The Enlightenment is passé, and the French Revolution should never have happened — or so we are being told by fashionable philosophers and historians. But no one has informed Carlos Fuentes, the prolific Mexican novelist, who has chosen this moment in history to celebrate the impact of 1789 on Latin America in The Campaign. Baltasar Bustos, the hero of this picaresque romp through the Latin wars of independence, is 24 in 1810, a New World Quixote determined to live by the books of his beloved Rousseau. He finds it hard to commune with nature on the pampas, and impossible to preach the social contract from horseback to the conquered Indians. The tragicomic comeuppances multiply as he pursues his ideals across two continents. On the way he loses his baby fat, his virginity, his aversion to killing in combat, and his doctrinaire impatience to see liberty and equality established in the new nations of his continent. What lifts all the period cleverness and badinage above the level of talk is Fuentes’ love for the founding generation of Latin American activist dreamers. A-

The Campaign
  • Movie