Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Terra Nostra” as Want to Read:
Terra Nostra
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Terra Nostra

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  943 ratings  ·  87 reviews
"Terra Nostra ist der bisher umfangreichste und ehrgeizigste aller großen lateinamerikanischen Romane. Seine 1129 Seiten beherbergen hundert Charaktere; er umgreift die Zeitspanne vom Römischen Reich bis zum Paris des Dezember 1999; der Schauplatz ist das Spanien des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts, aber auch Mexiko, Nordeuropa, Italien und die Levante ... Phantasie und Aufbau ...more
Hardcover, 1139 pages
Published August 1st 1979 by DVA (first published November 11th 1975)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Terra Nostra, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Terra Nostra

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  943 ratings  ·  87 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Terra Nostra
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
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
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terra Nostra is a dreamscape, an elaborate allegory, infused with mysticism, symbolism, numerology, theology. There are tales nested within tales, dreams within dreams, a mirror of our world distorted beyond reason, but not recognition. The linear is discarded in favour of the circular, the finite arc of human life replaced by an endless cycle of repetition. In this view of history as a singularity there is no Old World or New, no past or future, only man and his own fractal nature, which is at ...more
Sep 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Smell around this brick long enough (not long!) and you'll know whether you ought to read it. I know I did ;; and I did! And am better for it. But at any rate, wanted simply, in loo of a revieewooo, provide you with a non=representative passage which I'm sure many of you bookish folk will enjoy :::

"You have named fifty stories, but you spoke of a thousand and one half days..."
"Fifty accounts are accounts beyond count, Filipe. For from each account came twenty others, inopportunely,
Brent Hayward
Feb 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
L.S. Popovich
A Möbius striptease.
Time is a permeable membrane.
Cervantes and Caesar, Bosch and Quetzalcoatl.
Historical figures rise, maggot-ridden from their tombs to conquer, make love, philosophize and dissolve in the polychromatic strobe of dreams. These fantasies fuse with antiquity, birthed from moldered tomes, exhausting the faiths of pious men, eviscerating kings, and bleeding across timelines.

The symbolic journey of this novel is an intense, dense, immense expedition through Old Spain, New Spain, and
Vit Babenco
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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)
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mexican-lit, español
Stop me if you have heard this before?

A Mexican writer walks into the hotel bar. He joins his fellow Latin Americans, an Argentinian, a Chilean, a Peruvian and a Colombian (Julio Cortázar, Jose Donoso, Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and says “ — Todos los buenos latinoamericanos vienen a morir a Paris.” (Every good Latin American comes to Paris to die). They all laugh in agreement.

The date is December 31, 1999. The end of the Millenium. The world is ravaged by microbes causing
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alex V.
Nov 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish-it
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,
Inderjit Sanghera
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fuentes’s sprawling phantasmagoria acts as an exploration of Spain in the midst of its golden age and on the brink of discovering the new world; a world which replete leaves the reader ensorcelled by the hypnagogic beauty of the imagery which Fuentes conjures up;

“The shipwrecked youth believed he had been embalmed by the sea; blood pounded at his temples; he squinted through half-opened eyes; the sight of this fog-shrouded desert was perhaps not too different from what he would have discovered
Kobe Bryant
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone in this book is insane and is trying to fuck, kill or mutilate someone, and its also about history repeating itself like all his other books
lyell bark
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
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 ...more
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
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Michael Brown
Oct 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A masterpiece of a fiction. Impossible to summarize.
Dec 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Vicky Hunt
Like reading Shakespeare as your first English Language Novel

Terra Nostra, written by Carlos Fuentes and almost a Spanish classic, is Metaphor rich, like existing in a living dream. There are sweeping panoramic changes in view. And, actual events are taken out of their historical sequence and combined with phantasmagoric events. With the use of the pronoun ‘Our’ in Our Earth (the title) – Fuentes is speaking directly to and about the Hispanic world.

In the opening sequence, a young man named
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a huge novel of 890 pages. Bearing in mind the time commitment in deciding to read it I’ll make this review short. It’s a sort of mix of ‘Hundred Years of Solitude’ and ‘War and Peace’ with a large dash of Camilo Cela’s writing style. TERRAbly NOtably STRAnge.

This is a fable, fiction historical retrospective of colonial Spain under Filipe. It merges time, space and person to reflect on the damage done to the New World and the impacts on society to the present. The book is made of three
Mar 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well...I finished it, though not before it almost finished me. And to be honest, I'm not sure it was worth it. The thing is, this is a very long and difficult novel, and when I embark on such a thing, I kinda want more return on investment than I got here. Terra Nostra is easy to admire but hard to love; indeed, I'd say it's easily the least lovable novel I've read in recent memory. Impressive, yes, but I'm not going to let myself be overawed into giving it a better rating than I think it ...more
May 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.
mr. swan
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite all-time books!
Bryn Hammond
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagined-fiction
Fantabulous. Of huge imagination. I'll have revisit this.
« previous 1 3 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Báró Wenckheim hazatér
  • Paradiso
  • El llano en llamas
  • Soldados de Salamina
  • The House on the Lagoon
  • The Blind Owl
  • Los de abajo
  • Las batallas en el desierto
  • Cristallisation Secrète
  • Ficciones
  • The Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writings
  • The Transmigration of Bodies
  • The War of the End of the World
  • Noticias del Imperio
  • El corazón de piedra verde
  • Arráncame la vida
  • A la sombra del ángel
  • Isle of Passion
See similar books…
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
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Incredible the animal that first dreamed of another animal.” 14 likes
“Normality; show me normality, señor caballero, and I will show you an exception to the abnormal order of the universe; show me a normal event and I shall call it miraculous because it is normal.” 5 likes
More quotes…