Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand
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Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand

2.5 4
by Gioconda Belli

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Prepare to enter a fascinating, primitive universe that goes back to the very beginning, to the story upon which Western civilization is based. Poetry and mystery go hand in hand in this transcendent novel about mankind, as never before imagined. Join Adam and Eve as they discover the world for themselves, feel their confusion and panic when they face punishment,

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Prepare to enter a fascinating, primitive universe that goes back to the very beginning, to the story upon which Western civilization is based. Poetry and mystery go hand in hand in this transcendent novel about mankind, as never before imagined. Join Adam and Eve as they discover the world for themselves, feel their confusion and panic when they face punishment, and observe in awe as they experience the power to give life and, eventually, the ability to take it away to survive.

From internationally acclaimed poet and author Gioconda Belli comes a beguiling and soulfully rewarding novel—a parable that captures our own time and our own uncertain future.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Belli's poetry and politics meld in this lyrical retelling of Adam and Eve. Here, the Serpent tempts Eve with freedom equal to that of Elokim, the God who created them, and history "would begin if she ate of the fruit." But with the dawn of history comes the rudest of awakenings: confusion about worlds seen and unseen. Far from the simple characters of Bible class, the planet's first couple as drawn by Belli is layered with complexity and power. Eve may have been the first to bite the fruit, but she's also the creator of life and art; Adam wasn't just complicit in the original sin-he was the first philosopher ("Perhaps we simply weren't aware that we would die. Maybe that was Paradise". The unfolding of knowledge and humanity is both primitive and breathtaking in Belli's view. And without abandoning the timeless biblical story, Belli manages to introduce a modern Darwinian element that's both stark and eloquent. Belli tackles Genesis with perception-rattling gravity. (Mar.)

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Library Journal

Winner of the Biblioteca Breve Award when it was published in Spanish, this work takes as its inspiration the biblical narrative from Genesis, as well as often more interesting apocryphal versions of the tale. Nicaraguan novelist and poet Belli (The Inhabited Woman) asks whether eating the forbidden fruit was sin or perhaps intellectual curiosity and a quest for the knowledge of good and evil. Was Eve more intelligent than Adam? The novel chronicles Eve's and Adam's journey from paradise into the real world of hunger, thirst, painful childbirth, the joys of sex, the jealousies of children, and the murder of one son by another. Throughout, Eve continues to hold philosophical discussions with the Serpent on the nature of God, humanity, and knowledge. Recommended for all libraries. [See also Elissa Elliott's Eve, p. 77.-Ed.]
—Mary Margaret Benson

Kirkus Reviews
Belli (The Scroll of Seduction, 2007, etc.) profiles the First Woman. The novel, first published in Spain, is a more somber, meditative treatment of the First Family than Elissa Elliott's Eve (2009). Belli's Serpent is female, and mischievous, not evil. Instead of tempting Eve, she reveals that the creator, Elokim, is offering humans the option of inaugurating history (with all that labor, heartbreak, chaos and death) or remaining eternally, happily and, one senses, rather dully (for Elokim, at least) cocooned in Paradise. Once Eve chooses knowledge of good and evil, the first inkling she and Adam experience of fundamental upheaval is violent sexual attraction. Uprooted from the Garden (by a cataclysm involving neither Elokim nor sword-wielding angels), Eve and Adam seek shelter, figuring out everything for the first time. That stomach pain? Hunger. Those previously friendly beasts? Predators-and prey, when Adam discovers that, unlike Eve, he's not a vegan at heart. Blindsided by her nausea and swollen belly, Eve and Adam puzzle out pregnancy, childbirth and nursing by observing animals. Eve bears two sets of fraternal twins, first Cain and Luluwa, then Abel and Aklia. Unlike Elliott, Belli doesn't posit the existence of other humans in Adam and Eve's milieu (although Eve encounters helpful monkeys). Thus mankind's mandate to go forth and multiply entails incest. A rare directive from Elokim, however, forbids the coupling of each son with his twin sister. But Cain prefers beautiful Luluwa to Aklia. When Cain murders Abel, resulting in his and Luluwa's exile, the Serpent has mating suggestions for Aklia that will resolve the reproduction, not to mention the evolution, dilemma. Althoughslowed by philosophical rumination, this narrative presents Adam and Eve and their offspring as individuals, not archetypes. A realistic portrayal of the children of a laissez-faire God.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand

Chapter One

And he was.

Suddenly. From not being to being conscious that he was. He opened his eyes.

He touched himself and knew he was a man, without knowing how he knew. He saw the garden and he felt someone watching him. He looked in every direction hoping to see another like himself.

As he was looking, air spilled into his throat and its coolness stirred his senses. He could smell. He took a deep breath. In his head he felt the confused whirling of images seeking a name. Words, sounds, surged up inside him, clean and clear, and settled on everything around him. He named, and saw what he named recognize itself. The breeze moved the branches of the trees. A bird sang. Long leaves opened their finely drawn hands. Where was he? he asked. Why didn't the one who was watching allow himself to be seen? Who was this Other?

