn’t quite enjoy reading. But somehow managed to finish. I don’t know – was I already too far into the book to give it up? Or am I just reluctant to give up books, unless I really detest it? I didn’t hate reading this book, it had some interesting moments. Partly because it is based on a historical figure. One I hadn’t heard of before, but has such an iconic status.

And she is the almost mythical character of Malinalli, a Nahua slave turned interpreter turned lover of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire.

We meet Malinalli at her birth, her maternal grandmother, a key figure in her childhood, acting as midwife. She is sold into slavery at age five, after her grandmother’s death, and eventually lands up in the Spaniards’ hands. Now baptized and with her aptitude for languages, she becomes the Spaniards’ translator, known as ‘The Tongue’. She quickly catches the eye of Cortes, resulting in their son Martin, one of the first mestizos (person of mixed European and indigenous ancestry). It’s not really a love story though, as he is obviously the one in charge, and pretty much delivers her over to one of his underlings when he’s done with her.

Writing about a historical figure must be tricky. And with Malinalli, controversy is no stranger. She has been blamed for betraying her people by some, yet praised by others for saving many lives. She has been portrayed as a victim, a symbolic mother of Mexico’s people, a woman of authority. Today the term malinchista refers to a disloyal Mexican.

While there are some absorbing details about life in 16th century Mexico, the awkward speech and the odd pace of the book (tedious at parts, rushed at other times) as it shifts between past and present makes for a difficult read. The chunks of spirituality strewn throughout the book resulted in my flipping through the pages, eyes a bit glazed.

Perhaps what is most telling about my experience with this book is that as I was about to return it to the library, I realised that I had another ten-odd pages to go. I thought I’d finished it already!

Originally posted on my blog Olduvai Reads ( )
  RealLifeReading | Jan 19, 2016 |
Library discard. 1 of 12 for $6.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
Malinche is a very controversial figure and it is hard to extract her own history from that of the conquistador, Hernan Cortes. Known as Malinalli in the book or Marina (her baptismal name), this is her story from childhood, being instructed by her grandmother, sold as a slave by her mother through to her meeting with Cortes.
As with Like Water for Chocolate, there is a lot of local colour and flavour in the book, I liked Malinche's descriptions of codices. Each chapter is preceeded by a codex, to give you an idea of what they are like.
Malinalli faces a dilemma, she is trying to understand the arrival of the Spanish, who were seen as the return of Quetzalcoatl, a creator god . She becomes his "tongue", translating the meeting between him and Montezuma, which ultimately led to the fall of his empire. Malinalli must deal with the reprecussions of her actions and her relationship with Cortes - being his slave, lover, translator.
Not a bad read, but I think that the love story which made Like Water for Chocolate so compelling is not here, nor is there a substitute for it. ( )
  soffitta1 | Dec 24, 2010 |
I knew this was fiction when I picked it up. I hoped it was historical fiction, and that I would learn something of Mexico's history by reading it. I was profoundly disappointed. Instead of historical fiction, I felt like I was reading a mixture of New Age spirituality and a Harlequin romance. The book primarily describes Malinalli/La Malinche's spiritual reflections on life, with occasional breaks of a paragraph or two to describe historical places, people, or events. I'm not convinced that the religious beliefs portrayed in the book were authentic to Malinche's time and culture. Malinalli/La Malinche seemed more like a 21st century adherent to New Age beliefs than a 16th century Nahua woman.

The book's one redeeming feature is its bibliography of sources about La Malinche, Cortés, and the Spanish conquest of Mexico. I've developed an interest in this topic since becoming close to several of my brother's Mexican in-laws. Maybe I'll find what I'm looking for in one of the books in the bibliography. I certainly didn't find it here. ( )
5 vote cbl_tn | Nov 28, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laura Esquivelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alonso, Maria ConchitaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mestre-Reed, ErnestoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 074329033X, Hardcover)

This is an extraordinary retelling of the passionate and tragic love between the conquistador Cortez and the Indian woman Malinalli, his interpreter during his conquest of the Aztecs. Malinalli's Indian tribe has been conquered by the warrior Aztecs. When her father is killed in battle, she is raised by her wisewoman grandmother who imparts to her the knowledge that their founding forefather god, Quetzalcoatl, had abandoned them after being made drunk by a trickster god and committing incest with his sister. But he was determined to return with the rising sun and save her tribe from their present captivity. When Malinalli meets Cortez she, like many, suspects that he is the returning Quetzalcoatl, and assumes her task is to welcome him and help him destroy the Aztec empire and free her people. The two fall passionately in love, but Malinalli gradually comes to realize that Cortez's thirst for conquest is all too human, and that for gold and power, he is willing to destroy anyone, even his own men, even their own love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:19 -0400)

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"When Malinalli, a member of a tribe conquered by the Aztec warriors, first meets Cortes, she - like many - believes that he is the reincarnated forefather god of her tribe. Naturally, she assumes that her task is to help Cortes destroy the Aztec empire and free her people. The two fall passionately in love, but Malinalli gradually comes to realize that Cortes's thirst for conquest is all too human. He is willing to destroy anyone, even his own men, even their own love." "Throughout Mexican history, Malinalli has been reviled for her betrayal of the Indian people. However, recent historical research has shown that her role was much more complex; she was the mediator between two cultures, Hispanic and Native American, and two languages, Spanish and Nahuatl."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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