Álvaro Enrigue’s six books of fiction include La muerte de un instalador, Hypothermia, and, most recently, the novel Sudden Death. Daniel Hahn has translated more than thirty books from the Portuguese, Spanish and French. His translation, with Lisa Dillman, of Eduardo Halfon’s Mourning will be published in May. (May 2018)
When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting That Changed History
by Matthew Restall
In When Montezuma Met Cortés, the American historian Matthew Restall examines documents concerning the military conflict that set the Aztecs in opposition to the Spanish empire in 1520. His aim is to reassess the process of simplification by which Cortés, in his letters to King Carlos I (also Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire), justified the permanent occupation of Mexico and gave it a moral basis. Cortés’s vaguenesses and generalizations were extraordinarily effective—you might accuse him of many things, but not of being unable to tell a convincing story—and implied, according to Restall, that Emperor Montezuma and Cortés had more important parts in the conflict than was actually the case. Restall argues that the Spaniard’s account would come to distort our understanding of what was in fact a messy and confusing war, one that involved several armies and leaders from several nations, all in alliances with or opposition to one another for a variety of reasons.
I told my children while pointing to the weirdly shaped Polyforum building, the three of us sitting down in the backseat of a cab, feeling a bit foreign in the city in which we had all been born but had not lived for a long time: “The guy who did that thing is the same one who fired the machine gun whose bullet holes we saw in Trotsky’s bedroom, near your grandparents’ house.” They were, of course, immediately interested in the building. I grew up in the neighborhood of El Carmen, on Calle Viena: a quiet, middle-class, residential road that happens to have, at one end, an insane monument engraved with the hammer and sickle: Leon Trotsky’s grave.