Thursday, June 20, 2024

Staff Picks: You Dreamed of Empires by Álvaro Enrique - Adult Fiction

You Dreamed of Empires by Álvaro Enrigue

In 1519 two worlds collided when Spanish conquistadors led by Hernán Cortés entered the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. Álvaro Enrique’s novel You Dreamed of Empires describes the encounter from both sides, interjecting humor, hindsight, and modern perspectives.   

Arriving at Tenochtitlan, the Spaniards are amazed to find towering step pyramids, painted stone pathways, ornate palaces, pools, and gardens. The Aztec city is the largest and most impressive city on Earth, and the Europeans are offered fine robes, unusual local delicacies, and a sweet drink that is as treasured as gold. 

While Cortés and his entourage make themselves at home in luxury palace suites, Montezuma spends his time napping, dosing with hallucinogenic mushrooms, ordering executions, and frustrating his inner circle. Tactically, the Europeans' only advantages are their obedient antlerless deer and firepower.

You Dreamed of Empires humanizes the story's central players, including Montezuma’s sister/wife Atotoxlit and Gerónimo de Aguilar, the Franciscan friar who serves as a translator for the Europeans. The novel also richly imagines the lives of prisoners, confidantes, advisors, servants, and priests. 

Enrigue’s vision of the epic culture clash, skillfully translated into English by Natasha Wimmer, is both illuminating and wildly entertaining. Álvaro Enrigue is a award-winning Mexican writer who has authored novels, short stories, and essays. Enrigue lives in New York and teaches Latin American literature. 

Alicia Cavitt
Information Specialist 

Aztec Step Pyramid
Image credit: Forsyth County Public Library created in

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