A review of Carlos Fuentes' The Eagle's Throne
Carlos Fuentes, Mexico's most famous author, elder statesman and a writer who prefigured the Latin American literary boom, laughs softly to himself. "You know the most amusing programme on British television?" he asks above the din in a London bar. "It's the House of Commons - I never miss that."
Fuentes, whose political friendships range from Bill Clinton to the late François Mitterrand, knows all too well what goes on behind the theatrical façade of the Westminster village. A former diplomat, Fuentes has been no stranger to political controversy himself, once denied an entry visa to the US after being banned as an "undesirable".
The hardscrabble, bare-knuckle fight for power is the primitive pulse that runs through his latest novel, The Eagle's Throne. Set 14 years into the future when the US has cut off Mexico's telecommunications systems in retaliation for an increase in oil prices, his politicians are forced to commit their thoughts and opinions to paper. Through the correspondence between powerful players, including a former president, the mistress of the presidential adviser, the finance minister, a party hack, her lover and her bisexual protégé, the Machiavellian maze of contemporary politics is exposed in all its bitter glory.
This is Fuentes at his satirical best, mixing political wisdom, biting wit and poignant self-realisation. President Lorenzo Terán is ending his term, and as his political opponents and loyal friends jockey for power, they reveal their naked self-interest. As Xavier 'Seneca' Zaragoza writes to Terán: "Now that I see you in the throes of death, now I truly understand that a president is neither born nor bred. He's the product of a national illusion - or perhaps a collective hallucination."
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