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Terra Nostra (Latin American Literature Series) Paperback – July 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"Terra Nostra is the spreading out of the novel, the exploration of its possibilities, the voyage to the edge of what only a novelist can see and say."--Milan Kundera

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Spanish

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Product Details

  • Series: Latin American Literature Series
  • Paperback: 785 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564782875
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564782878
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 2.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By jaython on October 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Excerpts from Robert Coover's original review published in the New York Times November 7, 1976:
"Terra Nostra" is a colossal 350,000-word opus, a kind of panoramic Hispano-American creation myth, spanning 20 centuries (more, if you count the Greek and Egyptian mythologies that help to feed it) and embracing virtually the whole of European and American (especially Mexican) culture and civilization.
If "Terra Nostra" is a failure, it is a magnificent failure. Its conception is truly grand, its perceptions often unique, its energy compelling and the inventiveness and audacity of some of its narrative maneuvers absolutely breathtaking; the animated paintings, the talking mirrors, the time machines and metamorphosing mummies, the fusion of history, myth and fiction, the variations on themes and dreams, the interweaving or rich, violent, beautiful, grotesque, mysterious, even magical images--not without reason has this book been likened to a vast and intricate tapestry.
Achieved or not, there are too few writers around even willing to risk the impossible, and none I know of who so intimately activates the otherwise dead space between page and reader.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Looney on October 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
TERRA NOSTRA stands as Carlos Fuentes' most incredible achievement -- and as one of the great books of the 20th Century. The depths and heights of Man's history swirl around the reader as a controlled maelstrom -- grab a handle and hang on for dear life. In this masterpiece, Fuentes attempts nothing less than to transfer the last 500 years or so of the New World -- including its origins in the Old -- into words. Alternately achingly real and mind-bendingly surreal, the story unfolds almost as a jigsaw puzzle falling into place before the reader's eyes.
As cliched as it might sound, this is truly a work that MUST be experienced by any reader who recognizes the awesome power of language in the hands of a master craftsman -- there is nothing else like it in Western literature.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Tolbert on February 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
...Terra Nostra" is divided into three sections, translated in English as "The Old World" "The New World" and "The Next World." The first part is set in pre-Colombian Europe and describes the degenerate king of a dying Spanish Empire and his court. This section is loaded with as much intrigue and back stabbing as "I Claudius".
The second section, "The New World", is my favorite and can be read on its own. It has some of the most beautiful prose I have ever encountered. In it, the author describes the pilgrim's journey to the New World and his meetings with its people. The narrative has an immediacy that makes one feel that one has just stumbled upon a new world, with all of its dangers and mysteries.
In the last section, the pilgrim tells his story to the Spanish King, and the rest, as they say, is history.
If you like the magical realism genre so popular among South American novelists, you will love this book. If you are looking for plausible historical fiction, look elsewhere.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on May 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." says Stephen Daedalus in Joyce's Ulysses. This book - amongst many other things - is an exhaustive, exhausting exploration of that nightmare which is history, truly. Thus, it consists not of the linear history - and is certainly NOT a linear narration - of the history one learns in schools or history books. It is history as a hallucinogenic nightmare swirling around the figure of "El Senor" or "Don Felipe" and his necrophilic obsession with his manes (L.), or beatified ancestors. Some reviewers, noting the similarities, have gone so far as to identify him as Phillip II. This presumes far too much and, one might say, is contrary to the whole notion of the landscape presented here, where characters exchange identities and sexes, are reincarnated in different eras, in which literary characters are living beings, almost all of whom are given alternative histories, and characters and settings that are real or imagined or dreamed are all conflated into a baroque phantasmagoria. At one point in the book, Brother Julián wishes to tell a character called the chronicler the following:

"Let others write the history of events that are apparent: the battles and the treaties, the hereditary conflicts, the amassing and dispersion of authority, the struggles among the estates, the territorial ambition that continues to link us to animality; you, the friend of fables, you must write the history of the passions, without which the history of money, labour, and power is incomprehensible."

This is at least part of what Fuentes tries to do in this unclassifiable work.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nathan King on May 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
How sad that there are so few (3) reviews/readings of such an incredible work of art.

About halfway through this book I started to get the feeling that after reading Terra Nostra I could be content never to read another book again, as if it were the culmination of my lifetime of reading.

The absolutely gorgeous prose (could be the translator), is in the same vein as Nabokov and Pynchon, but not quite as complex. You'll run into sentences that go on for a page or more, but are not usually overly difficult to understand. This book also has the most vivid imagery I've ever read. I'd never felt more like I was there, in the book/story, than in Terra Nostra. I was completely taken away from my own world when I was reading (time just seemed to vanish from the clock), also like Pynchon but even more so in this regard.

Unfortunately, the book seems to fall apart over the last couple of hundred pages. It appears to meander about and ramble on while waiting to end. All the great prose and imagery are still there, as well as some important sections, but the "story" as a whole seems to get lost and confused.
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