Holy Place Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Fiction)

As much about myth, literature, and language as it is about worldly existence, Holy Place consists of a series of incompletely connected and suggestive episodes in the troubled life of its narrator, Guillermo Nervo. Nicknamed “Guillermito” (the diminutive shows endearment but also condescension), or simply “Mito” (Spanish for “myth”), Nervo unfolds as a parasitic decadent, a Baudelairian dandy totally dependent on and infatuated with his castrating mother, the protean film star Claudia. Guillermo moves from idolizing her and aspiring to be her lover to trying to arouse her jealously by taking Bela as a lover. A measure of his failure emerges when, after losing Claudia to his rival Giancarlo, he resorts to transvestitism in an attempt to possess his mother by becoming her. In the final chapter, he is transformed into a dog and must watch his maid and her lover desecrate his apartment, a literalizing of his neurotically servile role and an unequivocal announcement of the provisional completion of his fall. “Happily Ever After,” as the opening tableau is titled, thus proves to be a doubly misleading indicator, for it both appears out of its conventional place and evokes the contrary of the novel’s eventual outcome.

Holy Place Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Duran, Victor Manuel. A Marxist Reading of Fuentes, Vargas Llosa, and Puig. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1994. An interesting study comparing the politics in the writings of these three important Latin American authors. Many of Fuentes’s works are examined in detail.

Helmuth, Chalene. The Postmodern Fuentes. Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell University Press, 1997. A solid overview of Fuentes’s work from a postmodernist point of view. Several individual works are discussed, focusing on the issues of identity, national and narrative control, and reconsiderations of the past.

Ibsen, Kristine. Author, Text and Reader in the Novels of Carlos Fuentes. New York: Peter Lang, 1993. Although Ibsen does not discuss Holy Place, she offers valuable insight into the problem of communication, which remains one of the central preoccupations throughout the work of Fuentes. Her analysis focuses on the means of textualization by which Fuentes activates his reader and how this coincides with his notions of the role of literature in society.

Pollard, Scott. “Canonizing Revision: Literary History and the Postmodern Latin American Writer.” College Literature 20 (October, 1993): 133-147. Scott analyzes the impact of Latin American narrative on Western literary history after World War II. Focusing on authors Alejo Carpentier, Carlos Fuentes, and Lezama Lima, Scott discusses narratives of conquest and exploration, international modernism, the fashioning of cultural identity, and the primacy of European culture. Offers valuable insight into several of Fuentes’s works.

Van Delden, Maarten. Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, and Modernity. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998. Using Fuentes’s writings as a springboard for his discussion, Van Delden presents a comprehensive analysis of Fuentes’s intellectual development in the context of modern Mexican political and cultural life. Includes extensive notes and a helpful bibliography.