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Destiny and Desire: A Novel by [Fuentes, Carlos]
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Length: 433 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1324 KB
  • Print Length: 433 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (4 Jan. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004C43FAM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,076,875 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x980863e4) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95251dc8) out of 5 stars Inheritance 24 Jan. 2011
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
How do I review a book that I admired greatly but did not really enjoy? The best I can do is describe it objectively, so that readers more tuned in to Fuentes than I am may make up their own minds. Certainly, from the very first paragraph, when a head recently severed from its body begins the long narration of how it got to be that way, I could recognize Fuentes' sheer originality. And his mastery of words. So much did I enjoy the easy brilliance of Edith Grossman's translation that I got hold of the first fifteen pages of the book in Spanish for comparison; the original is perhaps more liquid, but Grossman beautifully captures its unpredictable rhythms, its shifts of tone. Fuentes is a Mexican Salman Rushdie, whom one almost reads for the brilliance of his imagery and breadth of erudition alone. Like Rushdie, he is impossible to skim, though I admit there were times in this long book when I was tempted to do so.

The severed head belongs to 27-year-old Josué Nadal. He begins his story in high school where he is befriended by a slightly older boy known only as Jericó (many names in the book have symbolic overtones). Both are effectively orphans: Jericó lives alone, and Josué is cared for by a disapproving housekeeper. The two bond closely, move in together, and set themselves an intellectual program to study all sides of every possible argument, reading Saint Augustine side-by-side with Nietzsche, studying Machiavelli. They also experience less intellectual pursuits, such as sharing the same whore. Brothers in spirit, they are also potential rivals. By entitling the first and last of the book's four main sections "Castor and Pollux" and "Cain and Abel," Fuentes appears to show his hand, but the truth is not so obvious.

Jericó goes abroad for college. Josué studies law, and is given repeated access to Mexico City's most notorious prison (one of several sections that reminded me of Roberto Bolaño's 2666). Adulthood sees each of them placed in apprenticeships to men of power: Jericó as an aide to Mexican President Carrerra, Josué in the entourage of the country's most powerful business leader, Max Monroy. The book becomes an examination of power, whether wielded through the ballot box, the street revolution, the reach of the internet, or criminal conspiracy. It is also about heritage: the lingering question of Jericó and Josué's parenthood, and more importantly the recent history of Mexico that has brought it to its present crisis of lawlessness. "Just yesterday," one of the characters remarks, "a highway in the state of Guerrero was blocked by uniformed criminals. Were they fake police? Or simply real police dedicated to crime?"

