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News from the Empire Paperback – April 7, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Operatic and beautiful, del Paso's lush cautionary tale of empire building chronicles the brief and disastrous reign of Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria and Marie Charlotte (Carlota) of Belgium, emperor and empress of Mexico from 1863 to 1867. Seeking to redefine herself, Carlota embraces her new role as empress while Max flounders. They are usurpers, and while Benito Juarez, rightful ruler of the republic, abandons the capital to them, the seat of power stays with him as he watches from the periphery and refuses to acknowledge European rule. Desperate, spiraling into madness and wary of impending disaster, Carlota sails to Europe and begs the European monarchies for help that will never arrive. Outliving everyone, Carlota, elderly and insane, still in love with both her lost husband and her lost empire, is left to lament of Mexico, I am mother to them all because, Maximilian, I am their history and I am mad. This moving and engaging epic about the twilight of European monarchy and the struggles of the people they imposed themselves on may be considered a Mexican War and Peace. (Apr.)
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Review

"Del Paso is a great and unorthodox writer." --Le Monde

"Embodies a totalizing ambition, reminiscent of Joyce, to investigate the conditions of culture and knowledge, to explore the relationship between myth and history, and to demonstrate the potential of literary language to revolutionize our ways of seeing the world." --Times Literary Supplement

"Del Paso's characterizations, often an accumulation of details that become sharply focused, are brilliant." --Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; First English Translation edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564785335
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564785336
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
News from the Empire gives a detailed history of the failure of France's nation building project in Mexico, an account of Maximilian's death at the hands of Benito Juarez' soldiers and Carlotas' protracted madness. A history written by the man whom many of us believe to be Mexico's greatest writer, Fernando del Paso. Those who love his Palinuro will find many of del Paso's same qualities of style in News from the Empire. Missing is the Joycean humor and ruthless puns. Here one is reminded more of Faulkner's loaded paragraphs and densely populated narrative; or of Ford Madox Ford's use of the unreliable narrator in the mad empress who is equally frustrating and equally demanding of our close reading. In other words, this is very much a modern novel: it requires us to be careful readers, then tempts us back for a second reading in which we discover a work even more delightful than the one we had first considered. I love this type of writing, works that demand some effort on my part. I would also add that I have now read both the Spanish original and the new English translation and find the latter to be amazing in its ability to retain the voice and style of the original.
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Just the best thing I've read since discovering Asturias or Garcia Marquez. As sensual as Terra Nova and as informative as an encyclopedia. Like all Balzac in a single volume. I'll re-read and re-read this again and again. Interior monologues worthy of Joyce or Faulkner intertwined with clinically precise historic reporting. As obscure as Eliot and as direct as a newspaper. I'm overwhelmed.
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Format: Paperback
Fernando del Paso’s ‘News from the Empire’ on the 1860s French attempt to establish imperial rule in Mexico, is a challenging but ultimately worthwhile read. It extends to 704 pages, with very densely packed content throughout. The profile of a widely corrupt and decadent 19th century monarchy is fascinating. Del Paso’s rapid fire power of very detailed facts, drawn from a hugely widespread context, creates a mesmerising pyrotechnic display. A stream of consciousness is used effectively to create powerful impression. It’s extremely impressive, but occasionally confusing, and lacking in any attempt at synthesis and overview. The use of the genre of ‘historical novel’ means the reader cannot discern which of these multitude of observations are claimed as historic fact, and which are del Paso’s rich imagination. Several central sections are presented as definite history, including squabbles and disputes with other historians.

Maximilian is a tragic character. He is well educated, an Enlightenment liberal. He is a dilettante of his generation, but does implement social reform in Mexico. He is ultimately cornered by the political game play of the Habsburg Empire, the French and the Americans, who all desert him to execution at age 35. The ceremonial detail for his execution in the penultimate chapter mocks his own emphasis on the trivia of ceremony when planning to rule Mexico. His wife Charlotte, restyled Carlota in Mexico, survives him, but in decades of insanity.

Del Paso’s study of insanity in the chapters written as though from Charlotte in Bouchout castle is deeply imaginative and moving. Charlotte obsesses over Maximilian’s story and the decadence of Europe’s monarchies. The suggestion may be that her insanity mirrors theirs?

Geoff Crocker Editor 'Atheist Spirituality' web site
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I first ran into del Paso's work when I read "Palinuro of Mexico", a wonderful, encyclopedic novel of love and surreality. "News from the Empire" is an equally encyclopedic and detailed look at the ill-fated reign of Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico. A beautifully written and beautifully translated novel.
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An amazing book, although not for everyone. You must have a decided sense of fancy and let go of literal sense and thought. As a stand fast reader of only non-fiction, I found this book absolutely entrancing. I imagine it was incredible in the original Spanish as it reads beautifully in English as well.
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