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Where the Air Is Clear

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,631 ratings  ·  94 reviews
"Where the Air Is Clear," Carlos Fuentes's first novel, is an unsparing portrayal of Mexico City's upper class. Departing from a traditional linear narrative, Fuentes overlays Mexican myths onto contemporary settings, showing that even the rich and powerful must succumb to the indomitable spirit of Mexico, which undermines all institutions and shapes all destinies. First p ...more
Paperback, 373 pages
Published December 23rd 2014 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published April 1958)
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4.04  · 
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 ·  1,631 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sincere, cutting portrait of Mexico City in the 1950s. Some chaos is introduced due to experiments in narration (stream of consciousness-like inserts mixing past and present) but there is a structure to it all. Fuentes shows all of the social strata of Mexican society (from the blase aristocrats, through ambitious, unconscionable new rich, limp intellectuals and tragically poor. This is a novel about being between the poor and the rich, about ambition and lack of thereof, about parenthood, about ...more
So I have entered the world of Fuentes, with his first novel, published in Mexico in 1958. It was a treacherous portal for me. In the first few pages I saw that I needed some background in Mexican history. Thanks to the internet, that was easy and helped me tie together the paltry loose ends I knew about Mexico. I should also point out that Mexican PR in Los Angeles is terrible, so I had to overcome some prejudices to get into Fuentes's head.

Ixca Cienfuegos, a character in the book, is our omnis
Jan 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dalkey-archive
this novel is a good way to learn about the people of mexico city. how class works there, what the rich think about (while living in a cess pool that is their beautiful mountain valley) and who can cross those lines. i always thought this was a bio, but maybe not.
Griffin Alexander
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pinche-guey
So we have here in miniature and in Mexico a mash-up of The Recognitions and USA: The 42nd Parallel / 1919 / The Big Money. Extreme and inextricably linked characters of both upper and lower classes, extensive familial histories, and debaucherous cohorting give way to broad sweeps of stream of consciousness meets stream of history, seen as it all swells in the stomach of Mexico City after the bitter pill of modernity has been swallowed. A novel of a city if there has ever been one.

There are cert
Mark Folse
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reading
I can't decide whether to start rereading this stunning novel, to return to my old copies of Artemio Cruz and Christopher Unborn, or to start the immense Terra Nostra. This sweeping and poetic depiction of modern Mexican history and Mexico City left me awestruck in a way few novels I have read in recent years. Alternating between flights of poetic interior narrative and a cinematic depiction of his characters, each of whom is a totemic face in this Aztec temple of a novel, I was swept away and a ...more
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mexican-lit
Wow! Fuentes first book and this was an amazing read. A reflection of Mexico City that is gritty, full of colourful people and the angst of his times. When I finished this book I wondered why it isn't one of the classics of the twentieth century. I came to Mexican literature in the last few years but Fuentes should rank up there with Garcia Marquez. Perhaps its his language? Perhaps his subject matter? Whatever I highly recommend this book. es muy excelente!
Dennis Weiser
Aug 14, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: any literate person
Really like Fuentes, this book in particular. The Death of Artemio Cruz [sp?:] was okay; but this seems to capture the bloodsoaked ground of ancient Mayan and European misadventures in a way that speaks to Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, to Twain's Huckleberry Finn, to Melville's Benito Cereno and Moby Dick. Fuentes' dual cultural and linguistic heritage as the son of a diplomat gives his style and imagination a sweet sharp edge.
Ginger Harris
Apr 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
The book is more like a very long collection of poems. Though I didn't want another political commentary, this one does do a terrific job representing persons from all classes following a political upheaval. It spares no one and criticizes all points of view. From the newly rich, the 'well-bred', the native, the poet, the academic, the narcissist, the banker, etc. The book is filled with important symbolism. I could only grasp a little and it started to dawn on me only in the middle of the book ...more
Elena Sala
Most of the novels written by Carlos Fuentes can be considered as mythical approaches to history. He follows Ernst Cassirer's approach, who considered that history is determined by the myths of a people.
In this novel, Fuentes presents a mythical history of Mexico City. The characters, who represent the historical aspects of the novel, are products of the Mexican Revolution and are representative of Mexican society during the 1950s. The conflict between the present and the past is prominent.
Matus Miksik
Oct 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a massive sculpture of Mexico. First it confuses you and it seems somewhat megalomaniac, but then the author puts the pieces of the mosaic (the sculpture) together and just as it clears up in your mind - only in fragments, because this view of a nation can not be understood completely - Fuentes chooses to set it in motion, adds drama and mysterious forces embodied in one of the protagonists, Ixca Cienfuegos (a spirit of Mexico city and the ancient Aztec culture) and rearranges the t ...more
Juan Rivera
How superficial people live life? Superficially.

