Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Carlos Fuentes: Vlad

Heather Cleary reviews Carlos Fuentes's last novel "Vlad".

The figure has again been cast in a contemporary mold, this time by the late Carlos Fuentes, the celebrated author of dozens of books of fiction and nonfiction, including Where the Air is Clear (1958), Terra Nostra (1975), for which he received the prestigious Xavier Villaurrutia and Romulo Gallegos prizes, and The Old Gringo (1985). Nor is it the first time Fuentes has dabbled in the occult: his 1962 novella Aura—to name just one prominent example—uses the supernatural machinations of a solitary old woman as a lens through which to examine the intersection of personal and national history, and the sometimes porous borders of the self.

Vlad, the last novel Fuentes published before his death this past May, is told from the perspective of Yves Navarro, a partner at a Mexico City law firm who seems to have it all: the career, the house, the adoring wife, the adorable daughter, and the respect of his politically influential employer, Don Eloy Zurinaga. The latter asks Navarro to help an old friend from the Sorbonne (whom he met "back when law, like good manners, was learned in French") purchase a home in advance of his arrival in the Distrito Federal. It is a simple assignment, well beneath his qualifications, but Navarro is the only attorney available at the moment, and it just so happens that his wife, Asunción, is a real estate agent. Nothing, really, could be more convenient. There are just one or two eccentricities to accommodate: all the windows of the residence are to be blacked out and a tunnel should join its interior with a ravine out back. None of this, oddly, gives Navarro or his wife significant pause.

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