Carlos Fuentes is arguably Mexico’s most prolific and important author. He published his first novel, La Región Mas Transparente, when he was just 28 years old. The novel featured Mexico City and delved into Mexican culture. A self-described “premodern” writer who prefers paper and pen to a word processor, Fuentes experiments with various narrative styles and is known for his exploration of society, identity, and history. In 1967, he began writing a series of Latin American biographies that was never completed. American audiences know Fuentes best for his novel Gringo Viejo, which was made into the 1989 film Old Gringo starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.
- In 1965, Fuentes became a diplomat like his parents. At one point, he was ambassador to France, but he resigned in protest over another ambassador’s appointment.
- Fuentes’s 1994 novel Diana, The Goddess Who Hunts Alone fictionalized his affair with American actress Jean Seberg. There are many who doubt that he actually had an affair with her.
- Fuentes wrote for the Spanish newspapers El Pais and Reforma. He has also taught courses at several prestigious colleges including Brown, Harvard, and Princeton.
- Gringo Viejo has the distinction of being the first American best seller written by a Mexican author.
- Fuentes is also famous (or perhaps infamous) for his philandering. He was married to actress Rita Macedo for fourteen years, but his many affairs ruined their marriage.
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Carlos Fuentes (FWAYN-tays) gained international recognition as a significant writer associated with the so-called boom period in Latin American literature, and he came to be regarded by many as Mexico’s foremost novelist in the twentieth century. The son of a career diplomat, Rafael Fuentes, and Berta Macias Rivas, Carlos Fuentes grew up in many different countries and attended excellent schools in several of the major capitals of the Americas. He learned English at the age of four while living in Washington, D.C., and for a time he lived in Santiago, Chile, and in Buenos Aires, before returning to study law at the University of Mexico. He also spent some time at the Institut des Hautes Études Internationales in Geneva.
From 1950 to 1952 Fuentes was a member of the Mexican delegation to the International Labor Organization in Geneva. Upon his return to Mexico in 1954 he became assistant head of the press section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and from 1955 to 1956 he served in a similar capacity at the University of Mexico. During much of the time that he was head of the department of cultural relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from1957 to 1959, he was also editor of Revista mexicana de literatura; he later edited and coedited the leftist journals El espectador, Siempre, and Politica. After 1959 he devoted himself to writing novels, book reviews, political essays, film scripts, and plays. From 1975 to 1977 he served as Mexico’s ambassador to France. