“Fuentes de Mexico”

“Perfect order is the forerunner of perfect horror”. Carlos Fuentes

“Contrary to the macho culture of Mexico, both my grandmothers were very brave young widows. I was always very close to these hard-working, intelligent women”. Carlos Fuentes

Carlos Fuentes Macías (November 11, 1928 – May 15, 2012) was a Mexican novelist and essayist. Among his works are The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962), Aura (1962), Terra Nostra (1975), The Old Gringo (1985) and Christopher Unborn (1987).

“One of the most admired writers in the Spanish-speaking world” and an important influence on the Latin American Boom, the “explosion of Latin American literature in the 1960s and ’70s” – The New York Times

Cortazar – Fuentes – Buñuel

“You have an absolute freedom in Mexican writing today in which you don’t necessarily have to deal with the Mexican identity. You know why? Because we have an identity… We know who we are. We know what it means to be a Mexican”. Carlos Fuentes

“My system for staying young is to work a lot, to always have a project on the go”. Carlos Fuentes


Fuentes’ first novel, “Where the Air Is Clear” (La región más transparente- 1958), was an immediate success. The novel is built around the story of Federico Robles – who has abandoned his revolutionary ideals to become a powerful financier – but also offers “a kaleidoscopic presentation” of vignettes of Mexico City, making it as much a “biography of the city” as of an individual man. The novel was celebrated not only for its prose, which made heavy use of interior monologue and explorations of the subconscious, but also for its “stark portrait of inequality and moral corruption in modern Mexico”.

“The Mexican revolution was a break with the past to recover the past. We were trying to deny we had an Indian and a black and a Spanish past. The Mexican Revolution accepted all heritages. It allowed Mexico to be mestizo”. Carlos Fuentes  – Quoted in Anne-Marie O’Connor, “Novelist Carlos Fuentes confronts mortality and his country’s future”, Los Angeles Times, 26 April 2006

“I must write the book out in my head now, before I sit down”. Carlos Fuentes

Fuentes’ best-known novel, “The Death of Artemio Cruz” (La muerte de Artemio Cruz) appeared in 1962 and is today “widely regarded as a seminal work of modern Spanish American literature”. Like many of his works, the novel used rotating narrators, a technique critic Karen Hardy described as demonstrating “the complexities of a human or national personality”.

Artemio Cruz—soldier, politician, journalist, tycoon, lover: all corrupt—lies on his deathbed, recalling the shaping events of his life, from the Mexican Revolution through the development of the PRI—the Party of the Institutional Revolution. His family crowds around, pressing him to reveal the location of his will; a priest provides extreme unction, angling for a deathbed confession and reconciliation with the Church (while Artemio indulges in obscene thoughts about the birth of Jesus); his private secretary has come with audiotapes of various corrupt dealings, many with gringo diplomats and speculators. Punctuating the sordid record of betrayal is Cruz’s awareness of his failing body and his keen attachment to sensual life. Finally his thoughts decay into a drawn-out death.

“Can you imagine me coming to this country to blow up a post office? I told them, “My bombs are my books.” – Carlos Fuentes – About being denied a visa to the United States in the early 1960s after he praised the Cuban Revolution; as quoted by Anne-Marie O’Connor, “Novelist Carlos Fuentes confronts mortality and his country’s future”, Los Angeles Times, 26 April 2006

The novel is heavily influenced by Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, and attempts literary parallels to Welles’ techniques, including close-up, cross-cutting, deep focus, and flashback. Like Kane, the novel begins with the titular protagonist on his deathbed; the story of Cruz’s life is then filled in by flashbacks as the novel moves between past and present. Cruz is a former soldier of the Mexican Revolution who has become wealthy and powerful through “violence, blackmail, bribery, and brutal exploitation of the workers”.

“Citizen Kane is perhaps the one American talking picture that seems as fresh now as the day it opened. It may seem even fresher“. Pauline Kael

“I mean, everyone says Citizen Kane. It isn’t that great, anyway. And Orson Welles I knew well, of course. He made other incredible films that no one would let him make, which were much better than Citizen Kane, really”. Patrick Macnee

“I started my own magazine with drawings, commentary, news, film reviews and drawings”. Carlos Fuentes

Fuentes’ 1975 Terra Nostra, perhaps his most ambitious novel, is a “massive, Byzantine work” that tells the story of all Hispanic civilization. Modeled on James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, Terra Nostra shifts unpredictably between the sixteenth century and the twentieth, seeking the roots of contemporary Latin American society in the struggle between the conquistadors and indigenous Americans. Like Artemio Cruz, the novel also draws heavily on cinematic techniques.

“Writing requires the concentration of the writer, demands that nothing else be done except that”. Carlos Fuentes

His 1985 novel The Old Gringo (Gringo viejo), loosely based on American journalist Ambrose Bierce’s disappearance during the Mexican Revolution, became the first U.S. bestseller written by a Mexican author. In 1989, the novel was adapted into the U.S. film Old Gringo starring Gregory Peck, Jane Fonda, and Jimmy Smits.

“What the United States does best is to understand itself. What it does worst is understand others”. – Carlos Fuentes – “To See Ourselves as Others See Us”, in Time, June 16, 1986.

Mexican historian Enrique Krauze was a vigorous critic of Fuentes and his fiction, dubbing him a “guerrilla dandy” in a 1988 article for the perceived gap between his Marxist politics and his personal lifestyle. Krauze accused Fuentes of selling out to the PRI government and being “out of touch with Mexico”, exaggerating its people to appeal to foreign audiences: “There is the suspicion in Mexico that Fuentes merely uses Mexico as a theme, distorting it for a North American public, claiming credentials that he does not have.” The essay, published in Octavio Paz’s magazine Vuelta, began a feud between Paz and Fuentes that lasted until Paz’s death. Following Fuentes’ death, however, Krauze described him to reporters as “one of the most brilliant writers of the 20th Century”.

 “I love having critics for breakfast”. Carlos Fuentes

“There must be something beyond slaughter and barbarism to support the existence of mankind and we must all help search for it.” Carlos Fuentes

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