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Carlos Fuentes, one of Mexico’s most famous novelists, died on Tuesday, May 15, at the age of 83. Reporters were told that Fuentes had suffered an internal hemorrhage.
Fame came easy to Fuentes. Even his first novel, ‘Where the Air is Clear’, which was published when he was 30, garnered much critical acclaim in his home country. As a social commentary that critiqued his homeland and also explored the mind and its workings, it set the tone for the rest of his works.
Fuentes was also a part of the Latin American Boom literary movement in the 1960s and 1970s, along with other acclaimed writers, such as Julio Cortázar, Gabriel Garcia Marqeuz, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Jorge Lius Borges. Writers involved often wrote works that owed a lot to modernism, a another movement after World War 1 that turned away from realism and sought to represent reality through other means. Works from this period are often categorized as examples of magical realism or historical fiction, and usually toyed with themes such as time and incorporated political elements. The movement brought worldwide recognition to the writers and solidified their reputations abroad.
Fuentes’s fame took off in the United States later, however, with his 1985 novel ‘The Old Gringo’. The book followed the complex story of American writer, Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared in the Mexican Revolution. The book became a bestseller in the States, a first for a Mexican writer, and was adapted into a 1989 film starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.
Fuentes authored over 20 other books several collections of short stories and one opera. His oeuvre includes acclaimed novels like ‘The Death of Artemio Cruz’, ‘The Crystal Frontier’, and ‘Christopher Unborn’. His work has been translated into two dozen languages.
At the time of his death, Fuentes had amassed a large collection of prizes, including the Cervantes award, Spain’s most sought after literary award, and the Belisario Domingues Medal of Honor, Mexico’s highest honor. He was considered a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but never won. A former friend of Fuentes, Octavio Paz, is the only Mexican who has been awarded the honor, having won in 1988.
Although Fuentes’s fiction typically was filled with social and political commentary, he himself never belonged to any political parties. He believed literature was the vehicle through which he could most effectively have his voice heard. He lambasted the George W. Bush administration and criticized his own country’s government. He also derided Venezuela’s leftist leader, Hugo Chavez, comparing him to Mussolini.
Fuentes is survived by his wife, journalist and television presenter Silvia Lemus, and a daughter, Cecilia, from a previous marriage with actress Rita Macedo, who died in 1993. He also fathered two other children with Lemus, both of whom died before him.
Image Courtesy of A. Bouirabdane