Review of Carlos Fuentes' The Rights of Desire
Anyone who has visited Guanajuato (at once the cradle of Mexican independence and a citadel of surviving conservatism) will agree that those richly adorned eighteenth-century alleys--now crawling with outcasts and beggars--would make the perfect setting for a novel of the Mexican conscience. Anyone who read Carlos Fuentes' first novel, "Where the Air Is Clear," would concede that few Mexican novelists could be better prepared than he to explore a moral progress against such a background.
Having reviewed that sprawling, ambitious, brilliant book in these pages just a year ago (and having noted a difficulty in deciding with which of several images of Mexico the young identified himself), I confess astonishment at the single-mindedness with which Fuentes now focuses on a single theme. (I confess another kind of astonishment to find the puritanism of the Mexican upper middle-class so far exceeding that of our own.) "The Good Conscience" is much shorter than his first novel. It zeroes in relentlessly on the coming-of-age of an adolescent whose every impulse to Christian behavior and social idealism is thwarted by the insensitive materialism of his family.
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