If you're a fan of Carlos Fuentes' early novels, like "Aura" and "The Death of Artemio Cruz," then you are bound to enjoy "Inez," (in Spanish, "Instinto de Inez"). In this, his latest book, after "The Years With Laura Diaz," the author returns to the magical world of fantasy, and to some of his favorite themes: creativity and time.
Gabriel Atlan-Ferrara, a dynamic and celebrated symphony conductor, reflects back on his life, at age 93, and realizes that only death awaits him. These reflections reveal his great passion for one woman, and for music. They also disclose the conductor's view of the world, and destiny, as he confronts death. "El muerto no sabe lo que es la muerte, pero los vivos tampocos" ("The dead don't know what death is, but neither do the living"). The past holds for him the memory of his love for the red-haired, dark eyed Inez. Gabriel has a shimmering glass seal, a mysterious object "sufficient unto itself." This seal might bestow upon its bearer the ability to see past, present and future, to hear music of impossible beauty, and to read unknown languages. The maestro hopes to find, in the crystal seal, the impossible reflection of Inez and a return to a time when they were together - to transcend time, distance and space through their love.
The crystal also provides the link between two intertwining stories - that of Atlan-Ferrara and his memories, and a parallel narrative which records Inez' dreams - a poetic love story telling of the first encounter in human history between a man and a woman. "Inez" is an extraordinary tale which contrasts love and obsession, life and death, male and female.
Alan-Ferrara encountered Mexican opera singer, Inez Prada, three times over the course of his lifetime. The first time was during the 1940 London blitz. This was when he initially heard her sing. In 1949 they met again in Mexico City. She had become a renowned diva. Atlan-Ferrara had moved-up in his career also, and was now one of the world's most important orchestra conductors. Their last meeting took place in London, 1967, when the conductor decided to break all the rules of traditional opera. Each time they met they were performing Berlioz's opera, "The Damnation of Faust." It is "the opera that permits me to travel in time...," Fuentes said in an interview. "It is Berlioz who invents this original dissonance, this extraordinary mystery of the origin of music and the origin of voice."
Fuentes also stated that Alan-Ferrara is "modeled on one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, the Romanian Sergiu Celibidache." The young Mexican soprano, Inez, Fuentes says was inspired by the legendary Maria Callas.
Margaret Sayers Peden's translation is excellent and captures Fuentes' language as well as any translation could.
Carlos Fuentes, probably Mexico's greatest living writer, is the author of more than twenty books and has received many awards for his accomplishments as a novelist, essayist, and commentator, among them the Cervantes Prize in 1987. Major themes in Fuentes' work are the power of fantasy, national identity, and the promise and failure of the Mexican revolution. Fuentes has frequently been mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature. His father made him read Mexican history when he was a boy, which Fuentes saw as a history of crushing defeats, especially when compared with the United States. "I learned to imagine Mexico before I ever knew Mexico," he once said.