Carlos Fuentes dies at 83; Mexican novelist
A towering literary figure at home and abroad, he was pivotal in raising the profile of the hemisphere’s Spanish-language writing in the second half of the 20th century.
A PERSONAL AlYoung.org ASIDE
Whatever Carlos Fuentes wrote I gobbled up with ever-growing admiration and respect. Multilingual, the son of a diplomat, Fuentes had to decide whether he would write in English or Spanish. He chose Spanish. I loved those TV moments when Fuentes responded to his prejudiced Yankee political assailants in crisp, accentless, idiomatic American. He was a tireless fighter and spokesman for social justice, who respected and stuck up for the underdog, and who never sold out to anyone for anything.
In the late 1960s, when I was just beginning to publish, one bilingual venue friendly to writers in Spanish or English was El Corno Emplumado (The Plumed Horn), which billed itself as “A Magazine from Mexico City.” Co-edited by American-born Margaret Randall and Sergio MondragĂłn, her Mexican husband, El Corno, with its global and culturally diverse perspective, was as exciting to read as it was unpredictable. I took pride in having my stuff come out alongside the work of such writers as Ernesto Cardenal, Philip Lamantia, Pablo Neruda, Diane Wakoski, Octavio Paz, Carol BergĂ©, Cid Corman, Raquel Jodorowsky, Robert Creeley, Carlos Pellicer, Denise Levertov, Dan Georgakas interviewing James Baldwin, and Carlos Fuentes. The list still staggers.
So when novelist-essayist-screenwriter Cecil Brown relocated from California to Paris in the late Sixties, one of the writers in his expatriate circle was Carlos Fuentes. When my name came up for discussion one night, Fuentes told Cecil: “Oh, yes, I know Al Young, he’s a good young writer.” It shocked and thrilled me to hear this from Cecil. Only in the pages of El Corno did Carlos Fuentes and I ever meet. Still, I loved him for acting as if he really did know me and my work. The stories we tell ourselves and one another! The great Carlos Fuentes was truly a master.
— Al Young
Walking with Carlos Fuentes in Paris
Carlos Fuentes | Cecil Brown
In 1973, when I lived in Paris, I received a letter fromÂ my publisher [Farrar Straus Giroux] that he would be in Paris. I arrived at the party that Roger Straus had arranged for his writers. I met many people that afternoon, but one who stood out was Carlos Fuentes and his then wife Silvia. We were happy to meet each other, and I gave him a copy of The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger. He inscribed a copy of his novel, The Death of Artemio Cruz, to me.
He invited me for a walk, and the next day, we did take a walk. In those days, Carlos was a true flĂ˘neur.
As a writer, Carlos had a strict rĂ©gime. Rising early, he would work all morning until 12:30, writing in long-hand, and sometimes typingÂ on his typewriter — a big black monster that sat on a table in one room. Then he took a swim, had lunch, and took to the streets for a long walk. On these walks, he said, he gathered inspiration for the next morningâ€™s writing.
That afternoon, it could have been a Sunday, I joined Carlos andÂ his wife Silvia, Â and another friend for one of his walks. As he strolled, he met people. To the French, he spoke French, to thoseÂ of us who were Americans, he spoke English, and to the Mexican writers, he spoke Spanish.
We walked acrossÂ past Shakespeare & Company to Pont de Sully across to the Seine to the ĂŽsle St Louie, As we were walking along the Quai dâ€™Orleans, Carlos stopped atÂ 2 rue Bude, remarking that the famous American writer James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity and Some Came Running, the novelist lived up there in one of those legendary apartments.
Then Carlos leaned back and yelled out the novelistâ€™s name. â€śJames Jones!â€ť We looked at each other. Did he know James Jones? We wondered.
When the famous author stuck his head out of the window, I was very impressed. â€śCome on up,â€ť Mr. Jones shouted down. Mr. Fuentes led us into rue Bude, and made a sharp right, where there was a side door that led to Jonesâ€™ apartment upstairs. Within minutes we were inside, having a drink with James Jones. After introductions, drinks and chitchat, we were back on our way once again. At the end of the Quai dâ€™OrlĂ©ans we ended up at Brasserie de Lâ€™Isle, one of Carlosâ€™ hangouts, for a French dessert.
Carlos was always meeting with a group of Mexican novelists, a group of which he was a member. There was another group of Mexican writers and Argentine writers with whom he also met often. When I was about to leave Paris, he said I should stay, because GarcĂa MĂˇrquez was coming to town. He told me I should stick around and meet him.
Gabriel GarcĂa MĂˇrquez
When I heard, a few months later, that Carlos had become the Mexican ambassador to France, it made a lot of sense. In a way, he spent most of his time organizing the Mexican writers. He was the first writer I ever met that had been appointed to an official position for his government.
He was the most cosmopolitan writer I had ever met, and took his ideas from world literature. For example, his story, â€śThe Death of Artemio Cruz,â€ť was influenced, he told me,Â by Leo Tolstoyâ€™s The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Because of their irony and satire, his stories reminded me of Gogolâ€™s. I especially love The Hydra Head for its political intrigue, its lucid prose, and aÂ plot that unfolds as it surprises.
IÂ last sawÂ him in Berkeley in the Nineties, when he came to give a speech at U.C. We were surrounded by lots of people. But I managed to remind him of the strolls we took. â€śAh,â€ť he laughed, â€śyou remember those days in Paris, huh?â€ť
When I read that he will be buried in Paris, I realized that this city must have meant the world to him. He certainly meant the world to the City of Paris — and to many of us who met him there. I still see him in a big warm brown, light brown coat, strolling among the Parisians, as he continues his Sunday stroll on the streets of the City of Lights.
— Cecil Brown
Â© 2012 Cecil M. Brown
Â© Ricardo Gutierrez | El PaĂs (Madrid)
15 de mayo de 2012