Columbus called the lands he discovered and believed to be parts of
China "the beginning of the East," and his aberrations, delusions,
and fantasies form this compels novel's spiritual center. The
Beginning of the East is written from an intriguing point of view
that is simultaneously Western and Oriental, by an American scholar
who is heir to the Chinese Mandarin tradition.
An earthquake in Mexico City shocks the protagonist of this
Scheherazade series of connected tales into mapping the influence
of the United States on the rest of the Americas, of Europe on the
Native American cultures, and therefore, of Columbus on reason for
political kidnappings, death squads, and tortures. That logic comes
to him woven around the figure of Columbus and elaborated as an
ironic and tragic theory of world history leading inevitably to his
own alienation and victimization. He is forced to travel back to
Europe and to Seville, the city where Columbus's adventure began.
There, as he relives in imagination the voyages of the great
navigator, his own life and energized by an immense momentum, the
narrative travels both forward and backward at once, both east to a
mythic Cathay and west to the New World, where the protagonist ends
up in a desolate town in the New Mexico desert in the company of
down-and-outers who are fated to relive, as we all are, the primal
contact of east and west initiated by Columbus.
The metaphors of self in "The Beginning of the East" engender
vast reverberations, worlds on worlds of complex and reciprocal
resonances, rich with echoes and memories. The recognizable, the
improbable, the lyrical, the philosophical, the fabulous flow
together. As Montesquieu, the grandfather of this genre of the
foreign visitor, said about his own work, everything is tired
together "by a secret, and in a way, unknown chain."
Northwestern University Press
|Country of origin:
||216 x 140 x 15mm (L x W x T)
General & literary fiction >
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