FBI Files on Carlos Fuentes Opened – A Dangerous Communist

FBI documents recently released show that he was considered a dangerous communist and that he should be watched. It isn’t surprising that this mischaracterized him that way, and at this distance seems laughable. You can read about it in English at Huff Po or Spanish at El Pais.

MEXICO CITY — The FBI and the U.S. State Department closely monitored Mexican author Carlos Fuentes for more than two decades because he was considered a communist and a sympathizer of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, recently released documents show.

The documents posted on the FBI’s website this week show the United States denied Fuentes an entry visa at least twice in the 1960s.

In one of the memorandums Fuentes is described as “a leading Mexican communist writer” and a “well-known Mexican novelist with long history of subversive connections.”

 

El escritor mexicano Carlos Fuentes fue sometido a un seguimiento por parte del FBI y el Departamento de Estado que se prolongó al menos durante dos décadas, según los archivos que divulgó la agencia esta semana en su página web. El intelectual, fallecido el año pasado a los 83 años de manera repentina, era visto por los funcionarios estadounidenses como un “destacado escritor comunista”  con una larga historia “de relaciones subversivas”.

Fuentes solicitó visas para entrar en Estados Unidos en varias ocasiones pero hubo instrucciones de retrasar las respuestas. El archivo publicado en su página de Internet, al que tuvo acceso Associated Press, es rico en pruebas que confirman que la agencia estaba atenta a los movimientos del escritor. Uno de los motivos por los que se le negó la entrada al país fue el hecho de haber pertenecido al Partido Comunista Mexicano.

Carlos Fuentes Daughter Cecilia on Carlos Fuentes

Melenio has a letter from Carlos Fuentes only surviving child describing her anguish at her relationship with her father. It is a sad letter (he wasn’t the best father as people who are very busy tend not to be) but one that is interesting when thinking about a writer who was such a personality. (via )

¿Habrás sabido alguna vez cuánto te quise y cuánto te extrañé siempre? Hace muchos años iniciaste una nueva vida con una nueva familia y por alguna razón, decidiste tratar de borrar de tu historia a mi mamá y a mí. Algo imposible porque existimos, porque tuvimos un pasado, porque compartimos momentos reales y porque sé que, a pesar de tu aparente rechazo al cariño y al calor humano, alguna vez me quisiste y me cuidaste. Ahora que leo las cartas que le escribiste a mi mamá durante los quince años que estuvieron juntos, lo compruebo. Siempre había un  dibujito para mí, o palabras tiernas o de preocupación. Yo sé que jamás logré ser la hija que hubieras soñado, pero lo intenté. No. No soy ni alta ni guapa ni sofisticada ni delgada ni culta ni interesada en la política, pero hice mi mejor esfuerzo estudiando y trabajando, siempre tratando de que me abrieras un lugarcito en tu vida. Nunca lo logré.

Carlos Fuentes Interview at Guernica

Guernica has an unpublished interview with Carlos Fuentes from 2006 that is worth reading (you can also listen to it if you scroll to the bottom of the page). It covers politics more than literature, although there is a lengthy section on his admiration for Juan Marse. Fuentes was always a fairly astute political commentator and he has some interesting things to say about immigration and democracy.

Guernica: Do you consider yourself a writer in exile?

Carlos Fuentes: I have never considered myself a writer in exile because I grew up outside of my own country, because my father was a diplomat. Therefore, I grew up in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, the United States, I studied in Switzerland—so I’ve always had perspective on my country—I am thankful for that.

Our greatest novelist ever, Juan Rulfo, the author of Pedro Páramo, never left Jalisco and the states of Mexico where he sold tires and drove around and heard stories—he is the great example of a writer very much bred, rooted in the country, that transforms all he has heard into great art. My position was very different because I had a perspective on Mexico since I was a child. I was a boy of ten when President Cárdenas expropriated the oil holdings of foreign companies, and there was a wave of anti-Mexicanism in the United States. There were big headlines, “Mexican Communists Steal Our Oil,”—then I lost friends at school (I was in grade school), I was looked upon with suspicion. And I was the son of a diplomat; when I heard the news from Mexico I sided with Mexican causes. I grew up in a kind of exile until I was fifteen years old, always outside of Mexico, but always very conscious that I was a Mexican. Yet that gave me a different consciousness of being Mexican from someone who had never left Mexico—so, it worked both ways.

