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Four Hands Hardcover – July, 1994

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Deadly tricks of the international spy trade illuminate various tactics of survival, collaboration, disinformation--and the creative process--in this complex tale of journalism and subversion in Latin America. Cycling back and forth in time and through a protean array of distinct narrative voices and points of view, Mexican crime novelist Taibo ( No Happy Ending ) gradually gives shape to a whirlwind of brief fragments from the lives of his diverse characters. These include Leon Trotsky, Stan Laurel and Houdini, each of whom is presented in an unexpected but somehow credible context. The various narrative threads intersect in 1980s Mexico, where Alex, who comes from an obscure intelligence office in New York, orchestrates his masterpiece of deception, a scheme to vilify the Sandinista leadership in Nicaragua; and where two journalists, Julio and Greg, bring their eponymous four hands together to tell the tale. Taibo's prose is rich in metaphor, and his confident, insightful storytelling makes the individual pieces of his novel intriguing long before the connections among them are apparent. Dail's translation does fine justice to the author's colorful, virtuosic narrative.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

At times reminiscent of Doctorow's work, Four Hands is a glorious documentary-style novel, offbeat and usually comic. Taibo (Some Clouds, LJ 6/1/92) focuses on two 1980s journalists. Both partners and friends, Mexican Julio Fernandez and North American Greg Simon write about politics and revolution for the likes of Mother Jones and Rolling Stone. Interwoven with their stories are strands of fiction and fictionalized nonfiction that span the decades of the 20th century, roaming from the Americas to Europe and back. Other characters include Stan Laurel, Leon Trotsky, and civil engineer and anti-Sandinista Ben Linder. Taibo, who lives in Mexico City, is already well known to Spanish-language readers. This novel belongs in all strong contemporary literature collections.
Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, Ore.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 378 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Press; First Edition edition (July 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312109873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312109875
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,086,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 26, 1998
Format: Paperback
Yummy. This book is a real treat for any person who can string together alot of facts, loves details from the four corners of the earth that all play into a plot, and intellectualism in their mystery. I have to admit there were some chapters about a play in some prision that I did not get at all. But what I did get was a huge grin on my face for three days while I slogged through this fun fun book. So many subplots. The CIA (sort of, with a great oberkonig character), revolutionary-chasing reporters (they love Che and pal around in El Salvador when they're not drunk), stressed out drug dealers, Leon Trotsky, and some old International Marxist Organization surviving through a bunch of octagenarians. Oh-- I forgot my favorite-- a PhD student in search of a thesis topic. All these characters come together in an odd tale. And the best thing--- the book has NO POINT. At least none that I could pick up. Don't read this if you need to have your Ts crossed by the time you're done. Personally, it was sheer joy to read this. The author and translator are clever and witty to an art form and I hope someday I have friends who can amuse me so.
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Format: Paperback
Have you read a lot of mystery novels? Can you guess "whodunnit" before the final chapter? If so, try your wits against this book. Written from several different perspectives, bridging not only gaps in point of view but time and geography as well, this novel will make you want to bang your head into the wall. Taibo's work, however, is well worth the all the confusion, because once you have a vague idea of what is going on, the work's machinations are fascinating. While Four Hands can be read as an exercise in disinformation, in the creation of history, it can also be read as the construction of a mystery. In other words, reading this novel is like seeing the cogs turning in Agatha Christie's head. Taibo supplies all of the necessary ingredients for a good mystery novel: the killer, the victim, the mastermind, and of course, the detectives (Greg and Julian, two journalists). The construction of the mystery then proves more important than the mystery itself; the reader waits and waits for all of these ingredients to come together. The character of Alex, the crazy agent in charge of the intelligence agency "SD" ("It is not especially clear who maintains the SD either. One time someone suggested their paychecks came directly from the National Security Council"(11)) is Taibo's mad artist figure, pulling all of the mystery's factors together. Alex, however, tries to plan the outcome of this mystery, and so there is potentially no mystery at all, but just the manipulations of an intelligence agency. Can all mystery novels be seen as the result of such careful and meticulous calculation? Is there any such thing as the unknown anymore? Luckily, there are enough twists and turns in this complicated narrative to keep every reader happy.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a definite must for anyone interested in the history of left-wing movements in the 20th century, the CIA interventions during the Cold War, the Spanish Civil War, South America liberation movements, Sandokan and his Portuguese friend Eanes (remember the Italian writer Emilio Salgari?), the evil deeds of Comrade Stalin, Mexican drug dealers, silent movies...
The book is a jigsaw with stories that become interwoven as you read through the chapters, and the great narrative skills of the author will make sure that you will want to read it through until the end without a pause. At least that's what I did. My first copy was a Portuguese translation that I received more than a decade ago as a present from my mother, and when I started reading it I couldn't stop until I finished it. After that I bought myself a Spanish language version, and I've been buying more copies as presents to many of my friends.
This is a book I truly recommend.
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Format: Hardcover
Four Hands


Stan Laurel, one of the heroes of Four Hands, wanders into Mexico and witnesses the assassination of Pancho Villa. There follow other episodes, centered on Greg, an American journalist, and Julio, his Mexican friend and collaborator. Taibo gives the reader a plethora of brilliant characters in this panoramic novel that moves backward and forward in time.


St. Martin's Press is proud to publish the first English translation of a major literary novel by Paco Ignacio Taibo II, whose previous appearances in this country have been this leading Mexican author's crime novels. The "four hands" are those of two world-ranging journalists, one Mexican and one American. It is these two men who provide the initially improbable links between such disparate elements of Taibo's amazing novel as Stan Laurel's witnessing the assassination of Pancho Villa; the Disinformation Operation of an anonymous group in New York who approach their dingy office up a fire escape; the discovery of Leon Trotsky's notes for the crime novel he was writing when he was murdered in Mexico; the stupefying thesis proposals of graduate student Elena Jordan; an episode in the Contra war in Nicaragua; and the Spanish miner's takeover of a coal mine in the thirties. These themes and others, like the voices of a Bach fugue, appear and disappear and reappear, gradually weaving together into an intricate whole without losing their separate identities. Four Hands is a funny, dazzling, and exuberant work that only this author could have created.
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