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(04/22/2008) The Hydra Head by Carlos Fuentes. New York. 1978. Farrar Straus Giroux. Translated From The Spanish By Margaret Sayers Peden. keywords: Literature Translated Mexico Latin America. 292 pages. Jacket design by Honi Werner. 0374173974.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In an astonishing turnabout, Carlos Fuentes follows his most recent novel, the huge, complex, baroque, historical fantasy TERRA NOSTRA, with what is probably the first Third World spy thriller, an action-filled, quick-paced, terse novel of intrigue as contemporary as a headline. One fateful morning, Felix Maldonado, a minor official in the Mexican bureaucracy, steps into a nightmare world in which he is ensnared in a murder he never intended: the assassination of the President. As he is gradually divested of his identity, he struggles between his Dostoevskian frenzy for affirmation and the Kafkaesque passivity of oblivion others try to impose on him: the Director General of his Ministry, who first proposes that Felix surrender his name in exchange for his life; the fat economics professor, Bernstein, who believes a man is recognized only when he is not being hunted down; and the ambiguous master spy, 'Timon,' who prefers defeat to success. They are surrounded by a cast of twilight figures: Ayub, a Lebanese punk; the posturing coward Rossetti and his ambitious wife, Angelica, a lady with a penchant for adventures in swimming pools; Licha, a sensual but unsatisfied nurse; the teenage Mexican agents Rosita and Emiliano; and the women in Felix's life, all three Jewish: Ruth, his wife; Sara Klein, a survivor of the Holocaust; and Mary Benjamin, who tortures her ugly merchant husband with her infidelities. Set in the houses of the rich and in sleazy hotels and sinister hospitals in Mexico City, in the steamy Gulf ports of Coatzacoalcos and Galveston and the luxury clubs and corporate offices of Houston, THE HYDRA HEAD has a constant political reality as backdrop: the permanent tension in the Middle East and the vast new oil resources of Mexico. Behind the individual drives for power, justice, money, love, or simple survival lurk the cold imperatives of the international chessboard and its masked players. Felix is caught between both, making it impossible to know where his lust for Mary, his tenderness for Ruth, and his love for Sara stop and the hard facts of political reality begin.

CARLOS FUENTES was born in Mexico City in 1928. Among his earlier books, published and honored in many countries, are the novels WHERE THE AIR IS CLEAR, THE GOOD CONSCIENCE, AURA, THE DEATH OF ARTEMIO CRUZ, A CHANGE OF SKIN, and TERRA NOSTRA.

 

 

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