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Argentinian writer Posse, translated into English for the first time, joins those other Latin American writers who dazzle us with their verbal virtuosity, flair for magic realism, and incomparable interplay of the sacred and the profane. Mindful perhaps of that approaching half-millenium celebration, Posse makes Christopher Columbus the central character of the novel. But Posse's Columbus is a mystic, a sensual lover, and a utopian--not the usual crass fortune-seeker of the history books, though he is shrewd enough to play on other men's greed. Breaking with family tradition, he becomes a sailor, with a deep sense of kinship for the sea--his webbed feet are a sign of his amphibian nature. As a descendant of the prophet Isaiah, he also has a divine mission--to discover Paradise, from which man was expelled at the Fall. Convinced that it lies to the west, he prevails--after many setbacks and amorous adventures--to persuade beautiful Queen Isabella, who, according to Posse, is the lusty creator (along with her husband Ferdinand) of the great Spanish empire and the Renaissance, to provide the money. With a crew of prostitutes, representatives of multinationals, priests, a bull-fighter and his bull, a rabbi, Swedenborg the theologian, a prototype of Karl Marx, peasants, and Nietzsche looking for proof that God is dead, Columbus sets sail for paradise. For a brief while, Columbus and that motley but most symbolic crew--progenitors of the subsequent ills of both North and South America--enjoy their earthly paradise. Soon, however, the urge to act, to organize, to do--""the longest-continuing crime of doing in America""--takes over, and paradise is again lost. Bawdy, witty, and fast-paced, as well as serious and unobtrusively erudite, Posse's novel is an imaginative--and yet on its own terms convincing--insight into a man who really did change the world. A marvelous addition to the genre.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Atheneum