Carlos Fuentes was one of the first writers who I can really remember inspiring my interest in writing. I was not a reader of literature before I got to college. I read history, but fiction wasn’t something I thought much about. It took sometime for literature to interest me. The first author I can remember was James Baldwin, but after I ran across Juan Rulfo and Carlos Fuentes I saw the real possibilities of great writing. I had been taking one of those classes that only The Evergreen State College could create: one whole quarter (16 credits) dedicated to Mexican literature, history, and culture. It was a truly immersive experience and we read two works of Fuentes: The Death of Artemo Cruz and The Old Gringo. One was a masterpiece and the other one of his many less than stellar efforts. We all knew The Old Gringo was week, but when you have an Artemo Cruz it doesn’t really matter. It was Fuentes at his best: expansive, using history as his tablet, and letting his structural inventions wow young writers to be. After going over his works in class and out, I had to find other books, reading Where the Air is Clear, Aura, Burnt Water, and the Good Conscience shortly after. I particularly identified with the Good Conscience, a coming of age story that was set in Guanajuato, a city I had visited once. Thinking about it now it’s funny that I would find the book so compelling, but he was able to capture something. Later, when I finally made it to Mexico city several I spent a day or two with my head raised, looking for the mansard roofs he had mentioned over and over in Where the Air is Clear, as if finding a sloping roof would explain something about Mexico. It was unnecessary; Fuentes had already constructed a Mexico for me, one that I described in my piece, Just a Handshake is Enough.
A few years later I lost some of my fascination with his fiction. Perhaps it was the unevenness of his later works. They never seemed to have the exciting sense of a man forging a vision of a country. Instead they showed a man whose fiction seemed to be self absorbed. Even then, however, his literary criticism, his ability to talk about writing and writers was always interesting. His book La geografía de la novela was the first book I ever read in Spanish and was an exciting not because it delved into theory, but because he could make writing and the whole process of literature sound important and vital. For Fuentes, literature was more than games for grad students and that sense of passion you read in any article or heard in any interview was kept him interesting even after his later fiction lost some of its weight. Hearing of his passing was a shocker because just the other day I was reading an article in El Pais about his adventures in Buenos Aires for the book fair. He always seemed to be connected to the literary world and could talk about the newer generations and the same time as Cervantes, and, again, it made reading and writing exciting. In an age of e-books, hand wringing about the future of books, and enfeebled academia, despite Fuente’s flaws he made writing and love of literature seem one of the most important endeavors one could undertake.
There are plenty of articles and tributes in Spanish that you might want to read.
From La Jornada
From El País
- El novelista ha fallecido hoy a los 83 años en México, donde se encontraba hospitalizado
- La obra y el rigor político del escritor definieron medio siglo de historia de las letras latinoamericanas
Era autor de más de 20 novelas y contaba con el Premio Cervantes (1987) y el Príncipe de Asturias (1994). Escribió obras como ‘La región más transparente’ o ‘La muerte de Artemio Cruz’. El velatorio será privado en su casa. A las 13.00 (hora de México) sus restos llegarán al Palacio de Bellas Artes
- México llora a su gran cronista, por J. L. PRADOS
- ‘Fuentes, la relectura’, por MARTÍN CAPARRÓS
- ‘Comprometido con el acto literario’, por S. GONZÁLEZ RODRÍGUEZ
- ‘La novela como verdad reveladora’, por J. E. AYALA DIP
- Entre la imaginación y la convicción, por SERGIO RAMÍREZ
- ‘Dos libros nuevos y uno en mente’, por PILAR REYES
Se marcha uno de los grandes intelectuales latinoamericanos. Ningún otro combina así creación literaria y reflexión política
Hace poco le decía a Fuentes que la historia de América Latina no era el recuento de sus fracasos, sino el proyecto de futuro
Escritores y artistas lamentan el fallecimiento del autor de una gran obra conocida como ‘La edad del tiempo’
Conocí a Carlos Fuentes dos veces, y las dos cambió mi vida. La primera, en 1984, cuando yo tenía 16 años