Once, towards the end of the book, Josué recounts a long dream. Somewhere in the middle of it, I found that I had lost the mental quotes; I no longer knew whether it was a dream or real. I also realized that it did not matter. So much of this book takes place in a nightmare world -- a miasma of philosophy hanging over a swamp of manipulation and desire -- that it is no longer relevant to distinguish fact from fiction. Except that Fuentes continues to write with verbal brilliance and flashes of humor that do much to illuminate the darkness.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95251e1c) out of 5 stars Latin american avante garde- erudite yet accessible but not for passive consumption 20 Jan. 2012
By R. Gavilanes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
or escapist reading, not an easy reading exotic grand soap opera. It is a very witty, critical, and ambitious novel. I am shocked at the superficial reviews I am reading of this book, I've only started it but it is already engaged me, and impressed me with its humor, wit, and elaboration of mythical and curent characters and ideas. I am reading it in spanish so in all fairness the translation maybe horrible. In spanish is is beautifully and skilfully told. For the record, I would only give 5 stars to Borges short stories or Jems Joyce Ulysses, so for is tops for a recent release. The main characters are physicaly and metaphoricaly described very clearly and gracefully in the first 25 pages (unlike a 'reviewer's' claim below). True in the latin american avante garde tradition (which has been in dialogue with the best of Europe's intellectual ideas for nearly a century) there is an intention to make the act of reading a radical act in itself, (as opposed to reading about it) and that will weed out those looking for romantic stories in exotic settings. So if you like Bolano, Vargas Llosa, Garcia Marquez and Donoso, you will feel right at home here. If you dislike James Joyce's Ulisses for it's 'digessions' this novel will only be a little bit better. The metaphorical and the metaphysical are put on the table right from the start- the narrator is a severed head. The severed head describes it's relation to the missing body, and the mind-body split harks back at the critique of modern 'cartesian' philosophy. The main chracters names Joshua and Jericho are precisely tied back to biblical scenes in the first few dozen pages. If these references are interesting to you in the make up of main characters then you are on for a quality reading experience.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95254300) out of 5 stars A voice from the abyss 21 Sept. 2012
By Enrique Torres - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The story begins with Josue's severed head beginning a narration along the Pacific Ocean near the coast of Guerrero, Mexico. If that isn't odd enough, the head of Josue will tell his life story and his encounters that got him to this point, where he states and asks" I was a body. I had a body. Will I be a soul"? This in itself is intriguing enough but if you are familiar with the dazzling works of the late great,(11/11/28-5/15/12), Carlos Fuentes (RIP/QEPD), than you know you are in for something special. On different occasions Senor Fuentes has taken the liberty to narrate from a unique perspective as in Christopher Unborn, Christopher Unborn (Latin American Literature Series), where the unborn Christopher narrates his observations on the world he will be born into in Makesicko as it celebrates it's 500th anniversary of the European collision with the new world. Senor Fuentes always one with radical ideas, that often coincide with his political ideas, tells a grand story of complex, intertwined characters, interrelated and as we find out, related in some circumstances, very rich characters, most notably Jerico,who he meets in class is we come to find out more than just a friendly brother. As the tale unfolds , the exploits of Josue and Jerico, two peas in a pod as youths, Cain and Abel if you will, have many things in common, including but not limited to, intellectual and metaphysical persuits, sex, family, friends, enemies and yes, destiny and desire. The setting is contemporary Mexico as Senor Fuentes makes pop references(he always had the heartbeat of Mexico)such as in is characterization and description of another main figure in the book, the prisoner Miguel Aparecido to the fine Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal Amores Perros and Uruguayan opera singer Erwin Schrott Rojotango (Red Tango). It is probably not coincidence , since Senor Fuentes loves to play with language that Miguel Aparecido last name means looks like or similar to. That is part of the genius of Senor Fuentes, he takes you on a journey that requires patience and understanding, nothing is as serious as it seems(is there anything more grotesque or serious than a severed head?) because all the while their is humor in everything being told. Don't be turned off by the premise that the story is from a severed , floating head; the head of Josue can be very funny, even as he describes his own state of being without a body. We all must laugh at ourselves. Senor Fuentes makes us look at the human condition, often through metaphors, to examinne the status of our society and the people within it, in this case Mexico. It is a sad picture of corruption and all the malaise of contemporary Mexico but Senor Fuentes makes us laugh at the absurdity of it all. The book is full of intrigue, both political and sexual that reveals the depth of the characters and their relationships to each other and society. The women characters are captivating, Maria Egipciaca , Asunta Jordan and others like Lucha Zapata paint a wonderful mosiac of colorful femininity both vulnerable and strong. The women are engaging in the story and quite alluring and play into the theme of destiny and desire. In later years Josue and Jerico, Cain and Abel, come to finally see that they are very different, or are they the same but whose life's paths have ultimately more than intersected? Read the book and find out. The characters are varied, you will encounter priests, brothers, mothers, whores, politicians, prisoners and many more colorful players within this tapestry of modern Mexico. There are many rich characters such as Max Monroy and Antonio Sanguines, the powerful man and the lawyer,the law upholds power and power upholds the law, isn't it one and the same? As I said before but all are complex, not shadows but vibrant ghosts of the here and now and yesterday, this era and the bygone era because as Senor Fuentes states Mexico never changes. A brilliant passage by the character Snagines(all characters are Senor Fuentes podium from which to speak)describes modern Mexico, "Today Josue, the great drama of Mexico is that crime has replaced the state. Today the state dismantled by democracy cedes it's power to crime supported by democracy." Passages such as this are sprinkled throughout and give insight into Mexico past and present. This book is full of wisdom through the mind and pen(he would actually write with pen and paper) of the magnificent mind of Senor Carlos Fuentes. This book is an instant masterpiece in my opinion but I am biased since I have read nearly everything Senor Fuentes has had published in the United States including many gems from Mexico in Spanish. If you like or love Mexican culture, good literature or the writing of the master, Senor Carlos Fuentes, I defintely recommend and believe you will enjoy this book because it is afterall, your destiny and desire.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x952546cc) out of 5 stars CAUGHT IN ITS WEB 25 Oct. 2012
By Suzanne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After I read the first section, I didn't think I wanted to go further. The narrator is a decapitated head. Curiosity pulled me back into the fray, an enormous undertaking, a political, philosophical and historical saga of Mexico leading up to present times. The plot revolves around a friendship between two seemingly orphaned boys who meet in elementary school.

The the web of deceit that is revealed among their circle of acquaintances as they mature is frightening. The cruelty is reminiscent of the Dark Ages. With all this, the dialogues between characters are difficult to follow, partly because they go on and on, sometimes clarifying their meanings and sometimes not. This novel is the work of genius and a real challenge.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95254678) out of 5 stars Not His Best 4 Dec. 2012
By David S. Wellhauser - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not one of his better efforts. Starts great, with a decapitated head telling its life story...but the characters, narrative, and insights do not live up to the opening.

An interesting work, but not a provocative one.

Worth a look though.
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