Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Eagle's Throne by Carlos Fuentes

Carlos Fuentes has looked into the future of Mexico and seen a maelstrom of secrets that pulls in the entire political elite. Then, as if this apocalyptic vision weren't dark enough, he's found there can be no escape, no end to intrigue, plotting or murder for the crass and conniving bunch of Machiavellians reaching for the prized spot: "The Eagle's Throne."

Here, then, is a novel of pure (at its worst) politics, Fuentes readily agreed in a recent interview, but despite the steady march in his writing toward hard-hitting political realism he denies that he's calling for reform in Mexico or anywhere else. "I'm writing fiction, with all the freedom on the world," he said. "I'm not preaching to anybody, saying do this or do that. People can draw conclusions, moral or political, from reading the novel, but it is not my purpose to put on a Hyde Park speech." Instead, he wants the reader to sit back and enjoy the crazy roller-coaster ride that the Mexican presidency has in store for all those who get on and expect to survive.

The Eagle's Throne is the summit of power in Mexico. It's January 2020, Washington is angry with Mexico for demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Colombia and for backing the high oil prices set by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and so with the flip of a switch, off goes the telecommunications network of its southern neighbor. The president of Mexico, Lorenzo Terán, three years into his reign, has suddenly sent Mexico down a path of resistance to the dictates of the United States.

Fuentes, the ever-sharper social critic, arrives naturally at the "The Eagle's Throne" to claim that politics is no less than the "public expression of private passions," as two of his sleep-your-way- to-power female politicos separately intone. And things private get quickly heated in this novel, once the power is off, as one of these kingmakers, María Rosario Galván, offers not only her connections but her desirable body as the ultimate prize to the young bureaucrat Nicolás Valdivia if he successfully makes the climb to the presidency with her help. But lies and secrets are the money of her trade, and she has no intention of seeing on the throne anyone other than her longtime friend and ex- lover, Bernal Herrera, the interior secretary, with whom she has had a child with Down's syndrome who is conveniently stored in a state institution.

From "The Crystal Frontier" (1997), which revealed the dark underside of life along the U.S.-Mexico border, to "Contra Bush" (2004), searing essays on the current U.S. administration, and another tome of essays about his views, "This I Believe" (2005), Fuentes has been landing his pen ever harder. His many other novels, including "The Old Gringo," "The Death of Artemio Cruz" and "The Years With Laura Díaz," have never shied from the base factor that guides all strivings: politics.

You can find the full review here

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