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The Death of Artemio Cruz: A Novel Paperback – May 1, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

First translated into English more than a quarter-century ago, Fuentes's acclaimed novel about modern Mexico has since gone through nearly 30 printings. Despite its popularity, the original English version often was unclear, obscuring Fuentes's language and intent. MacAdam's meticulous new rendering gives the English-reading public a fresh slant on the fictional Cruz, a newspaper owner and land baron. The novel opens with Cruz on his deathbed, and plunges us into his thoughts as he segues from the past to his increasingly disoriented present. Drawn as a tragic figure, Cruz fights bravely during the Mexican Revolution but in the process loses his idealism--and the only woman who ever loved him. He marries the daughter of a hacienda owner and, in the opportunistic, postwar climate, he uses her family connections and money to amass an ever-larger fortune. Cocky, audacious, corrupt, Cruz, on another level, represents the paradoxes of recent Mexican history. Written before Fuentes's masterpieces A Change of Skin and Terra Nostra, this novel, with its freewheeling experimental prose and psychological exploration, anticipates many of the author's later themes.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"This is more than a retranslation of a masterpiece. It amounts to a restoration: here is the magnificent book that Fuentes wrote originally, superbly rendered by Alfred Mac Adam into an English version that precisely meshes with Fuentes's Spanish."--Douglas Day

"Carlos Fuentes is perhaps the only living Latin-American writer who has it in him to do for his country what Euclides da Cunha did for Brazil in Os Sertoes, and to make the passion of the land's rebirth and repossession comprehensible to the outsider."--Anthony West, The New Yorker

"Remarkable, in the scope of the human drama it pictures, the corrosive satire and sharp dialogue."--Mildred Adams, The New York Times Book Review

See all Editorial Reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Revised edition (May 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374522839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374522834
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,277,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Rae on December 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
The book was beautifully written, the plot was interesting, and the character development went above and beyond most books.

So why is there such controversy over this book? Well it is easy to say, this is not your cruise vacation book to read while laying by the beach. The first chapter will have you kicking and screaming for anything tangible to grab onto. The only person in this book you have to guide you is Artemio Cruz, who is sharing with you his memories. However, he isn't always the most stable guide. Half the book he is on his deathbed rambling, switching tenses and narratives.

So that is the first warning. However if you are willing to invest some time, you can find an entire new meaning to life within this book. If you can't invest the time, go out and rent Citizen Kane, you'll get the gist in about two hours, rather then the month minimum you'll need to get this book. Even after rereading it, the book leaves dozens of pieces in the book isolated and unconnected. (In fact we never how Artemio gets from being 13 to 23, and if you read the book you'll know why this is important and frustrating).

So what does this book have to offer besides several headaches and why in the world did I give it five stars? Well I could throw a lot of pretty adjectives out at you, but I won't. I will tell it to you simply. This book makes you think. And not in the painful way. If you fight this book, you will never get it. If you embrace it, even in it's most challenging passages, you will be opened to a whole new world of ideas. Ideas about memory, desire, life, death, and our place within society are embedded in this story.

Bottom line: This story is like an excavation site waiting to be dug up, hidden with endless treasures. If you are willing to put in the time, you won't be disappointed. If that sounds like too much work, move right along then.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Damian Kelleher on November 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Artemio Cruz owns a vast empire in Mexico, encompassing newspapers, land, construction and more. He has a beautiful wife and daughter, both of whom he cannot stand, nor they him. His aide, Padilla, a man he trusts with his empire, and one he has grown to love as the son he lost so many years ago. He is so important, so respected, so necessary to the Mexican country that the President tries to impress him, rather than the other way around. But Artemio Cruz is dying, painfully and slowly, and it is while dying that he has a chance to evaluate his life, to take a good look at himself and what he has achieved.

Cruz is a complicated man. As a youth, he fought in the various, chaotic revolutions and counter-revolutions that periodically caused Mexico to cease functioning as a nation, becoming little more than a series of loosely connected fiefdoms. Using his intelligence and daring, he was able to secure a command in the fight against Pancho Villa, but more importantly, he also knew when to leave the life of a soldier for a more solid existence. As a young man, he met Regina, the woman he was to love until his dying day.

As an older man, he is respected and influential, but also cold and distant. Gone are the passionate, poorly thought-out heroics of his early adulthood. He no longer loves like it doesn't matter, or cares much for the reality of another person. At his annual New Year's party, Cruz retires early to a comfortable leather chair positioned so he can watch everyone else have fun. The unspoken rules of the party forbids guests to talk to him at all, other than to pay their respects. His wife lives in another city, and a prostitute shares his bed this night, as she has every other night for the past eight years.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on November 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
The violent society of Mexico in the 19th century produced a bloody revolution that laid the foundations for a new Mexico after 1920. The revolution devoured its dreamers and hopers, as revolutions tend to do, so that it was co-opted by the most violent, least idealistic types, who arranged Mexican society to their benefit, even if the common man ultimately did derive some advantages too. For the winners, especially as the century wore on, it seemed as if goose neck stuffed with pork-liver paté, or perhaps the damask armchairs by a fireplace in the huge living room loomed far larger than social justice. For them, the ruthless grab for power turned out to be a successful gambit. Artemio Cruz is such a successful individual, determined to let nothing stop his rise to the top, taking advantage of every chance brought to him by the tides of war and political intrigue.
The backward-forward nature of the narrative, the wordy lyricism interspersed with terse action sequences, and the dwelling upon illness, decay, and death locate this novel on the absolute opposite end of the literary continuum from say, the quiet, spare prose of Japanese author Kawabata Yasunari. This is a novel of bright colors, of deep, intense feelings, a novel in which the author thrives on vocabulary and the effect of the words themselves, a novel of ultimately surprising revelations that do not stop until the very last pages. Artemio Cruz desires power for its own sake, he will stoop to any deed to acquire it. Fuentes scrapes back layer upon layer of the character, digging deep into his psyche to tell why.
THE DEATH OF ARTEMIO CRUZ is a highly intellectual, cleverly-constructed novel that is not easy to read.
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