In the title story, a man discovers his wife's secret complicity with the Russian actor who is their neighbor--a complicity that includes not just a previous life but possibly a previous death as well. He finds himself "a mediator . . . a point between one sorrow and the next, between one hope and the next, between two languages, two memories, two ages, and two deaths." In "La Desdichada," two students steal--and fall in love with--a store-window mannequin. In "The Prisoner of Las Lomas," a wealthy lawyer in possession of a powerful secret is held hostage by the past he has attempted to subvert and keep at bay. The celebrated bullfighter whose fame is the theme of "Viva Mi Fama" steps from the present into a past immortalized by Goya's portrait of the matador Pedro Romero; and the architects who are the "Reasonable People" of that story find themselves drawn into the irrational mysteries not only of religious fervor but of their famous mentor's identity--they discover "there are no empty houses," only a present fraught with the past.
Though each of these novella-length stories offers compelling evidence of Fuentes's talent for narrative free rein as well as for containment and closure, they are also brilliantly interwoven. Readers of his earlier work, especially of his acclaimed ribald epic, Christopher Unborn, will recognize with pleasure Fuentes's undiminished mastery of recurrent images and themes, and all readers will delight in the witty and evocative changes he rings on them. For those few readers who do not yet know the work of Mexico's foremost man of letters, these stories offer them the full gift of his imaginative resourcefulness.
Felipe Montero is employed in the house of an aged widow to edit her deceased husband's memoirs. There Felipe meets her beautiful green-eyed niece, Aura. His passion for Aura and his gradual discovery of the true relationship between the young woman and her aunt propel the story to its extraordinary conclusion.
One of Fuentes's greatest works, the novel tells the story of Ambrose Bierce, the American writer, soldier, and journalist, and of his last mysterious days in Mexico living among Pancho Villa's soldiers, particularly his encounter with General Tomas Arroyo. In the end, the incompatibility of the two countries (or, paradoxically, their intimacy) claims both men, in a novel that is, most of all, about the tragic history of two cultures in conflict.
Magnificently translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, Terra Nostra is, as Milan Kundera says in his afterword, "the spreading out of the novel, the exploration of its possibilities, the voyage to the edge of what only a novelist can see and say."