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Terra Nostra

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  603 ratings  ·  52 reviews
About the Author
Carlos Fuentes is Mexico's most celebrated novelist and critic and the author of more than a dozen novels and story collections. During his career, Fuentes has received numerous honors and awards, including the Mihuel de Cervantes Prize, and the Latin Literary Prize.
Paperback, 785 pages
Published April 1st 1987 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published June 1975)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan-Maat
I don't think I was the right reader for this book, it seems to have settled uneasily within me.

I am tempted to say the book is about politics and above all political forms. An alternative and ahistorical Philip II (married to Elizabeth of England) fights to impose his will and Catholic orthodoxy on the heterodox rebels of the Low Countries. The external politics is mirrored in his construction of El Escorial as an embodiment of the Orthodox unity he is trying to impose - however even this might
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brian
well, this is a big big book and i dig the big ones so i carried it around like a cinderblock in my bag for a while. and the first paragraph ranks as one of the great first paragraphs. check this out:

Incredible the first animal that dreamed of another animal. Monstrous the first vertebrae that succeeded in standing on two feet and thus spread terror among the beasts still normally and happily crawling close to the ground through the slime of creation. Astounding the first telephone call, the fi
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Jonfaith
This massive meditation on the Conquest and its effect on imaginations, moralities and all related matters pertaining to worlds both New and Old hit me like a cinder block. I recall going to Day's Espresso at the time, such a locale offered magnificent lattes, they made me fat. I didn't care. I loved this book. There is a well of intertextuality within which is nerdy yet effective.
Brent Hayward
This pink brick was on the shelves of The Monkey's Paw, a store more likely to sell you a dusty stuffed crow or pornography from 1850's than some crazed scream from Carlos Fuentes about faith and death and history. I had wanted to read the book for a decade or so, snatching up the fat Penguin- an edition I'd never seen before- on my way back from the liquor store. 890 pages of size 3 font, three months, two countries, a 50th birthday, and several cities later, I won't even begin to address the c ...more
Stuart
Epic and kaleidoscopic in scope, full of profound weirdness and stunning, hallucinatory prose. Forget Garcia-Marquez, this is more Pynchonian in its lucid irrationality, a waking dream of Spain's conquest of Mexico that straddles multiple centuries, from Aztec creation myth to Millenial apocalypse. Alternately frustrating and mind-blowing - I came close to quitting it more than once, particularly in the first book, "The Old World," but Fuentes kept dragging me back with his wild imagination and ...more
Vit Babenco
If Hieronymus Bosch were a writer…
“Behind the funeral coach follows a tortuous, writhing retinue of beggars, contrite, sobbing, swathed in dark rags, their mangy scabrous hands offering empty soup bowls to the dying sun; at times the most daring run ahead to beg a scrap of the rotten meat and are rewarded with kicks. But they are free to come and go, run ahead, fall behind.”
It isn’t just a funerary procession – it’s a pageant of history painted in sepulchral hues – a series of oneiric visions fr
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Alex V.
Terra Nostra has the most profound opening paragraph of any book this side of The Bible:

Incredible the animal that first dreamed of another animal. Monstrous the first vertebrate that succeeded in standing on two feet and thus spread terror among the beasts still normally and happily crawling close to the ground through the slime of creation. Astounding the first telephone call, the first boiling water, the first song, the first loincloth.

and then shortly after there, Fuentes lost me. Or, rather
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Marc
Utch, this was a strange one, and one of those books I really hoped I would have liked more then I actually did.

It's certainly ambitious, insanely so, and takes some very interesting liberties with narrative space and time. It's also refreshingly aggressive and non-subtle in it's attack on religion and power in general, and quite entertaining too, at least most of the time. Fuentes furthermore seems to have a great love of the grotesque (bodily mutilations and repulsive sex scenes galore) combi
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lyell bark
i finally finished this goddamn book after reading it on and off for six months. it's pretty long and about some sort of mystical apocalypse and tawdry sex and systems of government that doon't involving slaughtering everything (spoiler: you have to slaughter everything) all the cool refs from your favorite part of european history [prognathic inbreds screwing up ruling the wealthiest and most powerful empire at the time in order to cling to some dutch marshes].

there's also some nice sentences,
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Veterini
Lu après la lecture de « l’art du roman » de Kundera où il le pose comme un des romans du 20eme siècle avec les livres de Kafka et « Les somnambules » d’Hermann Broch. Il est particulièrement question de l’Espagne au moment de la découverte du nouveau monde, du nouveau monde, et un peu de la fin du monde.
Mais c’est toutefois extrêmement touffu et difficilement résumable, avec une volonté de Fuentes d’offrir un roman-monde englobant un peu tout. Mais si y a une chose qui m’a particulièrement plu
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Ed
Simply the most exciting book I've read since Under the Volcano, Terra Nostra seeks to unify the mythology and politics of 15th Century Spain and the New World in one meteor-like work! Amazing! It literally has to be read to be believed.
Jim
Almighty God, this is a brilliant monstrosity of a book!

It's been a long time,but I remember this being a fabulous, magical, beast of a book. Carols Fuentes is a mythmaker supreme!
Patrick
A masterpiece of a fiction. Impossible to summarize.
Chris
This was originally published on The Scrying Orb

This book is physically daunting. It’s big. Dense. Heavy. Flipping to a random page reveals a tightly woven blanket of text, tightly packed and in small type. The prose is occasionally impenetrable. It took me a month to finish. Its themes are no less than Time and History and Religion.

