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Carlos Fuentes - Mexico's Greatest Novelist Dead at 83 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andres Chavez, Sun Staff Reporter   
Thursday, 17 May 2012 03:06

Carlos Fuentes

Carlos Fuentes, 83, died May 15 in a private hospital in Mexico City from a massive hemorrhage.

Fuentes was considered Mexico's greatest modern novelist. His 1962 novel "The Death of Artemio Cruz," an epic panorama of Mexican history from the revolution to the 60s, is an acknowledged masterpiece of world literature and, along with the works of Fuentes's friend, Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, helped establish Latin American literature on the international stage and captured the imagination of readers around the world.

Fuentes wrote 15 novels throughout his long life, including "The Good Conscience," "A Change of Skin," and "Aura." His 1975 book, "Terra Nostra," confirmed his reputation as one the most inventive modern novelists. Never one to limit himself, Fuentes shared his lifelong thoughts on the shared cultural heritage of the Spanish-speaking countries in a television series, "The Buried Mirror." The companion volume for the series achieved worldwide popularity.

Fuentes continued to produce novels throughout the late 80s and 90s, including "The Hydra Head" and "Distant Relations." In 1989, Fuentes' novel "Christopher Unborn," a philosophical fantasy told from the point of view of an unborn child who will enter the world on the 500th anniversary of the European discovery of America, was highly successful. He wrote "Diana: The Goddess Who Hunts Alone" and "The Crystal Frontier," "Inez," and "The Years with Laura Diaz," a return to 20th Century Mexican history as seen through one woman's very long life.

He received the Prize of the Royal Spanish Academy for Best Book of 2004 for his collection of essays, "This I Believe: A Life From A to Z." The same year, he published "Contra Bush," a critique of the U.S. administration. He continued his meditations on history and public affairs in his last works of fiction. "The Eagle's Throne" (2006) is a mischievous satire of Mexican politics set in the not-too-distant future. His 2011 novel, "Destiny and Desire," threads a tale of friendship between two old school friends through a dense tapestry of fantasy, history and mordant reflections on the state of contemporary Mexico.

In the United States, he is best known for "The Old Gringo," which became a bestseller in the United States in 1985, a first by a Mexican author. A film version, starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda, was released in 1989.

In addition to fiction, his journalism and political commentary made Fuentes one of the most recognizable public intellectuals in the Spanish-speaking world. This visibility also created difficulties. For many years he was denied a visa to enter the United States presumably for his criticism of American foreign policy, although no reason was ever given publicly.

During the 1980s, he was one of the world's most outspoken critics of U.S. policy in Central America. Disillusioned by the course the Cuban Revolution took, he was also highly critical of Fidel Castro.

Fuentes served as Simon Bolivar Professor at Cambridge University in England. After the ban on his travel to the United States was lifted, he was invited to teach at numerous American universities as well. He was the first to hold the Robert F. Kennedy Chair of Latin American Studies at Harvard University, and was a visiting professor at Princeton University and a Professor-at- Large of Hispanic Studies at Brown University. He was also a friend of the U.S. sociologist C. Wright Mills, to whom he dedicated his book "The Death of Artemio Cruz."

Carlos Fuentes was born Nov. 11, 1928 in Panama City, Panama, where his father was posted as a member of Mexico's diplomatic corps. For a time, he followed his father's career as a diplomat serving as Director of International Cultural Relations for the Ministry of Exterior Relations, legal counsel for the Mexican Embassy in London and, in 1976. as ambassador to France. In 1978 he resigned as ambassador to France in protest over the appointment of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, former president of Mexico, as ambassador to Spain. From that point, he devoted himself to writing and lectures.

He was married to film star Rita Macedo from 1959 until 1973 when the couple divorced. Fuentes then married journalist and interviewer Silvia Lemus.

Fuentes fathered three children. Only the daughter from his first marriage, Cecilia Fuentes Macedo, is still alive. Born in 1962, she is working in television production. His son, Carlos Fuentes Lemus, died from complications associated with hemophilia in 1999 at the age of 25. A daughter, Natasha Fuentes Lemus died of an apparent drug overdose in Mexico City on Aug. 22, 2005, at the age of 30.

Carlos Fuentes' Ten Tips for Writers

On the occasion of being presented with an award from the Los Angeles Central Library Foundation on April 25, 2001, Carlos Fuentes offered this Decalogue for Writers to Consider:

1. Discipline: Not as an antidote to dreaming but as a necessary regimen to focus on the purpose of your task. It won't write itself. One must dream, but not in a place of working, and never await inspiration. Work in focus, get it done.

2. Read: You are not literate if you don't read, no matter how much you write.

3. Respect tradition and creation: Understand your point of departure, where you came from, but never let it impede your growth. Respect your own process of creativity.

4. Use your imagination!

5. Literature enhances reality: The reality of your narrative, no matter the context, must be believed. Ask yourself, is it believable? Do you accept the reality of your work?

6. Literature transforms time: It makes the time, and place, of your narrative real.

7. Language: Use language to throw life into other languages, those of your characters. What is the language of your story? It is the breath of your characters? It is life.

8. Publish: To publish is to give up personal ownership. Your text now belongs to the world, and is now the object of criticism, On Critics: Reviews deserve a place, but remember there are no statues in the parks that celebrate the critic.

9. You are not as great or as fragile as your first publication.

10. Freedom: A writer (any artist) has a social position no matter the intent. It is a political obligation. There are no free societies without free writers.