Thursday, January 5, 2012
A Peek at Fiesta of Smoke
Fiesta of Smoke is a love story, set against the background of the social and political hotbed of Mexico during five turbulent decades leading toward revolution, as experienced through the eyes of three protagonists: Javier Carteña, a poor Mexican boy who grows into powerful manhood as a revolutionary leader; Calypso Searcy, an American student at Berkeley who becomes a successful writer; and Walter Hill, an international investigative newsman who, after a chance meeting with Calypso in Paris, begins to ferret out the facts behind her sudden, mysterious disappearance. Fiesta of Smoke begins in their middle age, glances back at their adolescence and early adulthood and finally follows them, fully mature, into the maelstrom of revolution.
Javier and Calypso fall in love as teenagers, are separated for three decades, then are drawn together again as revolutionary fervor heats up. Although married to others, they never abandon the intensity of their love for one another and, when reunited, become inseparable, a circumstance that plunges Calypso into the center of revolutionary preparations and plots, and that involves Hill, too, as he quests along her swiftly vanishing trail.
In the center of the book there is a deep well in time, that takes the reader back to 12th century Egypt through the stories of Father Roberto, the padre attached to Javier’s troops. A series of interlocking personal accounts gradually recedes into the past where, at well’s bottom, a great gift is bestowed that, brought forward through successive generations, eventually becomes Calypso’s talisman, countering the dangers of warfare.
A similar regression in time, through the stories of Mexican artist Achille de Castellanos, takes the reader back to colonial Mexico, when tremendous fortunes were made by the conquering Spaniards at the expense of indigenous peoples. In this case, too, a gift is given to successive generations of the Castellanos family that will impact Javier’s revolution and send Calypso into danger, on a mission that violates international law.
Hill joins the revolutionary forces after tracking Calypso to southern Mexico, where the revolutionarios are gathering in an ancient Mayan city. Moved by the peril of their situation, Hill steps forward to help counter all-out war. Nevertheless, a conflict between the revolutionaries and the Mexican military, aided by the private militias of wealthy landowners, is inevitable. In the ensuing chaos, it appears that Javier and Calypso may not even survive, let alone fight through to a peaceful life together.