La Conquista (The Conquest)

La Conquista (The Conquest)

by Yxta Maya Murray, Liliana Valenzuela, Liliana Valenzuela

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Sara Rosario Gonzáles lleva una existencia relativamente tranquila, como restauradora de libros y manuscritos antiguos en el Getty Museum de Los Ángeles. Pero cuando se encuentra ante la tarea de restaurar un manuscrito del siglo XVI sobre una princesa azteca que fue esclavizada por Cortés y enviada a Europa para divertir al Papa y a Carlos V, no


Sara Rosario Gonzáles lleva una existencia relativamente tranquila, como restauradora de libros y manuscritos antiguos en el Getty Museum de Los Ángeles. Pero cuando se encuentra ante la tarea de restaurar un manuscrito del siglo XVI sobre una princesa azteca que fue esclavizada por Cortés y enviada a Europa para divertir al Papa y a Carlos V, no se da cuenta del poder que tiene la historia en la que está a punto de sumergirse. En el manuscrito, nos enteramos de que una vez llega a Europa, la princesa está empeñada en vengar la masacre de su pueblo. Sara, por su parte, busca comprobar que el libro -- cuya publicación causó gran escándalo -- fue en realidad escrito por la misma princesa azteca, y no por el monje europeo que es su presunto autor. La fascinación de Sara por el manuscrito se mezcla a los conflictos que debe afrontar en su propia vida. La frustración que le causa su incapacidad de comprometerse con Karl, el hombre que la ha amado desde la secundaria, el recuerdo de la sabiduría evocadora e inquietante de su madre difunta, y la aparente estabilidad de su padre, quien contrariamente a Sara, ve el mundo con pragmatismo y sin prejuicios. La Conquista es una novela única que nos da la esperanza de que el amor verdadero sí existe, y que la historia, en toda su complejidad, es la que nos impulsa hacia nuestro destino.

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
“Clever and spellbinding.”
Library Journal
What does the edgy, uncertain young Sara Rosario Gonzalez have in common with Helen, an impassioned Aztec woman whom Cort s enslaves and eventually gives to the Pope as a gift? In fact, though they are separated by centuries-as are the alternating parts of this book-Sara and Helen share a profound sense of displacement that resonates throughout. Sara, a restorer of rare books and manuscripts at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, has been assigned a 16th-century manuscript featuring Helen's exploits, from dalliances in Titian's Venice to an attempt on the Pope's life. Everyone else believes the manuscript to be a fantasy penned by a mad monk, but Sara demurs, insisting that whether or not the story is fancy, Helen herself is the author. As she digs deeper into the manuscript, Sara battles cultural confusion and an inability to commit to Karl, aptly summed up by her spending money for the wedding ring on a rare book. Whiting Award winner Murray does a splendid job of evoking the passions of both women, and she effectively fuses the two halves of the story. Helen's passages in particular could have sounded didactic or forced, but they are in fact vibrant-and for once, the italics used to set them off are easy to read. Recommended for most collections.-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another ponderous and trendy novel from Murray (What It Takes to Get to Vegas, 1999, etc.), this one about a museum curator's search for the identity of a 16th-century memoirist. Sara Gonzales may seem like one of those West Coast girls who just can't get her act together, but don't be misled: She's more of a misplaced Latina who can't get her act together. A restorer of ancient manuscripts at the Getty Museum, Sara lives in a quaint neighborhood in Pasadena and has a boyfriend of sorts, a Marine Corps officer named Karl Sullivan-who has a fiancée named Claire O'Connell. Sara escapes from this unhappy situation by immersing herself in a 16th-century manuscript describing the life of an Aztec princess captured by Cortez and brought to Europe as a present for the pope. Helen (the name given to the princess at her baptism in Rome) amuses her captors by performing as a juggler in a kind of traveling Aztec circus and becomes the lover of Titian (for whom she serves as both model and muse). The manuscript is attributed to a Spanish monk, but Sara believes (against the opinion of virtually every scholar who has examined it) that it was written by Helen herself. As she sets out to unveil the author's true identity, Sara must also contend with her ambivalent feelings toward the soon-to-be-wed Karl, as well as her own sense of dislocation as a Latina living in the US and working for an Anglo institution. Can we choose our own place in the world, or must we forever fall back on the dictates of fate? History doesn't offer too many examples of a resilience as strong as Helen's-but that's why they are so intriguing. A fluid and genuinely interesting story badly weighed down by leaden prose ("If I provemy hypothesis I will be as clever as any necromancer, for all the dark women of history have lost their tongues") and a thoroughly hackneyed view of Latin American history.
Publisher's Weekly
Moving away from the urban barrio settings of her previous works, Murray (Locas; What It Takes to Get to Vegas) entwines the tales of two Latin American women separated by centuries in her third novel. Sara Gonzales is a rare-book restorer at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. While working on a 16th-century manuscript, she becomes engrossed in its story of an Aztec woman captured by Cort s and sent to Europe to entertain the pope. The narrator of the manuscript, "Helen," describes her encounters with the painter Titian, for whom she served as a muse; her many female lovers, including the adored Caterina, a bluestocking nun; and her ever-burning desire to avenge the deaths of her own people by assassinating Cort s, the pope and Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor. Sara's boss and the scholarly community consider the manuscript to be a work of fiction, but Sara believes otherwise-and endeavors to prove Helen's existence and authorship. Meanwhile, there is the issue of Sara's on-again, off-again relationship with Karl, the man she has loved since high school, who is set to marry another woman because Sara has never been able to fully commit. Sara's life, so claustrophobically focused on her work, stands in effective contrast to Helen's swashbuckling escapades across Mediterranean Europe; Sara's quest for personal satisfaction-as well as her thoughtful musings on history and her own sense of displacement as a Latina-are echoed on a grand scale in Helen's encounters with the Europeans. The subplot about Sara's literary sleuthing ties the two stories neatly together and gives the book a satisfying edge of suspense. (Oct. 4) Forecast: Murray's switch to historical fiction may bewilder her fans, but she acquits herself well and could pick up a few readers looking for the Hispanic version of powerful-women-in-history offerings, like Susan Vreeland's recent novel The Passion of Artemisia. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
The Conquest, by Whiting Award winner Yxta Maya Murray, is a book lover's fantasy brought to vibrant life. This story within a story contains all the best elements of memorable literature -- romance, adventure, mystery, and scandal -- bound together by history and one woman's search for validation.

