This is the first-ever novel of Fuentes, written in 1958.
In this book, the main character is the Mexico city itself. Fuentes takes the readers through the streets of Mexico and pages of history. He does his typical incisive analysis of the inhabitants of the city. He has chosen a banker ( Federico Robles ), a society lady (Norma), a rich family impoverished after the revolution (Ovando family ), Rodrigo Pola, a writer whose father was executed during the revolution and Ixca Cienfuegos an observer and critic of the system.
Fuentes takes the readers through the labyrinth of the Mexican solitude and identity. In no other latin american country, there is this obsessive search for identity, going back and forth in history and caught between the mother continent and the adopted one. Almost every character makes a reference to Mexican history, revolution and politics. Fuentes asks, "does such a thing as original blood exist?" and answers "no; every pure element grows and is consumed in its own purity,does not develop; the original is the impure, the mixed, the mulatto and the mestizo, as i am, as all Mexico is. Which is to say originality supposes a mixing, a creation, not a purity previous to our experience. Rather than born original , we come to be original; origin is creation. mexico must find her origin by looking ahead, not behind". This passage reminded me of Octavio Paz's analysis in his " labyrinth of solitude"
I liked these pearls of wisdom:
- It is all a question of wings, my love. With wings, a butterfly. Without wings, a caterpillar.
- All depends on the state of the soul and that depends upon external impulses. It is enough to control the external impulses to arrive at the state of the soul and personality which are desired.
I was moved and absorbed by the powerful and memorable characters in this book and the profound intellectual deabte about identity. Carlos Fuentes continues to stay as my number one favourite at this time. I have just purchased two more books of Fuentes and am looking forward to reading them.
Carlos Fuentes was from a diplomatic family and had lived in many countries. Later, he also became a diplomat and served in various capitals.