cover image Christopher Unborn

Christopher Unborn

Carlos Fuentes. Farrar Straus Giroux, $22.95 (532pp) ISBN 978-0-374-12334-5

In a return to the broad, densely populated narrative characteristic of his early work, Fuentes brackets this account of Mexico (and the U.S.) in the near future with the conception and birth of its narrator. Christopher's story begins with his parents copulating on the beach on Epiphany in 1992, hoping their offspring will win a national contest by being the first child born on Columbus Day, the 500th anniversary of the European discovery of America. An omniscient, participating Christopher tells of a highly diminished Mexico (Yucatan has been sold to Club Mediterranee), so polluted that excrement rains on the beach where he is conceived. With nearly every stylistic device known to modern fictionists, Christopher-the-foetus observes his parents, uncles, maiden aunts, national leaders, tourists, rock musicians, and recounts outrageous incidents, past and present, that defy summarizing. Will Christopher survive them? Will Mexico? Should he want to be born? Despite the wealth of ideas and hilarious inventions (all superbly translated by MacAdam), Fuentes refuses to make a story out of any of this. His novel aggressively advances an esthetics that goes beyond modernism to a kind of deconstruction of events, insisting that the truth of life lies in its circular, spiraling subjectivity. Though witty, erudite and incisive, Fuentes cannot overcome the storytelling obstacle he has willfully set up. (Aug.)