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The pleasure of reading books from different literary traditions in translation lies in the ability to juxtapose them and let them inform each other in new ways. Mexican writer Alvaro Enrigue's newly translated novel, You Dreamed of Empires, can be read in conversation with Simone Atangana Bekono's Confrontations and Kiyoko Murata's A Woman of Pleasure.
One of the pleasures of reading widely in translation is getting to juxtapose books from completely different literary traditions, letting them inform each other in a new language in ways they could not do in the original.
Enrigue's latest novel, You Dreamed of Empires, is a counterfactual history of Hernan Cortes' arrival at Moctezuma's court, with a focus on political maneuvering and drug use. The characters in the book scramble for power on all levels, and the intricate details of the historical setting add depth to the story.
You Dreamed of Empire is a counterfactual history of Hernan Cortes' arrival at Moctezuma's court. It's also a drug novel. Moctezuma is high on mushrooms for the whole book. In one climactic scene, he and Cortes take peyote together...
Enrigue's ability to use history as a lens to analyze the present is evident in You Dreamed of Empires. By taking a step back from reality and using metaphor, Enrigue delves into the politics and power struggles of the past. The translated novel, like Enrigue's previous work, is masterfully done by translator Natasha Wimmer.
History, he went on, lets him "take a step back, through metaphor," in his analysis of the present. In his latest novel, You Dreamed of Empires...