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Carlos Fuentes: La región más transparente (Where the Air Is Clear)

Though this was his first novel, it reads as though it was written by a seasoned professional. It is a political novel which does not shove its politics down your throat but, rather, is written about politics by an artist, even though he is an artist who, as we know, holds strong political views. Yet, he manages at the same time to give us a committed political picture of his country and the problems it faces, particularly the problems of its history. He manages, indeed, as other first-time novelists have done, to show us an entire world – the world of Mexico both horizontally (all its classes from the poorest of the poor to the aristocrats who have forever tried to run the country) and vertically (its history, particularly, its more recent history which, as we know or will know once we have read this book, still haunts the country.) As he will in later books, Fuentes uses Mexican myths. In this books the narrator is Ixca Cienfuegos, an incarnation of Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war and the Sun, as well as the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan. Through Ixca Cienfuegos, Fuentes exposes the hypocrisy and the weaknesses of the ruling classes. Their foibles are, of course, the foibles of most of their kind – money, power, sex, status. Using this god also returns Mexico to its Indian roots and away from the European-based aristocracy Fuentes is attacking. Fuentes’ skill is in telling a story that illuminates the history and culture of his country, exposing its weaknesses and showing where it might change. In my view, this is his greatest novel.

Publishing history

First published by Fondo de Cultura Económica in 1958
First published in English in 1960 by Obolensky
Translated by Sam Hileman