A POUND OF FLESH by Art Linson


Perilous Tales of How to Produce Movies in Hollywood
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 French avant-garde novelist Le ClÇzio (The Giants, 1975, etc.) offers up a meditation and lamentation on Mesoamerican civilizations and the Spanish conquest. Le ClÇzio starts by summarizing two key documents on the fall of the Aztecs: The True Story of the Conquest of Mexico, by conquistador Bernal Diaz, and History of Ancient Mexico, by Catholic missionary Bernardino de Sahagun. Diaz's text reveals a clash of ``dreams,'' the Spanish dream of gold vs. the Mayan dream of bearded men in armor sent by Quetzalcoatl. The History, composed after Cortes and his tiny band had crushed the vast Mexican empire, presents the shared dream of its Christian author and the surviving Indians whom he interviewed: that this lost civilization be recovered or at least memorialized. Other dreams follow, such as those of the shamanistic ``barbarian'' (i.e., non-Aztec) Indian nations, who fiercely resisted the influx of Christianity. Four hundred years later, tormented French poet Antonin Artaud arrived in Mexico, chasing his own dream of a world reborn. Le ClÇzio superbly presents the Aztec worldview with its ``dancing, bloody sacrifices, hallucinations, dreams.'' In a statement typically hyperbolic, he counts the destruction of this world of ``mystical cruelty'' by ``modern weapons and rational thought'' as ``the greatest disaster in human history.'' The author concludes by suggesting that the Aztec world, if it had survived, might have ``integrated dream and ecstasy into daily life.'' Heated, hypnotic, bizarre: Mesoamerican history as if composed by an Aztec priest. (One halftone, one map)

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8021-1543-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993