Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The main political elements of this portrayal of Mexico exist also in Fuentes’s first international success Le muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962; The Death of Artemio Cruz, 1964), which treats the deterioration of the ideals of the Mexican Revolution in the capitalist regimes that followed it. In Terra Nostra (Spanish and English editions, 1975), which is widely considered his masterpiece, Fuentes uses literary and mythical characters from three broad historical periods—the classical, the Middle Ages, and the modern—to establish an Indo-Afro-Ibero-American cultural continuum. Much of his later work, including Christopher Unborn, may be considered as an extension and revision of Terra Nostra. Fuentes himself has even described his fiction as a whole, both those works already published and those to come, as an exercise in the portrayal of time.

What distinguishes Christopher Unborn from his previous works is the strong element of humor it contains. These mirthful ingredients, frequently scatalogical, are conveyed primarily through satire and wordplay. Fuentes jokes, for example, about the structure of his novel in progress, even including a parody of it in miniature. He introduces a dating service called TUGUEDER, and invents a series of names ridiculing shopping malls: Mall-efic, Mall-feasance, Mall-function, and Mall-formed. Similar strokes of humor inspire ingenious puns, for example President Ronald Ranger or Donald Danger and the composer Mouzart, Mao Tsar, or Mouscart. Since Fuentes is the joint translator of the English version of the novel, its puns and slang expressions also belong to him. In this irreverent jesting, Fuentes diverges from the pattern of his own former triumphs to invoke the wit of literary predecessors such as Sterne and Quevedo.