Terra Nostra follows an alternate history of Spain’s past, with King Philip II (El Senor, Don Felipe!) married to Queen Elizabeth. Sick of war and government, El Sen
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nathank
About halfway through this book I started to get the feeling that after reading Terra Nostra I could be content never to read another book again, as if it were the culmination of my lifetime of reading.

The absolutely gorgeous prose (could be the translator), is in the same vein as Nabokov and Pynchon, but not quite as complex. You'll run into sentences that go on for a page or more, but are not usually overly difficult to understand. This book also has the most vivid imagery I've ever read. I'd
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Liz
This is an amazing book. I read it nearly 20 years ago, and if I were sent to Radio 4's Desert Island this would be my choice of book. It took me six months to read (and I'm a fast reader!)- I had to keep dipping in and out, as it is such a rich and complex text. Part SF, part historical fiction, and with more than a touch of magical realism it is a book I will re-read at some point. In it Elizabeth Tudor is married off to Philip II of Spain, Aztec gods are brought to life, and cinema is invente ...more
Enrike
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it many years ago when I was younger as part of a college course and it has stayed with me. From what I remember, Margaret Sayer's Paden, the translator, wrote a very detailed article, "Reader's Guide to Terra Nostra", which will give you a lot of the background behind the story. I don't remember where the article was published. Also, as I recall, "Cervantes or the Critique of Reading", a series of essays by Fuentes, illuminates much of what h ...more
Michael Brown
You know I only bought this book because I read the list of characters and couldn't make any sense of it. And I couldn't make any sense of where the book was going till about half way (and that's a lot of pages), although all the separate parts were completely fascinating. Then the bits gradually started to come together - and my head pretty much exploded with the brilliance of it all. Worth the wait, let me tell you.
Michael Battaglia
If not for Proust, this would have probably counted as my yearly entry into the inadvertently created category, "Giant Works of Foreign Literature". And while the length is almost adorably petite compared to some of the stuff I've been reading in this past year (seven hundred pages? that's like a long weekend at this point!), much like a lot of the other Giant Books, this one goes out of its way to prove that you don't acquire the ambition to craft a massive era spanning novel without also simul ...more
Hburke727
Today is the day that Carlos Fuentes died. I opened to a chapter called "Aurora" and read, just now. After I heard about it. It's incredible how a book can become a companion. A friend in life's past chapters who came and went. I am grateful Carlos Fuentes for your story, for its place in the setting of my memory.
David Pollard
Brilliant monster of a book. My third from Fuentes. Each page a poem. Third of the way through in three months and worth the slow take.
Manuel Peralta
One of the greatest novels of The 20th Century!
mr. swan
One of my favorite all-time books!
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
RIP Carlos Fuentes, 1928-2012
Smoothw
To be truly symbolic I should have finished this book the day I fly out of south america, but I was never much for symbols. One of those novels that feel like a brick and try to encompass the entire world in its great shambling immensity, I had very mixed feelings about terra nostra. As other reviewers have said there are plenty of dazzling sentences in here, the attempt to unify aztec theology, christian myth, and famous spanish literature in one whole is sufficiently mind blowing, and the fact ...more
Cal Wolfe
I read this beast of a book when I was only 16, a curious pink tome amongst hundreds that caught my attention merely from its color. Upon reading the first few pages I was both intrigued and bewildered. I had never read anything like this, to be honest I hadn't read that much period but this was the book that revealed to me the power of words and ultimately turned me into "reader".

I remember little of the story, the material was beyond me but that was partially why I loved it, a story that left
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Adam
A tough read, and I'm accustomed to challenging books. It's been 6 years since I read it, but I mostly remember long stretches of boredom. I'm probably wrong and I simply failed to meet the requirements demanded by Fuentes.
Martin Hernandez
¡Ah, que novela tan apasionante, obsesiva y absorbente! Al principio estaba totalmente confundido, no entendía nada de lo que estaba leyendo, pero me sentí fascinado con la vorágine de escenas, con la imaginería desbocada, con la absoluta locura de Carlos FUENTES . Poco a poco, fui encontrando sentido, y me fue atrapando la seductora prosa de este libro. Al final, devoré las páginas, deseando al mismo tiempo terminar el libro, que las páginas no se acabaran. Fue verdaderamente un banquete de li ...more
Jan
My low rating for this book should really be a low rating for my ability as a reader of this book. I do not regret having read it, but I am certain that I really wasn't up to it. If I knew more Latin American history--if I'd had an easy introduction to the millenia of the continent south of the U.S. border, say a straight-forward treatment by James Michener--I might have been prepared to understand the symbolism and layering of this book. In the years ahead of me, I may have time to read it agai ...more
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Carlos Fuentes Macías was a Mexican writer and one of the best-known novelists and essayists of the 20th century in the Spanish-speaking world. Fuentes influenced contemporary Latin American literature, and his works have been widely translated into English and other languages.

Fuentes was born in Panama City, Panama; his parents were Mexican. Due to his father being a diplomat, during his childhoo
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“Incredible the animal that first dreamed of another animal.” 12 likes
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