Modern Mexico's Greatest Novelist, Carlos Fuentes

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The Crystal FrontierCarlos Fuentes (November 11, 1928 – May 15, 2012), Mexico's famed novelist and prolific writer, died on the 15th May aged 83 years. He is regarded by many as the father of modern Latin American literature. Aside from his career as a novelist, Fuentes was an essayist and commentator on matters political and cultural, a playwright and screenwriter and an ambassador for his country. Born in Panama (his father was also a diplomat), he spent much of the latter half of his life living in either Europe or the United States, and was fluent in English from an early age. He was the winner of numerous literary prizes, most notably the Cervantes Prize in 1987, the most prestigious Spanish-language literary award.

Maybe less well known about him was that he studied law in Mexico and Geneva, was a member in the early 1950s of the Mexican delegation to the International Labour Organization, was ambassador to France in the mid 1970s, and that he was a Marxist and one time member of the Mexican Communist Party. Twice married, he is survived by his wife and a daughter from his first marriage. The two children of his second marriage both died of illnesses before they reached 30. Fuentes has taught at Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and many other universities, and in recent years he was a teacher in the Hispanic Studies Department in Brown University (Rhode Island, USA).

His Works

The Years with Laura DiazOn the literary front, Fuentes has written over 20 novels, and his works have been translated into over two dozen languages. His works may either be critical commentaries on Mexican society and history, have their origins in the Mexican revolution, and/or cover themes such as national identity, love, life or death.

His first novel, 'Where the Air is Clear', was published in March 1958 when he was 29. Others of his most notable works include 'The Death of Artemio Cruz' (1962); 'Terra Nostra' (1975); 'The Hydra Head' (1978); 'The Old Gringo' (1985); 'The Campaign' (1990); and 'The Crystal Frontier' (1995). His last to be published was 'Destiny and Desire' (2011). In an interview recently published in a Spanish newspaper, he said he had just completed a new novel, titled 'Federico on His Balcony'.

Novels by Fuentes have also been nominated on a number of occasions, and shortlisted on one, for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the prestigious international award administered by Dublin City Public Libraries. Nominated were: 'Diana, the Goddess Who Hunts Alone' (1998); 'The Years with Laura Diaz' (2002), which was also shortlisted;  and 'Inez' (2004). 

Also published is the short story collection, 'Happy Families' (2008); but beware, I understand the title to be rather ironic (happy families not!).

'The Old Gringo', the story of  the American writer Ambrose Bierce who disappeared during the Mexican Revolution, will be of note to cinema buffs also, for the fact that it was made into a film in 1989 and starred Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda. 

Word of caution: I am linking only to titles in the catalogue that I am fairly confident are available to borrow. Some of his works we no longer have available, even though there may be a catalogue entry for them, sorry if that confuses! Either way, check with a library staff member, as they can reserve a title from another library authority.

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