For a moment there I could have become Argentinean or Chilean—I was very bound to my friends, my schools in Santiago and Buenos Aires, but no—no, Mexico has won me over, and do you know why? Because Mexico always was and always will be a mystery for me, a big question mark. What is this country all about? How can I understand it? You know, when García Márquez doesn’t understand the baroque political situation in Mexico, he goes to the National Museum of Anthropology, and stands before the Coatlicue the Mother Goddess of the Aztecs, the gigantic sculpture of block, of serpents, headless, tremendous, of a goddess saying, “I am a goddess not a person—don’t try to find personality in me. I am not Venus—I am Coatlicue, the goddess of serpents.” And when he has stood five minutes in front of Coatlicue, he says, “Now I understand Mexico,” and leaves.

It’s a very complex, mysterious country. I will never understand it fully, and that’s why I write so much about it, in order to try to understand it.

The Last Work of Carlos Fuentes (or the First of the Posthumous to Come Out)

El Pais has an excerpt of a novel he was working on when he passed away. It is called Federico en su balcón and you can read an excerpt of it at El Pais. Given his last works, I’m not sure really how thrilling it will be, but you can be the judge.

Sesenta y seis. Esos son los años que estuvo atrapado Carlos Fuentes por la verdadera pasión de la literatura. Sesenta y seis años que hay entre el descubrimiento que hizo de El conde de Montecristo, a la edad de 17 años, y la escritura de sus dos últimos libros: Personas y Federico en su balcón que dejó a los 83 años, antes de morir el 15 de mayo. El primero son unas memorias sobre los personajes que conoció y el segundo una novela en la que salda cuentas con Nietzsche.

No es solo el legado póstumo de uno de los escritores e intelectuales más relevantes del mundo hispanohablante del último medio siglo. “El significado de Federico en su balcón”, explica Pilar Reyes, editora de Alfaguara que publicará la novela a finales de año, “es que Fuentes nunca pensó que fuera el último. Pero ahora cobra una gran dimensión simbólica. Resume dos aspectos: el Fuentes ciudadano y el literario e intelectual. Es una reflexión sobre el poder y la decisión moral en las pequeñas cosas de la vida. Una especie de combate entre lo público o el poder que incide en la vida de todos y las decisiones pequeñas y privados”.

My Appreciation of Mexican Author Carlos Fuentes, RIP

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.

RIP/DEP

There are plenty of articles and tributes in Spanish that you might want to read.

From La Jornada

Muere el novelista Carlos Fuentes

Travesías de un narrador

La literatura, faro en un país desviado

From El País

Adiós a uno de los pilares del ‘boom’ latinoamericano

Muere el escritor Carlos Fuentes

  • 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
Carlos Fuentes, en 2009. / DANIEL MORDZINSKI
Juan Cruz Madrid 95

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

Memoria y deseo

Se marcha uno de los grandes intelectuales latinoamericanos. Ningún otro combina así creación literaria y reflexión política

Tiempos de Fuentes

Hace poco le decía a Fuentes que la historia de América Latina no era el recuento de sus fracasos, sino el proyecto de futuro

Reacciones en el mundo de las letras

Escritores y artistas lamentan el fallecimiento del autor de una gran obra conocida como ‘La edad del tiempo’

Nuestro Virgilio

Conocí a Carlos Fuentes dos veces, y las dos cambió mi vida. La primera, en 1984, cuando yo tenía 16 años

‘Una curiosidad universal’

Con él desaparece un escritor cuya obra y cuya presencia han dejado una huella profunda

Carlos Fuentes’ Latest Book – The History of the Latin American Novel – and His Top Ten of the 20th Century

Carlos Fuentes has published a new book on the history of the Latin American novel (La gran novela latinoamericana). It is composed of lectures, reviews and essays that trace the history of the Latina American novel to the present day. Fuentes is usually interesting when it comes to literary history, although I’m not sure if he is completely up on new writers as his list seems a little mid century focused. Nevertheless, it is a good starting point for thinking about the Latin American novel.

