Carlos Fuentes is Mexico's leading contemporary writer and this while probably his most ambitious novel, is also his most amorphous--lacking any narrative action to give definition to the inchoate flux of ideas, images, and endless memories of a past which is at time collective, at times personal. The scene is Cholula, where Cortez once committed his battue of the Indians, now a "living death." But then all of this is death-directed ("To be dead waiting for eternity to put in its appearance, which it refuses to do, to go on, dead, waiting.") and the four characters assembled--over whom the "narrator,"--a sort of anarchic hipster presides--are all landlocked: Javier, who had written one little Foundation winning book; Elizabeth his wife who has been destroying him for years by demanding too much; Franz, a Nazi, with the survival guilt of the crematoria; and Isabel, a kicky chick ("All I'm looking for is orgasms."). The novel has a certain degenerative energy, but more often than not its fragmentation is close to anarchy which makes it a quite often penitential reading experience. Assured critical attention.