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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Adam in Eden

Carlos Fuentes

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To purchase Adam in Eden

Title: Adam in Eden
Author: Carlos Fuentes
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 200 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Adam in Eden - US
Adán en Edén - US
Adam in Eden - UK
Adam in Eden - Canada
Adam in Eden - India
Adam en Edén - France
Adán en Edén - España
  • Spanish title: Adán en Edén
  • Translated by Ethan Shaskan Bumas and Alejandro Branger

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Our Assessment:

B+ : sharp, sprightly take on contemporary Mexico

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 12/11/2012 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "This is a minor work by a major author, but Fuentes’s humor and keen eye make it quite rewarding." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Adam in Eden is narrated by Adam Gorozpe, "a modern lawyer and businessman" who has long been sitting pretty: he married well, into a family that proved immensely helpful as stepping stone to far greater heights, he's successful -- and he enjoys a mistress on the side. Nevertheless, things aren't quite going his way: "I don't understand what happened" are his opening words. Comets trailing across the winter sky -- flaming out like Adam seems to be -- are more than symbolic here, but Adam isn't sure how to interpret them:

I am paralyzed with doubt. Is the bright heavenly body preceded by its own light or does it merely introduce the light ? Does light mark the beginning or the end ? Does it presage birth or death ?
       Adam likes to think that he's cleverly made his way to the top and that he continues to be able to maintain certain appearances; so, for example he explains that:
     Living in my father-in-law's house helps to conceal my identity, making me seem a frugal man, concentrated on his work, faithful top his family ...
     They're not aware of my other life.
       He thinks he has: "woven together the different threads of my existence with great skill" but, of course, these things have a way of unraveling. Whatever control Adam believes he has, he is further undermined when another Adam, Adam Góngora, is put in charge of Mexican public security. Góngora quickly (ab)uses his great power to consolidate power, easily and dangerously filling a vacuum in Mexican public life; some of his actions also directly affect Adam and his extended family (if not always in the way Góngora intends).
       Adam swims in uncertainty:
     Is Góngora's plan the solution to our worst problems ? Is it folly or reason ? Am I guessing or am I foreseeing ?
       Adam's life, and uncertainty, are portrayed as the Mexican condition, full of duplicity and failures even where some success could be found.
       Adam in Eden is a sprightly novel, with Fuentes sprinkling in a great deal with a deft, light touch. There's a Boy-God, for example, who takes to the streets and wins over the masses -- "In a world of disappointment and so many lies, the Holy-Boy, he's someone you can believe in". There are also cameos by writers Tomás Eloy Martínez and Sergio Ramírez, with Martínez reading a novel called ... Adam in Eden. Discussing the book, the two authors suggest:
     "There is no ending. There is reading. The reader is the ending."
     "The reader recreates or invents the novel ?"
     "An interesting novel is one that escapes from the writer's hands."
       Adam in Eden isn't quite out of Fuentes' control, but he keeps his narrative on a loose leash; clearly he was having a lot of fun here. If a bit fast and furious, a lot of the detail is also well-thought out and presented. There are also some very nice bits, such as Adam's mistress telling him:
Don't think that your personality is going to consume mine. I am not your consommé Adam. I can only be your rib.
       Fuentes has written several great large-scale Mexico-novels; Adam in Eden is an entertaining and accomplished lighter smaller-scale one. One of his final works, it's also a good (and good-sized) introduction to his writing.

- M.A.Orthofer, 15 December 2012

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Adam in Eden: Reviews: Carlos Fuentes: Other books by Carlos Fuentes under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mexican author Carlos Fuentes lived 1928 to 2012. Winner of the Venezuelan Romulo Gallegos Prize (for Terra Nostra) and the Cervantes Prize (1997). He has taught at Harvard, Princeton, Brown, and Columbia, among other universities.

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