In Carlos Fuentes' new novel, The Eagle's Throne, it is the year 2020. America has knocked out all of Mexico's communications – there are no phones, fax or e-mail. Washington made its move in a fit of pique over Mexico's refusal to lower oil prices and its demand that the United States end its military occupation of Colombia. This is the context for a story about presidential succession – a potentially timely subject, as Mexicans will elect a new president in July. This is a juicy setup for Mr. Fuentes, a chance for that sophisticated, passionate novel of the pasodoble between the United States and Mexico that he was born to write.
Mr. Fuentes, Mexico's most prominent novelist, is also an essayist, dramatist, professor and former student of international law. The son of a diplomat, he was raised partly in Washington and served as Mexican ambassador to Paris. He is a longtime, if not particularly original, critic of American ideas and influence, and in 2004 he published a book of essays called Contra Bush, which is just what you think it is.
Always a more interesting novelist than essayist, Mr. Fuentes could have used the situation he has imagined in The Eagle's Throne to probe the love-hate relationship Mexicans have with the United States.
Or, well-known proponent of Mexico's democratization that he is, he could have explored Mexico's second modern transformation as he dramatized the workings of presidential politics. In his best novel, The Death of Artemio Cruz, written in 1962, Mr. Fuentes portrayed the gradual corruption of Mexico's revolution a century ago. Today, Mexico's emergence from 71 years of dictatorship – democratic, but hobbled by the habits of old – again offer him a rich subject.
Mr. Fuentes has chosen to do neither. Instead of rendering the transformation of electoral politics, he refuses to acknowledge it.
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