The ancient world and modern technology collide when rare-book restorer Sara Rosario Gonzales comes across a 16th-century folio that she believes may unlock the secrets of a heritage consumed by fire and buried long ago. The narrative of an Aztec slave girl who was brought to Europe as a gift, it describes her life as an adventurer, a concubine, and an assassin. While this fairy tale of murder and magic draws Sara ever deeper into its elusive beauty, the outside world, including the man she has loved since high school, begins to slowly pass her by.

In order to understand her mother's legacy, Sara must prove that the text is fact, not fiction, the memoir of a girl who has hidden her true and secret name. And to find the way to her own future and claim her lost love, Sara must relearn the past, and in doing so she makes a discovery of incredible proportions.

In a sensual blend of myth and reality, two "word mad girls" whisper tales "for all of the dark women of history [who] have lost their tongues." With lyrical language and characters that resonate, novelist Murray makes us believe in possibilities.

In this extraordinary novel of swashbuckling adventure, Whiting Award winner Murray (What It Takes to Get to Vegas, Grove Pr., 1999) interlaces the lives of Sara, a restorer of old manuscripts at Los Angeles's Getty Museum, and the beautiful Mexican princess Helena, protagonist of the document Sara is working on, who was taken to Europe by Hern n Cort s in the 1500s. Obsessed with her work, Sara lets her long-lasting romance with Karl slip by. She still struggles with her mother's mixed veneration and resentment of her Mexican past and her subjugation as a woman, and with her father's exhortation to forgive and forget and to live fully in the present. Helena's sensuous world; her encounters with Cort s, the pope, and Charles V; her sojourns in Rome and Venice; and her affairs with a Vatican nun who was the love of her life, the Italian painter Titian, and the legendary pirate Barbarossa make Sara aware of the romantic deprivations in her life and help her resolve her family dilemma. Murray uses luscious language to describe both worlds, taking readers from Sara's erudite profession to the 16th-century Europe that has so engrossed her. Award-winning poet and translator Valenzuela (praised recently for her translation of Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo) has done a marvelous job, including the quotes from Ovid, Dante, and Petrarch. She ingeniously imitates 16th-century Spanish ("Are you the buffoon?" turns into " Sois la juglaresa?") and Los Angeles colloquial Spanish ("I'm not going bananas" becomes "No se me est patinando el coco"). The volume includes an interview with the author, a note from the translator, and a discussion guide for reading groups, neither of which appeared in the 2002English version. This high-quality translation is recommended for all libraries and bookstores Dolores M. Koch, New York City Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperColins Espanol
Publication date:
Edition description:
Spanish - Language Edition
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

La conquista
Una Novela

Capítulo Uno

El museo está oscuro esta noche. Las sombras se ven interrumpidas por unas cuantas lámparas que proyectan un velo de luz sobre los bronces expuestos en esta galería. Relucientes jóvenes desnudas y sátiros barbados se tornan suaves y flexibles en el resplandor, como si casi pudieran cobrar vida en cualquier momento y devolver una mirada juiciosa a su observador. Me retiro de la sala y salgo del ala, doy un paso en el patio con sus jardines floridos y sus jardines acuáticos que flotan en la luz azul. Más allá del precipicio de la colina donde se yergue el museo, yace el negro mar indistinguible del cielo. Es una noche de blanquecino aire de enero, tiempo ideal para que el fantasma de Jean Paul Getty deambule, maravillado, por las salas de piedra caliza construidas con su dinero. Me ciño un poco más el suéter sobre los hombros y entro a la biblioteca.