El Pais has an article form Fuentes outlining his vision of the best writers of the Latin American novel (outline is the correct word, too, because it is very name centric). And he has a list of his top ten of the 20th century and the 21st century. Considering that we still have 90 years left of this century, I’m not going to put much stock in that list, but here is his list for the last century. Bonus points if you can name the glaring omission.

  • El Aleph-Jorge Luis Borges
  • Los pasos perdidos-Alejo Carpentier
  • Rayuela-Julio Cortázar
  • Cien años de soledad-Gabriel García Márquez
  • Paradiso-José Lezama Lima
  • La vida breve-Juan Carlos Onetti
  • Noticias del imperio-Fernando del Paso
  • Yo el supremo-Augusto Roa Bastos
  • Pedro Páramo-Juan Rulfo
  • Conversación en La Catedral-Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Santa Evita-Tomás Eloy Martínez

Finally, El Pais also has a review of the book, which notes that it is a little uneven, but has moments of real interest.

Este volumen tiene algo de recapitulación y de regreso a viejas lecturas centrales del autor y también de los múltiples seguidores de literatura en español. Quizá incluso algún afortunado lector reconozca en lo que es una imprecisa primera parte (hasta la página 300, más o menos) los materiales de algún curso universitario, aunque no se indica en el texto: da igual, porque en todo caso el tono y el formato tiende a ser el de un curso de novela latinoamericana escrito con la fluidez, la amenidad y la ausencia de los habituales enredos gremiales y verbales.

La segunda parte está más cerca de la reunión de reseñas y artículos breves sobre la narrativa más reciente -es decir, en torno a los últimos cuarenta años- y pierde también algo de la personalidad lectora que exhibe Fuentes en la primera, cuando se concentra en una sola novela o un solo autor por extenso, con originalidad, con incursiones frecuentes y jugosas en su autobiografía civil y cede incluso a la confidencia lujosa: su determinación de no conocer a Borges personalmente para preservar “la sensación prístina de leerlo como escritor”, la felicidad de conocer a un desarmante Juan Carlos Onetti o las múltiples alusiones a Alfonso Reyes que aparecen en el texto (aunque algún último lector del manuscrito en la editorial debió advertir las repeticiones de anécdotas y hasta frases divertidas, como la de Philip Roth).

What Some Spanish Speaking Authors Are Reading This Summer

El Pais has a list of what some Spanish Speaking authors among others are reading this summer. A couple caught my eye, especially Jose Emilio Pacheco and Fuentes who mentions his newest book (something I doubtful will be that good, sorry). Although, I think I like what Elena Poniatowska said, I don’t read anything any different from the rest of the year.

José Emilio Pacheco

Ciudad de México (México, 1939). Premio Cervantes 2009, su último poemario es ‘La edad de las tinieblas’ (Tusquets)Hago como si hubiera verano en México y me propongo leer o releer la serie Sergio Pitol traductor, organizada por Rodolfo Mendoza. Pitol es uno de los grandes traductores del idioma, a la altura de Ricardo Baeza y Mario Verdaguer. Como Borges y Cortázar, él se forjó en estas versiones que nunca dejaremos de agradecerle. Entre los clásicos recomiendo en especial El corazón de las tinieblas Otra vuelta de tuerca. Entre los descubrimientos (lo fue para mí),Las puertas del paraíso, de Jerzy Andrzejewski.

Carlos Fuentes

Ciudad de Panamá, 1928. Autor mexicano y premio Cervantes 1987. En septiembre publicará el ensayo ‘La gran novela latinoamericana’ y el libro de relatos ‘Carolina Grau’ (Alfaguara)

Siempre llevo historia y novela, un poco de todo. Pero este verano estoy dedicado a Giacomo Leopardi, debido a que uno de los cuentos de mi próximo libro, Carolina Grau, está dedicado a él. Así es que ahora, al releerlo, quiero ver si el cuento me ha gustado o me ha distanciado de él o si lo he traicionado o respetado o si hice bien en invocarlo. Es una especie de mea culpa retrospectiva, como todas, donde primero cometes el pecado y luego se pide perdón. Como estoy en Italia, estoy leyendo también un libro muy interesante: Roma, de Robert Hughes, que trata desde la fundación de la ciudad hasta Berlusconi. Es una gran historia de la ciudad, ¡espléndida!