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  • Published: 30 April 2024
  • ISBN: 9781787303805
  • Imprint: Harvill Secker
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $39.99

You Dreamed of Empires

From the visionary author of Sudden Death, a hallucinatory, revelatory, colonial revenge story set in sixteenth-century Mexico

A hallucinatory, revelatory, colonial revenge story in sixteenth-century Mexico, from the visionary author of Sudden Death

'Glorious' i-D

One morning in 1519, conquistador Hernán Cortés rode into the floating city of Tenoxtitlan – today’s Mexico City – accompanied by his eight captains, his troops, and his two translators.

Invited to a ceremonial meal with the steely princess Atotoxtli, sister and wife of the emperor Moctezuma, the Spanish nearly bungle their entrance into the city and its labyrinthine palace. Soon, one of Cortés’s captains, Jazmín Caldera, begins to question the ease with which they were welcomed, and wonders at the risks of getting out alive, much less conquering the empire.

Moctezuma himself is at a political, spiritual and physical crossroads, relying on hallucinogens in a quest for any kind of answer from the gods. When Cortés and Moctezuma meet later that day, two worlds, empires, languages and possible futures collide.

A hallucinatory, revelatory, colonial revenge story, You Dreamed of Empires brings to life Tenoxtitlan at its height – and reimagines its destiny. It sets afire the moment of conquest and turns it into a moment of revolution, in a novel so electric and so unique that it feels like a dream.

Translated by Natasha Wimmer

Praise for Sudden Death

‘Glorious’ New York Times

‘Dazzlingly clever and thrillingly original’ Mail on Sunday

‘So much fun to read’ Guardian

‘Engaging, audacious and flat-out fun’ Vice

‘The best kind of puzzle… esoteric and wildly funny’ Lauren Groff

‘Ingenious’ Irish Times

‘Endlessly inventive’ Financial Times

  • Published: 30 April 2024
  • ISBN: 9781787303805
  • Imprint: Harvill Secker
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $39.99

About the author

Álvaro Enrigue

Álvaro Enrigue was born in Mexico and lives in New York City. He has taught at New York University, Princeton University, the University of Maryland and Columbia University. Sudden Death - his first novel to be translated into English - was awarded the prestigious Herralde Prize in Spain, the Elena Poniatowska International Novel Award in Mexico, and the Barcelona Prize for Fiction.

Also by Álvaro Enrigue

See all

Praise for You Dreamed of Empires

Parts of the novel play like an Aztec West Wing, taking us deep into the political manoeuvrings of the royal court but blending its particularities with 21st-century psychology. It’s a rich approach that achieves a hallucinatory vividness


Riotously entertaining… Natasha Wimmer brilliantly brings the author’s playfulness and idiomatic humour to life for an English-language readership. The result is a triumph of solemnity-busting erudition and mischievous invention that will delight and titillate

Financial Times

A mischievous fantasy… Enrigue plunges exuberantly into the revisionist speculation that rehabilitates Indiginous awareness and agency

Times Literary Supplement

A lively, arresting read – if 2024 brings more novels as original as this one, it will be a good year

The Times

An eclectic work of exceptional originality


Enrigue’s genius lies in his ability to bring readers close to its tangled knot of priests, mercenaries, warriors and princesses while adding a pinch of biting humor

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Los Angeles Times

Enrigue’s work is marked by an all-consuming attention to historical detail.... He is a preternaturally entertaining and erudite writer who builds alternate worlds from the minutiae. He also seems like he’s having a pretty good time

Benjamin Russell, New York Times

Incantatory... Enrigue conjures both court intrigue and city life with grace

The New Yorker

[S]ublime absurdities... abound in this delirious historical fantasia, which can be said to be many things: funny, ghastly, eye-opening, marvelous and frequently confounding

Wall Street Journal

[S]hort, strange, spiky and sublime... Enrigue, who is clearly a major talent, has delivered a humane comedy of manners that is largely about paranoia (is today the day my head will be lopped off?) and the quotidian bummers of life, even if you are powerful beyond belief

Dwight Garner, New York Times

An alternate history of Mexican conquest, with a Tarantino-ready twist.... Deliciously gonzo.... Rendered in earthy, demotic, wryly unhistorical English by translator Natasha Wimmer... Enrigue’s antic style is high-minded, richly detailed, vulgar and sophisticated all at once — reminiscent of the films of Peter Greenaway or Derek Jarman

Washington Post

A riotous reimagining of the world-changing encounter, in 1520, between Hernán Cortés, the cocksure Spanish conquistador, and Moctezuma, melancholy emperor of the Mexica

Financial Times, *Summer Reads of 2024*