Fuguet, Alberto 1964–
FUGUET, Alberto 1964–
PERSONAL: Born 1964, in Chile. Education: Attended University of Chile and the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
CAREER: Writer and freelance journalist.
AWARDS, HONORS: Chosen by Time and Cable News Network (CNN) as one of the fifty most influential Latin American personalities of the millennium, 1999.
(With others) Premios literarios: Concurso Alonso de Ercilla, Pehuen (Santiago, Chile), 1989.
La azarosa y sobreexpuesta vida de Enrique Alekan, El Mercurio (Santiago, Chile), 1990.
Sobredosis: Cuentos (short stories), Editorial Planeta Chilena (Santiago, Chile), 1990.
(With others) Santiago, pena capital: Narraciones, Documentas (Santiago, Chile), 1991.
(Editor, with Sergio Gomez) Cuentos con Walkman, Planeta, Biblioteca del Sur (Santiago, Chile), 1993.
Por favor, Rebobinar, Planeta (Santiago, Chile), 1994.
(Editor, with Sergio Gomez) McOndo, Grijalbo Mondadori (Barcelona, Spain), 1996.
Tinta roja, Aguilar Chilena de Ediciones (Santiago, Chile), 1996.
Dos hermanos: Tras la ruta de en un lugar de la noche, Aguilar (Santiago, Chile), 2000.
(Editor, with Paz Soldan) Se habla Espanol: Voces latinas in USA (anthology), Alfaguara, 2000.
Primera parte (essays), Aguilar (Santiago, Chile), 2000.
Las peliculas de mi vida, Rayo (New York, NY), 2003, translated by Ezra E. Fitz as The Movies of My Life, Rayo (New York, NY), 2003.
Cortos, Alfaguara (Santiago, Chile), 2004, translated by Ezra E. Fitz as Shorts: Stories, Rayo (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of screenplay, Somewhere in the Night. Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Time, New York Times, and Salon. Columnist, Mercurio.
ADAPTATIONS: Tinta roja was adapted for film by Francisco Lombardi, 2000; Mala onda has been adapted as a film.
SIDELIGHTS: Alberto Fuguet has emerged as one of the more significant Latin American writers since the era of the magical realists. Born in Chile, he spent his early years in Encino, California, before moving back to South America with his family when he was eleven years old. It was only then that he learned to speak Spanish, which he has since adopted as his primary language. He began writing in Spanish and published three novels before returning to the United States to take part in the writers' program at the University of Iowa. There, he disappointed his teachers by producing stories that seemed as if they could have been written by an American writer. As an affluent Chilean raised in an urban environment, Fuguet did not feel comfortable trying to produce the stories about migrant workers, political refugees, or barrio violence that he felt were expected of him. His first novel published in the United States, Mala onda (translated as Bad Vibes), was a far cry from the jungle backdrops and fantastic happenings common to many South American writers' work. Instead, he chronicled something called McOndo, a South American world that included McDonald's, condominiums, cable television, and the Internet.
Bad Vibes has been characterized as a 1980s, Latin American version of J. D. Salinger's classic Catcher in the Rye. Indeed, Fuguet's protagonist, seventeen-year-old Matias Vicunas, has read Salinger's book and openly identifies with Holden Caulfield, its narrator. He is bored with his comfortable life in middle-class Santiago. Feeling jaded, he wishes for innocence but in fact, his life is filled with drugs and sex—even his father shares cocaine and prostitutes with him. A critic for Kirkus Reviews said that Fuguet's portrayal of Chile in the 1980s is reinforced by a "time-warping soundtrack,… slangy translation,… [and] cool pop references…. Here is what the new economic prosperity engenders culturally, he implies, and thank goodness we have such a clever novelist to guide us." Mala onda was a bestseller in Chile in 1991 and opened many new doors for its author.
