A novel of substance about friendship, philosophy and politics set in the “thousand-headed hydra of Mexico City” from the prolific pen of distinguished man of letters Fuentes (The Death of Artemio Cruz, 2009, etc.).
The author immediately elevates the status of his characters—in fact almost to mythic proportions—in the sheer act of naming them. Narrator Josué Nadal recounts his close, almost inseparable, relationship with Jericó (part of whose mystery involves having no surname) but starts with an unexpected twist—Josué has been executed, his head severed from his body, so he begins his narration as literally a disembodied voice. As adolescents their lives become entangled with that of Errol Esparza, whose arrogant, distant and brutal father gives Errol something concrete to rebel against. Josué recounts the major events of his life, including his seduction by a beautiful nurse and his tutelage in philosophical inquiry, but most importantly his extraordinarily intense friendship with Jericó. They share an interest in profound philosophical questions and are particularly enamored by Nietzsche and Spinoza, and they also share sexual experiences with an infamous prostitute with a bee tattoo on her buttock. As they grow older, they drift apart—Josué becomes involved in law studies, and Jericó cryptically disappears for a while, presumably traveling abroad. In the meantime Josué becomes romantically involved with several women, the drug-addled Lucha Zapata and the stern but gorgeous Asunta Jordán, aide to Max Monroy, a mysterious and enormously rich businessman who is powerful, self-confident and presumptuous enough to treat with contempt Valentín Pedro Carrera, the president of Mexico. Josué’s erstwhile friend becomes an enemy of the state, so much so that Josué refers to him as “Jericó Iscariot,” and their friendship/brotherhood symbolically shifts from Castor and Pollux to Cain and Abel. Throughout the complex narration, Fuentes moves his characters from whorehouse to prison house to boardroom with ease and assuredness.
A compelling novel by one of the masters of contemporary fiction.