The novelist, called in the New York Times obituary "Mexico’s elegant public intellectual and grand man of letters," died today in Mexico City. His death was confirmed by Julio Ortega, his biographer and a professor of Hispanic studies at Brown University, where Fuentes taught for several years.
From the NYT:
Mr. Fuentes was one of the most admired writers in the Spanish-speaking world, a catalyst, along with Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Julio Cortazar, of the explosion of Latin American literature in the 1960s and ’70s known as “El Boom.” He wrote plays, short stories, political nonfiction and more than a dozen novels, many of them chronicles of tangled love, that were acclaimed throughout Latin America.
Mr. Fuentes received wide recognition in the United States in 1985 with his novel “The Old Gringo,” a convoluted tale of the American writer Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared during the Mexican Revolution. The first book by a Mexican novelist to become a best seller north of the border, it was made into a film starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda, released in 1989.
In the tradition of Latin American writers, Mr. Fuentes was an outspoken public intellectual, writing magazine, newspaper and journal articles that criticized the Mexican government during the long period of sometimes repressive single-party rule that ended in 2000 with the election of an opposition candidate, Vicente Fox Quesada. Mr. Fuentes was more ideological than political. He tended to embrace justice and basic human rights regardless of political labels. He initially supported Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, but turned against it as Castro became increasingly authoritarian. He openly sympathized with Indian rebels in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, and publicly skewered the administration of George W. Bush.
Carlos Fuentes, Mexico’s most celebrated novelist and critic, was born in 1928. He spent his early years in Washington, D. C., where his father was a member od the diplomatic corps.
Fifteen novels by Mr. Fuentes have been published in the United States: “The Death of Artemio Cruz”, “The Good Conscience”, “Where the Air is Clear”; “A Change of Skin”, “Aura”, “Terra Nostra”, “The Hydra Head”, “Distante Relations”, “The Old Gringo”, a national bestseller in 1985, wich was also made into a movie; “Christopher Unborn”, a bestseller in 1989; “The Campaign” in 1991, “Diana: the Goddes Who Hunts Alone” in 1995, “The Crystal Frontier” in 1997; “The Years With Laura Diaz”, 2000; and, in 2002, “Inez.”
Among Mr. Fuentes’s other work, “Burnt Water”, a collection of short stories, appeared in 1980; “Myself with Others: Selected Essays”, in 1988, “Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins”, in 1990; “The Orange Tree”, in 1994; and, in 1996, “A New Time for Mexico”, a work of political commentary.
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released a statement this afternoon:
I am saddened to hear of the death of Carlos Fuentes, a man I was truly lucky to know as a mentor and friend.
Carlos was a literary giant, a man of passion and principle; a great husband, father, and friend. His writing was a catalyst for “El Boom” and set a precedent that other writers still strive to reach. Carlos’ influence on literature goes far beyond borders of Latin America, and the impact of his intellect and activism will not be forgotten.
His collection of essays in “En esto creo,” remains a personal favorite.
My thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time. He will be sorely missed.
What kind of a relationship do you have with the city of Los Angeles? What does L.A. mean to you?
It’s a beautiful and confusing—or confusing and beautiful—relationship, depending on the orders of the factors, because it’s a very difficult city to understand. It doesn’t let itself be grasped easily. It’s not easily understood. I’m disoriented a lot of the time, but in certain barrios I feel very much at home. I’m immensely interested in the people, in what’s going on in the shops, the restaurants, the movies—in everything that is going on in this beehive of a city.