Book Review: 'God Carlos'

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

The new historical novel God Carlos by Anthony C. Winkler is set in the early sixteenth century.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block. Now to the 16th Century and the Spanish port of Cadiz. It's the setting for "God Carlos," a new novel by Jamaican-born writer Anthony Winkler, who takes us on a voyage to the New World. Alan Cheuse has this review.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: The Carlos of the title of this gusty, boisterous, entertaining and, by my life, X-rated slice of historical fiction, is a barely literate, itinerant 25-year-old Spanish sailor - his full name being Carlos Antonio Maria Eduardo Garcia de Cal Fernandez. Carlos, between voyages in Cadiz, Spain, spends his last few coins on a prostitute, the scene of which gives the novel, as I see it, the X-rating, and he signs on for a voyage to a newly established Spanish port in Jamaica.

He's a naive if affable young man and tries to make friends among the crew. But his egoistical fantasy of playing God to the New World Indians wins him the enmity of another sailor whom he kills in a knife fight. Carlos' fantasy of Godhead doesn't die, it only becomes more inflamed once they reach the Caribbean island where Christopher Columbus had briefly put down his anchor.

In scenes of a mixture of pride, madness and comedy, he plays out his role as deity among the naked islanders - bullying the Indian men, raping the women at will and living a fantasy that most readers will find believable, if horrific. Along with the horror, the book does offer some beautiful moments of discovery, as when, as Winkler narrates, the ship takes the Mona Passage to Jamaica instead of the barren emptiness of deep sea, the coastline, we hear of an Edenic island, green and aromatic, opened like a wildflower. For all of its scenes of braggadocio and brutality, the book often works on you like that vision.

BLOCK: The book is "God Carlos," written by Anthony Winkler and reviewed by our own Alan Cheuse. His latest book is called "Paradise."

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.