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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of a handful of over-bearing novels of the Twentieth Century, 15 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Terra Nostra (Mexican Literature Series) (Hardcover)
Milan Kundera writes a very helpful End Note to the English translation of Fuentes' monumental meditation on history, historiography, Christianity, Kabbalism, and Spain and the Spanish Empire, in which he places Fuentes' compression of history alongside Thomas Mann's 'Doctor Faustus' to illustrate how historical figures - in the hands of gifted writers - can reappear as though reincarnated; and how this novellistic device serves to make those crucial links through time and space in order to shed light on the deepest impulses of our natures. "I thought of the art of the novel, which, alone of all the arts, is capable of becoming that privileged place where humanity's distant past can converse with its present. To arrange this rendezvous seemed to me one of the three or four great tasks, one of the three or four great possibilities available to the future of the novel."

It isn't possible to summarise this novel because it unwinds and unfolds unlike anything else I've come across. It takes as its starting point King Philip the Second of Spain's decision to build the new Imperial residence of El Escorial. The book is divided into three parts: 'The Old World', 'The New World' and 'The Next World'. So many of the divere threads are woven together in 'The Next World' that it makes the traversing of the horrific, nightmarish 'The New World' worthwhile. The importance of the number three, in all its various manifestations, is crucial to both the appreciation of, and the structure of, the novel. Here's Ludovico trying to explain to Philip (Felipe) the necessity of accepting as his heirs the three twins whose various stories are woven into and out of the narrative of construction: 'But now they are three. One brother will not kill his brother, because if one dies, the other two will not remember, or understand, or desire. Look, and understand, Felipe: for the first time three brothers are establishing a history; three, the number that resolves oppositions, the fraternal cipher of encounter and the mixing of bloods, the dissolution of the sterile polarity of the number 2: understand, and make a place for them in your history.'

TERRA NOSTRA is immense. It's even over-bearing at times. But like Thomas Mann's 'Doctor Faustus', Musil's 'A Man Without Qualities' and Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time', this is a novel that more than rewards patience and care. If it is difficult, it is not because of its use of language (in the way, say, of Proust) but because it simply won't sit still in one historical place long enough to allow the reader the comfort of familiarity. But like most great writers, Fuentes teaches you how to read the book as you read it. I'm not sure that I agree that Fuentes' reach exceeded his grasp. I think this is a fully-realised masterpiece. It is beautiful, haunting and griping. Highly recommended.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terra Nostra, 11 Feb 2004
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Terra Nostra is an epic, sprawling tale written by author at the pinnacle of erudition and imagination. Fuentes cultural knowledge is hugely extensive and adds authenticity to a tale of fantasy, of romance and of passion. Just in the way Eco offers us worlds just beyond the 'real', Carlos Fuentes offers us a world too close to what we know of history to be false, yet too fantastical to be true. Fuentes vision is undeniably grand and premier in its audacity and rigour.
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Terra Nostra (Mexican Literature Series)
Terra Nostra (Mexican Literature Series) by Margaret Sayers Peden (Hardcover - 19 Jan 2010)
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