Today’s conversation with Álvaro Enrigue about his latest novel, You Dreamed of Empires, translated by Natasha Wimmer, is set during the relatively undocumented first encounter between Moctezuma and Hernán Cortés. The novel dilates the knife’s edge moment when the Aztec emperor invites the conquistador, with his small band of Spanish soldiers, into the palaces of Tenochtitlan as guests. We talk about writing into the gaps of history, fiction’s influence on the “official” record, histories that are actually fictions, and how writing into erased or distorted histories can be a way to speak to the present moment. We talk of hornless deer, ritual cannibalism, psychedelic tomatoes, and a surprising influence of the indigenous cultures of the Americas on all of our lives today.
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Finally, here is the Bookshop for today’s episode with all the books, fiction and nonfiction, literary and scholarly, that we reference today.