Fuguet has been heavily influenced by films and has worked as a film critic. His best-known novel, Las peliculas de mi vida, was translated into English as The Movies of My Life. Reflecting Fuguet's own life story, the main character, Beltran Soler, is raised in California and taken as a young teenager back to South America. Eventually, his father abandons his family, which then collapses. The novel recounts the painful dislocation he has felt throughout his life. As the novel begins, Soler is traveling to Tokyo for a teaching job. He lands in Los Angeles and decides that the city is the key to his destiny. His memories unwind, with half-remembered movies connecting with the driveins, the television screens, and the theaters of several continents. All the while, underfoot, he feels tremors great and small, damaging property and disrupting lives. "The book is certainly fun to read, but it's not particularly insightful," remarked Lawrence Olszewski in a Library Journal review. "By blending popular culture and literature, Fuguet picks up where Manuel Puig left off, but in many ways the use of movies is just a gimmick." Emily Carter, a reviewer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, stated: "There is a heart to this story," but faulted the author for making his characters too distant. "It is as if, afraid of being charged with too much vitality and inventiveness, Fuguet must return again and again to the fashionable distance and silences that pervade so much North American literature," mused Carter. Yet other critics, such as John Marshall of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, praised the book as providing "reading delights." Marshall stated: "Soler's tale of alienation, loneliness and delayed puberty is peppered with hard lessons, pained observations and mordant wit."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Paz-Soldan, Edmundo, and Debra A. Castillo, editors, Latin American Literature and Mass Media, Garland (New York, NY), 2001.
Booklist, November 15, 1994, p. 583; September 1, 2003, Keir Graff, review of The Movies of My Life, p. 54.
Entertainment Weekly, October 17, 2003, Liza Schwarzbaum, "Reel Worlds," p. 84.
Foreign Policy, July, 2001, Alberto Fuguet, "Magical Neoliberalism."
Hispania: A Journal Devoted to the Teaching of Spanish and Portuguese, May, 2001, Patrick O'Connell, "Narrating History through Memory in Three Novels of Post-Pinochet Chile," pp. 181-192.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1997; August 15, 2003, review of The Movies of My Life, p. 1034.
Library Journal, March 1, 1997, Rebecca Stuhr-Rommereim, review of Bad Vibes, p. 102; August, 2003, Lawrence Olszewski, review of The Movies of My Life, p. 129.
Newsweek International, May 6, 2002, Mac Margolis, "Is Magical Realism Dead?"
New York Times, January 4, 2003, Nicole LaPorte, "New Era Succeeds Years of Solitude," pp. A13, B7.
New York Times Book Review, November 23, 2003, James Polk, review of The Movies of My Life, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, February 24, 1997, review of Bad Vibes, p. 62; July 14, 2003, review of The Movies of My Life, p. 52.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, WA), November 7, 2003, John Marshall, review of The Movies of My Life, p. 21.
Seattle Times (Seattle, WA), November 9, 2003, John Hartl, review of The Movies of My Life, p. K12.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), December 14, 2003, Emily Carter, review of The Movies of My Life, p. 16F.
Time International, May 24, 1999, "Alberto Fuguet, 35," p. 99.
Village Voice, December 1, 2003, Dennis Lim, review of The Movies of My Life.
Washington Post Book World, October 19, 2003, Michael Dirda, review of The Movies of My Life, p. 15.
Alberto Fuguet Home Page, http://www.fuguet.com (February 14, 2003).
Barcelona Review, http://www.barcelonareview.com/ (September 4, 2004), interview with Alberto Fuguet.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (2003), Jonathan Shipley, review of The Movies of My Life.
Hispanic Magazine.com, http://www.hispaniconline.com/ (October, 2003), Sandra Marquez, "Returning Home as an Outsider."
Mostly Fiction, http://mostlyfiction.com/latin.htm (November 28, 2003), Poornima Apte, review of The Movies of My Life.
Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/ (June 11, 1997), Alberto Fuguet, "I Am Not a Magical Realist!"; (January 21, 2004), Rachel Aviv, "100 Years of Solitude on Crack."