16 August 2012 - Carlos Fuentes

Quote of the day:

"You must have discipline for your writing. It is not an easy task. It is very lonely. You're all alone. You are not in company. You are not enjoying yourself in that sense. You are enjoying yourself in another sense. You are delving into your depths, but you are profoundly lonely. It is one of the loneliest careers in the world. In the theater, you are with companions, with directors, actors. In film. In an office. In writing, you are alone. That takes a lot of strength and a lot of will to do it. You must really be in love with what you're doing to tolerate the huge loneliness of writing." - Carlos Fuentes.

G'day guys,

Today I'm introducing some interesting facts about a very interesting author - the late Carlos Fuentes, author, scholar and Mexican Diplomat who made the above statement on 2 June 2006. Mr Fuentes died at the age of 83.

Enjoy, courtesy of 'The New York Times' (c) - published May 15th 2012.

Carlos Fuentes



Mr. Fuentes was one of the most admired writers in the Spanish-speaking world, a catalyst, along with Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Julio Cortázar, of the explosion of Latin American literature in the 1960s and ’70s, known as El Boom. He wrote plays, short stories, political nonfiction and novels, many of them chronicles of tangled love.


Mr. Fuentes received wide recognition in the United States in 1985 with his novel “The Old Gringo,” a convoluted tale about the American writer Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared during the Mexican Revolution. It was the first book by a Mexican novelist to become a best seller north of the border, and it was made into a 1989 film starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.


In the tradition of Latin American writers, Mr. Fuentes was politically engaged, writing magazine, newspaper and journal articles that criticized the Mexican government during the long period of sometimes repressive single-party rule that ended in 2000 with the election of an opposition candidate, Vicente Fox Quesada. Mr. Fuentes was more ideological than political. He tended to embrace justice and basic human rights regardless of political labels. He supported Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, but turned against it as Mr. Castro became increasingly authoritarian. He sympathized with Indian rebels in
the southern Mexican state of Chiapas and skewered the administration of George W. Bush over its antiterrorism tactics and immigration policies, calling them unduly harsh.


He was also critical of Venezuela’s leftist leader, Hugo Chávez, however, calling him a “tropical Mussolini,” and of his own country’s failure to stem its rampant drug violence. On the day he died the newspaper Reforma published a hopeful essay by him on the change of
power in France.


Mr. Fuentes was appointed the Mexican ambassador to France in 1975, but he resigned two years later to protest the appointment of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz as ambassador to Spain. Mr. Díaz Ordaz had been president of Mexico in 1968 when Mexican troops opened fire on student protesters in Mexico City.


But it was mainly through his literature, Mr. Fuentes believed, that he could make his voice heard, and he did so prolifically and inventively, tracing the history of modern Mexico in
layered stories that also explored universal themes of love, memory and death.
In “The Death of Artemio Cruz,” a 1962 novel that many call his masterpiece, his title character, an ailing newspaper baron confined to his bed, looks back at his climb out of poverty and his heroic exploits in the Mexican Revolution, concluding that it had failed in its promise of a more egalitarian society.


Though Mr. Fuentes wrote in just about every genre, including opera (a 2008 work inspired by the life of Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, the wooden-legged president of Mexico during the mid 19th-century), he declined to write an autobiography.


“One puts off the biography like you put off death,” he once said. “To write an autobiography is to etch the words on your own gravestone.”


Carlos Fuentes was born on Nov. 11, 1928, in Panama, the son of Berta Macías and Rafael Fuentes, a member of Mexico’s diplomatic corps. As his father moved among Mexican embassies, Mr. Fuentes spent his early childhood in several South American countries. Then, in 1936, the family was transferred to Washington, where Mr. Fuentes learned to speak English fluently while enrolled in a public school.


In 1940 the family was transferred again, this time to Santiago, Chile, where he began to experiment with writing. In an interview with The Times in 1985, Mr. Fuentes said he first had to decide “whether to write in the language of my father or the language of my teachers.” He chose Spanish, he said, because he believed that it offered more flexibility
than English. There was also a practical reason. English, he said, “with a long and uninterrupted literary tradition, did not need one more writer.”


He was 16 when his family finally returned to Mexico. He knew his homeland through the stories that his grandmothers had told during the summers he spent with them.


“I think I became a writer because I heard those stories,” he said in 2006 in an interview with the Academy of Achievement, a nonprofit organization in Washington. His grandmothers fascinated him with their tales of bandits, revolution and reckless love. “They
had the whole storehouse of the past in their heads and hearts,” Mr. Fuentes
said. “So this was, for me, very fascinating, this relationship with my two grannies — the two authors of my books, really.”


When he told his family that he wanted to be a writer, his father was encouraging, but insisted that he also study law, which he did in Mexico and Switzerland. After completing his degree, Mr. Fuentes entered Mexico’s diplomatic service, while also carving out time for
his fiction. His first novel, “Where the Air Is Clear,” was published in 1958 when he turned 30. It was a literary sensation, mixing biting social commentary with interior monologues and portrayals of the subconscious. His reputation established, Mr. Fuentes left government service to devote all his energies to writing.


As an author, he said, he did not spend much time rewriting and never suffered from writer’s block. He liked to write on the right-hand pages of lined notebooks, making changes and corrections on the left-hand pages before sending a manuscript to be typed.


Professor Ortega called Mr. Fuentes “an unleashed cultural force” who avoided some of the trappings of literary celebrity. In a retrospective book that he wrote about Mr. Fuentes’s life when the writer turned 80 in 2008, Mr. Ortega wrote, “Fuentes detests the literary  life, its obligations and commitments.”


“He hasn’t created his own group, and he belongs neither to parties nor ideologies,” Mr. Ortega added. “He isn’t controlled by either the power of the state nor the power of the market.”


Mr. Fuentes’s independent thought and reputation for supporting leftist causes led to his being denied visas to enter the United States in the early 1960s. When he was refused permission to come to New York in 1963 for a presentation of an English translation of one of his books, he reacted angrily, saying, “The real bombs are my books, not me.”


Congress intervened in 1967, and the restrictions against him were lifted. Later he traveled to the United States frequently, teaching at several Ivy League universities.


For much of his career Mr. Fuentes competed for recognition and influence in Mexico and abroad with another titan of Mexican letters, the poet Octavio Paz. Mr. Fuentes received the National Order of Merit, France’s highest civilian award given to a foreigner; Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for literature in 1994; and, in 1987, the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world’s highest literary honor. Mr. Paz, however, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1990. Mr. Fuentes, a perennial on the shortlist for the honor, never did.


Still, in his later years, Mr. Fuentes  became an elder statesman of international letters. On his 80th birthday hundreds gathered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to celebrate his life and work. He was introduced by Rubén Beltrán, the consul general of
Mexico in New York at the time.


“To speak about Carlos Fuentes is to engage inexorably in Mexican history and culture,” Mr. Beltrán said. “We cannot fathom a debate on Mexican literary and humanistic traditions in which his name and work are absent.”


Pax vobiscum, Carlos Fuentes - CT


Keep writing!


I'm Clancy Tucker


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