Fuentes, Carlos (1928–)

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Fuentes, Carlos (1928–)

Carlos Fuentes (b. 11 November 1928), Mexican writer, major literary figure, and spokesman not only for his country, but for all of Latin America. A prolific writer of novels, short stories, plays, and essays that possess intellectual brilliance and a powerful style, Fuentes is also a pioneer in narration and structure. A highly visible figure, he has been the subject of several television documentaries and interviews.

Son of Mexican diplomat Rafael Fuentes Boettiger and Berta Macías Rivas, Fuentes was born in Panama City and attended elementary school in Washington, D.C., and secondary schools in Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile. He studied law at the Institut des Hautes Études Internationales (Geneva) and received a law degree from the National University of Mexico. He was named secretary to the Mexican delegation of the International Law Commission of the United Nations (Geneva) in 1950. He launched his literary career in 1954 with a collection of short stories, Los días enmascarados (Masked Days) and his first novel, La región más transparente (1958; Where the Air Is Clear, 1960) which brought him immediate recognition.

From 1956 to 1959 Fuentes served as director of international cultural relations at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1962 he published one of his major works, La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962; The Death of Artemio Cruz, 1964), a novel that vividly depicts the corruption of the Mexican Revolution through the portrayal of a man in his last twelve hours of agony, during which he relives twelve crucial moments of his life. The main themes of his novella Aura (1962), found in most of Fuentes's works, are time, history, identity, desire, and civilization. Cambio de piel (1967; A Change of Skin, 1968) received the Biblioteca Breve prize in Barcelona the same year it was published. In an important book of literary criticism, La nueva novela hispanoamericana (1969; The New Latin American Novel) Fuentes analyzed the internationally acclaimed group of Latin American writers of the 1960s. While serving as ambassador to France (1974–1977), he published his essay Don Quixote; or, the Critique of Reading (1976), arguably the best guide to a full understanding of Fuentes's ideas.

Fuentes's most ambitious novel, Terra nostra (1975), published in English under the same title in 1976, is a powerful epic illustrating how the discovery of America provided a second opportunity for utopia that was defeated by human events. Among the many literary accolades Fuentes has received are Mexico's Javier Villaurrutia Prize (1975), the Rómulo Gallegos Prize of 1977 in Caracas for Terra nostra, and in 1987 Spain's prestigious Cervantes Prize. Burnt Water (1980) is a collection of Fuentes's best short stories written between 1954 and 1980. They depict the Spanish and indigenous past with force and nostalgia. In Cristóbal Nonato (1987; Christopher Unborn, 1989), the tone is similar to that of Terra Nostra, offering an apocalyptic vision of Mexico's future in which he uses humor, as well as his trademark remarkable play of words.

During the 1992 year of the quincentenary of the meeting of the Old World with the New, Fuentes narrated a popular television series, The Buried Mirror, on the epic of "encounter" of the European and the indigenous world of Hispanic America. Todas las familias felices (2006) is a collection of short stories that reflect his political stance and depict controversial situations in Mexican society. He continues writing, delving into Mexico's past, defining Mexico's national identity, and serving as Mexico's goodwill ambassador. He has also spent much time teaching at various universities in the United States.

See alsoLiterature: Spanish Americaxml .


Brody, Robert, and Charles Grossman, eds. Carlos Fuentes: A Critical View. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982.

Faris, Wendy B. Carlos Fuentes. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1983.

Giacoman, Helmy F., ed. Homenaje a Carlos Fuentes: Variaciones interpretivas en torno a su obra. Long Island City, NY: Las Américas, 1971.

Grenier, Yvon. "Cambio de piel: Disposiciones y posiciones políticas de Carlos Fuentes." Foro Hispánico: Revista Hispánica de los Países Bajos 22 (2002): 121-135.

Penn, Sheldon. Carlos Fuentes's Terra Nostra and the Kabbalah: The Creation of the Hispanic World. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2003.

Van Delden, Maarten. Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, and Modernity. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998.

Williams, Raymond. The Modern Latin American Novel. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

                         Martha Paley Francescato