Carlos Fuentes, the great novelist, political commentator, and cultural icon, died today in Mexico City at the age of 83. He was an integral part of the great blooming of Latin America literature that took place in the 1960′s and 70′s, which gave the world a new sensibility that fused history, folklore, allegory and acute contemporary social observation with multiple and often simultaneous time shifts. Mr Fuentes, along with Gabriel Garcia Marquez of Colombia, Julio Cortazar of Argentina, and Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru, were the giants of this movement. Magical Realism was a term often used to describe elements of their work.
I was privileged to have shared a number of meals with Carlos. Above, his wife, Silvia, Carlos, Rose Styron, and me, in Martha’s Vineyard. He was a sophisticated, intense man, who would sometimes listen quietly, and sometimes speak piercingly about the most complicated issues of politics and literature. He was always plain-spoken and direct. He was warm and friendly if he liked you, but at the same time, unforgiving of self promotion and posing. He had a passionate commitment to truth, and a huge zest for life.
Carlos was both urbane and earthy. His father was a diplomat, and he, himself, was the Mexican ambassador to France for two years. Of course, in typical Fuentes fashion, he resigned under protest, when former Mexican president, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, was appointed ambassador to Spain. Fuentes has said that he always had a protest going, as well as a work of fiction. He was as well known throughout the world as an articulate proponent of left wing causes, as he was a writer. His passion for Mexico, it’s history, and the evolution of its politics and quest for social justice, was inexhaustible.
He became widely known in America after his novel, The Old Gringo, published in 1985, was made into a film with Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda. While this novel was incredibly popular, (partially because it is so short) I much prefer his earlier, ” classic” work like, ” The Death of Artemio Cruz”.
Carlos Fuentes death leaves the deep rumbling of a giant of both literature and politics, passing from the wortld stage.