Aun a medianoche, las lámparas de unos cuantos investigadores están encendidas en varios rincones. El silencio se enhebra con el sonido de un lápiz sobre una página. Magníficos libros antiguos reposan sobre los estantes, como estos textos medievales de medicina que ofrecen consejos mortíferos sobre sangrados hechos con sanguijuelas y aplicaciones de mercurio. Paso la copia desteñida de Apicius, con sus recetas de erizos marinos con miel y flamingo asado con menta. Aquí se encuentran las novelas caballerescas del siglo quince con sus preciosas tapas de camafeo. Y el calendario azteca del siglo quince con sus temas de sangre y de semillas.

Llego a mi escritorio. Prendo la lámpara y levanto el libro antiguo que se encuentra allí.Le paso los dedos por el lomo, la piel carcomida. Las cabeceras labradas y los papeles jaspeados, las hojas de vitela onduladas llenas de una caligrafía hermosa. Hace siglos una fugitiva parda humedeció la pluma en un tintero y escribió estas palabras, mucho después de que los soldados y los mercenarios la dieran por muerta. Después, las eras le hincaron los dientes a este libro. En unos años morirá a menos que se vuelva a pegar esta cartivana y se arreglen con parches las partes estropeadas de las hojas y las tapas.

Ese es mi trabajo. Me llamo Sara Rosario González y tengo treinta y dos años de edad.

Soy restauradora de incunables.

Vengo aquí todos los días a realizar el lento y minucioso trabajo en este volumen. Con frecuencia me quedo hasta la madrugada. Mientras examino las imperfecciones de una hoja, me distraigo con las palabras allí escritas.No me cuesta nada imagi- narme a su autora. La mujer parda se agacha sobre estas hojas, pintando lentamente las letras en su estilo revelador. Después de dos páginas, alza la cabeza para mirar un pájaro por fuera de la ventana. Los verdes cerros de España se extienden más allá de la vista. Un soldado con una pluma roja en el casco fustiga su corcel por los cerros, pero tales visiones ya no la asustan, ya que ha aprendido a refugiarse en los disfraces. Sonríe y regresa al libro que ahora descansa en mis manos.

Es un libro en folio de fines del siglo dieciséis,sin título y encuadernado en cuero marroquí rojo oscuro;el texto en castellano vernáculo está escrito en papel vitela con letra redonda común. La narración trata de una malabarista azteca que es llevada a Europa por Hernán Cortés,la cual tiene muchas aventuras, entre ellas la de pelearse con los otomanos, abandonarse a los placeres de la Venecia de Tiziano, y tramar el asesinato del Sacro Romano Emperador Carlos V. Creemos que fue redactado en Cáceres, España, hacia el año de 1570 y, dadas sus similitudes paleográficas con otros textos, la mayoría de los investigadores concuerda en que fue escrito por un tal padre Miguel Santiago de Pasamonte, un monje hedonista y quizá demente de la Orden de San Jerónimo que escribió una serie de novelas escandalosas unos veinte años antes de que Cervantes escribiera Don Quijote. Mi jefa aquí en el Getty, Teresa Shaughnessey, se adhiere a esa teoría.

Al parecer soy la única que no se adhiere a esa hipótesis. Creo, como he mencionado, que fue una mujer y además una mujer azteca, quien escribió este infolio. Puede que sea ficción, puede que no. En las crónicas de esa época se encuentran relatos históricos de la travesía de esclavos aztecas de Tenochtitlán al Vaticano. Y aunque este libro contiene descripciones de magia, fue escrito en una época crédula,donde los apasionados aún veían espíritus y monstruos alternando con sus vecinos humanos.

También me he atrevido a darle un título: La conquista.

Si compruebo mi hipótesis,seré tan ingeniosa como cualquier nigromante, ya que todas las mujeres morenas de la historia se han quedado sin lengua. Si les demuestro a mis colegas que una mujer azteca escribió este libro, será como si le hubiera dado un golpecito en el hombro al gran volcán Ixtacíhuatl y le hubiera pedido que hablara.

Y eso es exactamente lo que haré.

La Conquista
Una Novela
. Copyright © by Yxta Maya Murray. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Yxta Maya Murray is the author of The Conquest—winner of the Whiting Award—and The King's Gold, the second novel in her acclaimed Red Lion series. She is a professor at Loyola Law School and lives in Los Angeles.

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