cover image Constancia


Carlos Fuentes. Farrar Straus Giroux, $19.95 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-374-12886-9

After the exuberant, experimental fiction of recent years, Mexican novelist ( Terra Nostra ) and statesman Fuentes returns to the conventional literary themes and melancholic air of his earlier works, such as the gothic Aura . The title story here is narrated by an elderly American doctor who, while bemoaning his own mortality, learns in a Poe-like twist that he has been married to the ghost of a Russian emigre who died in the Spanish Civil War 49 years earlier. ``La Desdichada'' tells of two student roommates who half-jokingly ``adopt'' a lifelike store mannequin. As both become sexually involved with the mannequin, their true natures are revealed. ``The Prisoner of Las Lomas'' is a mischievous tale about a wealthy man imprisoned by his servants in his mansion, a state he soon comes to enjoy. ``Viva Mi Fama,'' the collection's most powerful story, contrasts the creative power of an aging Goya with the vitality of two of his models, an actress and a bullfighter, asking: Which is more real, the subject of a work of art or the work of art itself? ``Reasonable People'' again explores the theme of the doppleganger, focusing on twin architects, one of whom is seduced by a rather perverse reincarnation of the Virgin Mary. Fuentes's rich interior vision and lyrical controlled prose have been beautifully captured by the translator. (Apr.)