He walked, unhurried, until he had completed the circle of the place where he had come to be. The greens, the forms and colors of the vegetation, filled the landscape and flowed into his gaze, and he felt a happiness in his chest. He named the stones, the streams, the rivers, the mountains, the cliffs, the caves, the volcanoes. He observed small things so as not to overlook them: the bee, moss, clover. At times, so much beauty left him dazed, unable to move: the butterfly, the lion, the giraffe. The steady beat of his heart accompanied him, independent of his wishing or knowing, a steady rhythm whose purpose was not his to divine. On his hands he experienced the warm breath of the horse, the coolness of water, the harshness of sand, the slippery scales of the fish, the soft fur of thecat. From time to time he looked up suddenly, hoping to surprise the Other, whose presence was softer than the wind though similar to it. The intensity of his gaze, however, was unequivocal. He sensed it on his skin, just as he perceived the unchanging, ever-present light that enveloped the Garden and illuminated the sky with its resplendent breath.

After he had done everything he thought he should do, the man sat on a stone to be happy and to contemplate it all. Two animals, a cat and a dog, came and lay at his feet. He tried to teach them to speak, but to no avail; they just looked longingly into his eyes.

Happiness seemed long-lasting and a bit monotonous to him. He could not touch it. He could not find a use for his hands. The birds flew past him swiftly, and very high. So did the clouds. All around him animals were grazing and drinking. He ate the white petals that fell from the sky. He needed nothing, and nothing seemed to need him. He was lonely.

He touched his nose to the ground and breathed in the scent of grass. He closed his eyes and saw concentric circles of light beneath his eyelids. Lying on his side, he felt the moist earth inhale and exhale, imitating the sound of his respiration. A soft, silken drowsiness came over him. He surrendered to the sensation. Later he would remember his body opening, the split that divided his being to release the intimate creature that until then had dwelled within him. He could scarcely move. His body in its incarnation as chrysalis acted on its own; he could do nothing but wait in his state of semiconsciousness for whatever was to happen. If anything was clear, it was the extent of his ignorance; his mind filled with visions and voices for which he had no explanation. He stopped questioning himself and abandoned himself to the heavy sensation of his first sleep.

He awoke and remembered being unconscious. He found it entertaining to examine the faculties of memory, amusing himself by forgetting and remembering, until he saw the woman at his side. He lay very still, observing her bewilderment, the gradual effect of air in her lungs, of light in her eyes, the fluid way she moved to recognize herself. He imagined what she was going through, the slow awakening from nothingness to being.

He extended his hand and she held out hers, opened. Their palms touched. They measured their hands, arms, legs. They examined their similarities and their differences. He took her to walk through the Garden. He felt useful, responsible. He showed her the jaguar, the centipede, the raccoon, the turtle. They played; they watched the clouds roll by and change their shapes, they listened to the unvarying tune of the trees; they tried out words for describing what could not be named. He knew himself to be Adam, and he knew her as Eve. She wanted to know everything.

"What are we doing here?" she asked.

"I don't know."

"Who can explain to us where we came from?"

"The Other."

"Where is this Other?"

"I don't know where he is. I know only that he is all around."

She decided to look for him. She, too, had felt that she was being observed. They would have to climb to high places. She thought the look must come from there. Might it not be a bird? Perhaps, he said, admiring her astuteness. Walking among fragrant bushes and trees with generous foliage, without hurrying, they reached the highest volcano. They climbed it and from the top saw the green circle of the Garden, surrounded on all sides by thick whitish fog.

"What is that farther up?" she asked.

"Clouds," he answered.

"And behind the clouds?"

"I don't know."

"Maybe that's where the one who's observing us lives. Have you tried to go outside the Garden?"

"No. I know we are not supposed to go any farther than where it's green."

"How do you know that?"

"I just know."

"The way you knew the names?"


It did not take long for Eve to reach the conclusion that the gaze of whatever was watching them did not belong to a bird. The enormous phoenix, with its red and blue feathers, had whirled above them, but like the rest of the creatures, had merely glanced toward them.

Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand. Copyright © by Gioconda Belli. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Gioconda Belli's poetry and fiction have been published in many languages. Her first novel, The Inhabited Woman, was an international bestseller; her collection of poems, Linea de fuego, won the prestigious Casa de las Americas Prize. She lives in Santa Monica, California, and Managua, Nicaragua.

Nacida en Managua, Nicaragua, Gioconda Belli es autora de una importante obra poética de reconocido prestigio internacional. Es autora de La mujer habitada, Sofía de los presagios, Waslala, El taller de las mariposas y un libro de memorias titulado El país bajo mi piel. Publicada por las editoriales más prestigiosas del mundo, Gioconda Belli vive desde 1990 entre Estados Unidos y Nicaragua.

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Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the beginning the book was very interesting. But after a few chapters it started going down hill. It was very simple. The author could have went so many different ways with this book to make it so much better but failed to do so.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JaneStone More than 1 year ago
So many good books on the shelves ... this one is a waste of your time. Not only is it boring and unoriginal but it is written at the level of a fourth grader. Nice effort but it lacks imagination and ends with a feeling wasted hours.
LunniBellaa More than 1 year ago
i love the originality the all her books!