Magazine article The Spectator

Dirty Tricks Down Mexico Way

Magazine article The Spectator

Dirty Tricks Down Mexico Way

Article excerpt

THE EAGLE'S THRONE by Carlos Fuentes Bloomsbury, £15.99, pp. 310, ISBN 0747577692 . £12.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Set in 2020, this has been described as a work of 'futuristic' fiction.

Most such fiction -- Forster's The Machine Stops, Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four, L. P. Hartley's Facial Justice -- describes a world radically different from the one familiar to people at the time when it was written. However, in The Eagle's Throne the fact that Condoleezza Rice is the first black female president of the United States is about all that differentiates Fuentes' satiric vision of the political world of the future from the actual one today. May it not be that, in setting the date of his story 14 years ahead, he merely wished to avoid the charge that he was pillorying real-life people?

The foundation on which Fuentes has erected his elaborate but sometimes unconvincing plot is that the Mexican President has incensed the United States firstly by hoisting oil prices and secondly by demanding that the superpower should cease to meddle in the affairs of Colombia.

In retaliation the United States, in control of Mexico's satellite systems, immediately deprives it of the ability to communicate by phone, fax or email. This provides Fuentes with the opportunity to tell his story entirely through letters.

All the letters are stylistically and intellectually brilliant. Not one is without its arresting aphorisms -- 'What is melodrama but comedy without the humour?', 'Politics is the art of swallowing frogs without flinching', 'It takes much more imagination to be ex-President than to be President.' Each letter glitters with brutally vivid similes and metaphors. But the problem is that all these letters seem to have been written by one and the same person: Carlos Fuentes. When, in his latest novel Kept, D. J. …

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