Books by Homero Aridjis

THE CHILD POET by Homero Aridjis
Released: Feb. 16, 2016

"A fine introduction to a writer who deserves to be better known to English-language readers."
Proust meets magical realism in this searching, lyrical memoir by the Mexican poet and conservationist. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 15, 1995

More than a few too many characters, subplots, and themes muffle the impact of this grandiose historical picaresque by the Mexican author of the previously translated and essentially similar 1492 (1991). Aridjis's narrative is divided into 27 ``visions'' seen, and relayed to the reader, by Alfonso de LÇon, a monk whose dedication to his vocation as an illuminator of manuscripts does not protect him from yielding frequently to carnal desires or from the threat of a bloody reunion with his malevolent twin brother, Abd Allah of Cordova, a powerful warrior member of the Saracen armies whom Alfonso and his brethren devoutly believe ``will annihilate all Christendom before the year 1000 comes to an end.'' The novel begins in a confusing welter of unrelated scenes, then settles for a time into a chronological account of the twins' birth (to a Moorish Caliph's concubine), their upbringing and education, and the separate paths their warring temperaments set them on. Then we're swiftly cast back to a kaleidoscopic landscape delineated with apocalyptic imagery and numbingly explicit descriptions of sexual acts and physical violence, and populated by assorted minstrels, pilgrims, hermaphrodites, and such laboriously fabricated grotesques as Isidoro, the Messiah of the Poor, a kind of Marxist Lord of Misrule reputed to possess ``a celestial letter signed by the Lord Jesus, which...authenticated him as the true Son of God.'' We feel the book straining to impress its readers (the addition of a nine-page Bibliography seems, shall we say, a trifle pretentious?). Eventually, though, the conflict between the brothers resurfaces, then climaxes in battle, finally determining whether Alfonso indeed is ``the Lord of the Last Days'' who will bind up the Evil One, thus preserving the Christian faith for another thousand years. The seed of a powerful fiction here becomes drenched early on by melodramatic fustian, and never grows into anything remotely resembling a coherent novel. Read full book review >
1492 by Homero Aridjis
Released: June 1, 1991

Mexican writer Aridjis's first novel to appear in English is appropriately topical in period and themebut regrettably muffles its impact in an avalanche of picaresque incidents and Rabelaisian characters. Self-consciously reflecting the discursive style of its time, the story, set in 15th-century Spain, tells about Juan Cabez¢n, a young Jewish man whose family had converted to Christianity a few generations before, and about his search for his beloved Isabel, a Jewess. It is also a critique of Spanish rule just as the country was about to acquirefor good or illa tremendous empire, thanks to Christopher Columbus, who appears here in a brief cameo role. Cabez¢n, an orphan, is taken up by the blind beggar Pero Menique, and the two men have numerous piquant adventures as they travel from city to city. But with the Inquisition underway, the dread Grand Inquisitor Torqemada is in the ascendancy, and hereticsas well as all those known or suspected to be Jewishare being burned at the stake. Cabez¢n falls in love with the fleeing Isabel and hides her, but she later disappears; Cabez¢n then searches for her throughout Spain, finding her only to say goodbye: the surviving Jews have been expelled from Spain. Aridjis's Spain of 1492 is a decidedly very nasty placewith unpleasant rulers and clerics, and only a few good ordinary peopleand certainly it's not the country suited to be in charge of a New World about to be born. Despite the current zeal to bash Columbus and his peers, Aridjis is highlighting an often forgotten but nevertheless appalling era of Jewishand Spanishhistory. But the message is muted by the mass of material: 1492 is no 1984. Read full book review >