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1492: The Life and Times of Juan Cabezon of Castile Hardcover – June, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ambitious re-creation of a historical period overwhelms this Mexican author's love story about two conversos --converted Sephardic Jews--who are devastated by the Spanish Inquisition . Under fanatical persecution by Dominican friars, the conversos have been sequestered in ghettos, and robbed, tortured and murdered. In 1492, however, they are allowed to emigrate to Portugal. The narrator, Juan Cabezon, himself a converso , joins up with a blind man, Pero Menique, who introduces him to a group of merry rogues: a violent thief, a lascivious prostitute and a dwarf, all of whom reappear throughout the novel in different guises. Juan hides two of Pero Menique's converso friends, one of whom, Isabel de la Vega, falls in love with Juan and becomes pregnant with his child; Arijdis's depiction of their romance is exquisitely handled. But when a Dominican inquisitor is murdered, Isabel, fearing renewed persecution, vanishes. Juan's anguished search for her takes him across a Spain rocked by civil unrest. After a brief reunion, Juan decides that his destiny lies with a man met during his journey, an explorer named Cristobal Colon, and he enlists as a sailor on the Santa Maria.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Aridjis, a popular Mexican poet, and his translator wife provide English-speaking audiences an English version of his 1985 novel of a picaresque love story between two conversos (converts to Christianity) set in the waning years of 15th-century Spain. Although Christopher Columbus appears briefly as a deus ex machina who saves the hero from the clutches of the Inquisition, the book really focuses on another major event of 1492--the expulsion of the Jews. As a fictionalized account of the persecution of the Jews and a portrayal of the intolerance of religious fanaticism, the work conjures up images of pogroms, Salem witch hunts, and the Holocaust. The good translation, unfortunately marred by an anemic style, is recommended only for strong historical fiction or Judaica collections.
- Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC, Dublin, Ohio
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Summit Books; 1st edition (June 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671644998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671644994
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,320,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mary Carol Scherb on September 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Part picaresque novel, part moving romance, part historical document, this extraordinary reconstruction of fifteenth-century Spain, by one of Mexico's leading literary figures, has been acclaimed throughout Europe and Latin America. This was the century that changed the face of Spain, and of the world-the century of the wars with the Moors, which led to the end of Moorish Spain; the voyages of discovery, which culminated in Columbus's enterprise; and, perhaps above all, the century of the Inquisition, which financed both the wars and the voyages by seizing the fortunes of condemned Jews, and which led inexorably to the Expulsion. Here these events are seen through the eyes of one Juan Cabezon, a descendant of converted Jews, who is orphaned at an early age by a series of bizarre accidents and taken in hand by Pero Menique, a clever blind man, who uses him as a guide through the rich street life of Castil. It is Menique who brings him beautiful young Isabel de la Vega, sentenced to death by the Inquisition, and begs him to hide her in his house Juan and Isabel fall in love, but as time passes, Isabel is driven close to madness by her forced seclusion in Juan's house and her constant fear of death. One day she vanishes, and Juan sets off on a desperate search for her which takes him across Spain, into the heart of the Jewish communities, and constantly into the path of the Inquisition's autos-da-fea journey that stamps itself indelibly on the reader's mind.
About the Author: Homero Aridjis is one of Mexico's foremost poets and novelists. He has published more than twenty books of poetry and prose and won the Xavier Villaurrutia Prize for best book of the year in 1964 and the 1988 Diana.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jay Paul on November 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is truly great literature. I read it a couple of years ago and have since given it as a gift to several of my friends who appreciate the art of fine writing. In my view, this author uses perfectly chosen words to weave a vividly colored tapestry of life in Spain in 1492.

Despite expectations the title might evoke, this book has essentially nothing to do with Columbus. Nor is it a historical novel in the sense of illustrating a chronology of notable events. Rather, the story is populated with ordinary people attempting to cope with life during the religious upheavals of the time. As such and given the superb word craft, this story provides an opportunity to actually feel what it must have been like to live in those times.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eric Leventhal on December 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read 100 pages of 1492 when i'd had enough of the grotesque supporting characters and their ridiculous dialogue. At that point the plot had barely gotten into motion and the hero-narrator was still 2-dimensional.

All the characters talk at each other in epigrams. They perpetually vie to out philosophize, out boast, out insult, and out name-drop each other. While this talk is entertaining, there is way to much of it. And as it roils on such minor matters as plot and character development have to wait.

I am genuinely interested in the subject of secret Jews and the Inquisition, and the first chapters promised an entertaining and informative read. I admire the author's beautiful style and fluid recreation of Renaissance prose, but less would have been more. I just couldn't stand listening to the demi-monde of 15th C Madrid verbally throw elbows and oh so mock elegantly babble on and on.
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. S. Mason on July 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
I like history, but I just started 1492 and will never finish it.
This is really really, I mean this is really b o r i n g.
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