The Mexican Dream: Or, the Interrupted Thought of AmerIndian Civilization

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Not one dream but many unfold in J. M. G. Le Clezio's conjuring of the consciousness of Mexico, a powerful evocation of the imaginings that made and unmade an ancient culture. "What motivated me," Le Clezio has said, "was a sort of dream about what has disappeared and what could have been." A widely respected French novelist who for many years has studied pre-Columbian Mexico, Le Clezio imagined how the thought of early Indian civilizations might have evolved if not for the interruption of European conquest. In an unprecedented way, his book takes us into the dream that was the religion of the Aztecs, which in its own apocalyptic visions anticipated the coming of the Spanish conquerors. Here the dream of the conquistadores rises before us, too, the glimmering idea of gold drawing Europe into the Mexican dream. Against the religion and thought of the Aztecs and the Tarascans and the Europeans in Mexico, Le Clezio also shows us those of the "barbarians" of the north, the nomadic Indians beyond the pale of the Aztec frontier. Finally, Le Clezio's book is a dream of the present, a meditation on what in Amerindian civilizations - in their language, in their way of telling tales, of wanting to survive their own destruction - moved the poet, playwright, and actor Antonin Artaud and motivates Le Clezio in this book. The author's deep identification with pre-Columbian cultures, whose faith told them the wheel of time would bring their gods and their beliefs back to them, finds fitting expression in this extraordinary book, which brings the dream around.

A widely respected French novelist with a long history of interest in pre-Columbian Mexico, Le Clezio imagined how the thought of early Indian civilizations might have evolved if not for the interruption of European conquest. A powerful evocation of the imaginings that made and unmade an ancient culture. Map.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This examination of ancient Mesoamerican religion and myth is based on 16th-century chroniclers' accounts of Aztec and Maya myths and covers familiar ground. French novelist and pre-Columbian scholar Le Clezio's interest in these ancient civilizations is purely literary, in accord with the romantic French attachment to the lost world of ancient America that fascinated Guillaume Apollinaire and the Surrealists Antonin Artaud and Georges Bataille. Like them, Le Clezio is particularly enchanted with the ``sacred horror'' and ``terrifying beauty'' of pre-Columbian myth and magic and their ritual identification with death. What is freshest here is Le Clezio's linkage of North American and Mesoamerican Indian religious beliefs. He concludes his uneven study with wistful speculation about what might have been if the Spanish Conquest had not interrupted the religious and philosophical development of these civilizations: their rituals and myths might have given shape to a true philosophy, on a par with Taoism or Buddhism. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This provocative meditation on Mexican history by French novelist Le Clezio uses ``dreams'' (religious ideas, goals, and metaphors) to discuss Mexican civilization, especially the tragedy of its encounter with Spain. The author has written a work well founded in both pre-Columbian civilization and the Spanish chronicles of Bernal Diaz del Castillo, Bernardino de Sahagun, and others. The ``dreams'' include Aztec religion, which predicted its own destruction; the Spaniards' dreams of gold and empire; and the ``barbarian dream'' (the two-sided ``holy war''). Le Clezio contrasts Indian religions and Christianity, strongly favoring the indigenous peoples even as he vividly describes nefarious native practices. His reliance on the Spaniards' own words makes his indictment of them especially scathing. This expertly translated book can be compared with metaphorical works by Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes. Highly recommended.-- Margaret W. Norton, Hoffman Estates H.S., Ill.
Originally published in French as Le Reve Mexicain, ou, La Pensee Interrompue (1988, Editions Gallimard). Le Clezio is a widely respected French novelist who has studied pre-Columbian Mexico for many years. In this unusual work he conjures the dream that was the religion of the Aztecs and its encounter with the dream of the conquistadores, imagining how the thought of early Indian civilizations might have evolved if not for the interruption by European conquest. Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226110035
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

J. M. G. Le Cl√©zio, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature, was born in Nice in 1940. In 1963 he received the Renaudot Prize for his first novel, Le proces-verbal. He has studied the Indian civilizations of pre-Columbian Mexico since 1971 and has published translations of Mayan sacred texts and an evocation of three sacred villages in the land of the Maya, Trois villes saintes (1980).

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Table of Contents

Translator's Note
1. The Dream of the Conquerors
2. The Dream of Origins
3. Mexican Myths
4. Nezahualcóyotl, or the Festival of Words
5. The Barbarian Dream
6. Antonin Artaud, or the Mexican Dream
7. The Interrupted Thought of Amerindian Civilizations
Map of region

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