Seventy-one years old, wasted and sick with a degrading intestinal affliction, Artemio Cruz lies in bed and remembers -- remembers and lives while the priest administers extreme Unction. A financial success, risen with ruthless ambition from the ashes of the Mexican Revolution, Cruz relives what he did and did not manage to salvage from his life. His days as a Revolutionary soldier, his lost love Regina, his unwilling wife sought through her brother's death and father's weakness, his prime, his fall and his childhood -- in a complicated series of mental flashbacks the old man struggles with memory so that he can continue to live. Waiting like carrion vultures for his testament, his loveless family watches as the priest chants, "ego te absolve" -- for seventy-one years without awareness. Through these last leaps of memory, Cruz becomes aware and dies just after he has remembered the farthest leap of all -- birth. Whether or not his is a recognition of futility, this intricately constructed collage of a dying mind stubbornly living its past and desperately hoping for a future manages to rise above artifice to power and to affirmation. With virile, honest writing in a stream of ebbing consciousness, the author of Where the Air is Clear has mastered an old theme and created a strong novel. The publishers will support it accordingly.