How the rich people live life? Believing himself more than others.

How the mighty people live life? Crushing others.

This may not be true for everyone. Indeed.

But what is certain is that everything in life can change at any time. The rich can be poor, the powerful oppressed.

If you do not understand that is life and you're here, you never learn.

Reflections of this book.

Do not rest on your laurels .... what is certain is that everything will change.

Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fuentes writes so poetically between his streams of consciousness. As usual he throws you in the middle of a story like you already know where you are, which makes for a confusing start, but once you catch on, the story is mesmerizing. You can almost palpate his feelings on Mexico's politics. Makes you want to start a revolution yourself. I really enjoyed this novel, and of course want to read more Fuentes.
Aaron Terrazas
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fuentes stream of consciousness can be difficult to follow at times, but it can also sometimes be melodic and poetic. The book also requires some familiarity with the landscape of Mexico City -- both geospatial and social -- to follow.
Mar 23, 2011 rated it liked it
An ambitious novel of weaving narratives that was worth the effort. I mostly read it while in Mexico, where I was able to fully absorb culture and landscape, and allowed finer receptivity to the effects of post-Imperialism and revolution.
Elena Gutiérrez mckelligan
"La region más transparente" is a classical Mexican novel that narrates the social life in Mexico City. This is not Fuentes' best novel, but it has great descriptions about the incipient post-Revolutionary high society in Mexico.
Nov 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Considered a major milestone in Latin American literature, written in 1958. Is that why it felt like reading a school assignment that would be followed by a killer essay test?
Alison  Mailer
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite book! It's great and the plot is wonderful!
Feb 01, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mexico-latin-am
fuentes' first novel, i have yet to read it...
Jan 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
Read about 20 pages of this book. I had no idea what the author was talking about.
Rosalba Mejia
Wouldn't rate this higher than a 3. Reminded me of Bukowski. Took quite a few days to really get into, but well-constructed.
Olivier Piquer
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not easy to read in Spanish but I truly loved it.
This is up there with Woolf on the "I don't get it" level. I could feel the energy of the book -- that there were boundaries being nudged, rules of writing being flouted and cultural touchstones being addressed -- but ultimately I could figure out only a fraction of it. Some of it was ignorance and lack of context; I'm sure some of it was also an unwillingness to get down and dirty and wrestle the text. But although I was able to hammer out a basic plot, understand the relationships and get a go ...more
Luis Zamarro Fraile
In this book Carlos Fuentes develops a literary analysis of the pos-revolutionary generation of the 1950s. It is a story in which Mexico City becomes the true protagonist. Through its characters, portrays with great vehemence the thinking and the way of life of different social strata: aristocrats in decline, new rich, pseudointelectual middle class and the always poor and miserable working class. In the quest to achieve a national identity, the real questions arise and stay in the mind of the r ...more
Mar 15, 2012 rated it liked it
A little hard to get into, mostly because I'm so ignorant of recent Mexican history. And there's a lot of characters. The ending was a little all encompassing, but I liked the inclusion of a selection of quotes from earlier in the book. This was Harvey Pekar's book, which seems a bit incongruous.
Antonio Dominguez
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great realistic novel. The translation is made difficult by the many idioms of the Spanish language and of origin in Mexican culture.
However, it is a great translation and capable of transporting the reader to a different time and to the different places in Mexico where the story unfolds.
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
For an additional 'peak' at this world...

Google Patrice Olsen's work. She gives alms to this author as an inspiration during her undergrad years.
Mar 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
A touchstone of sorts for me. An incredible feat of writing, or myth making, of varied voices.
Oct 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
this book sucks! i gave up on it. why is he considered such a good writer? reminds me of gabriel garcia marquez. i don't get it.
Feb 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was fun to read this while visiting Mexico. Unfortunately, the air isn't all that clear in Mexico City anymore.
Ana Elvira
Couldn't take my hands off that book. I read lot of parts twice just to remember my beautiful city.
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La Region Mas Transparente del Aire 1 15 Sep 14, 2008 09:38PM  

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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
“¿Explicarlo? No -se dijo- , creerlo, nada más. México no se explica; en México se cree, con furia, con pasión, con desaliento.” 13 likes
“—Mens sana in corpore insano” 0 likes
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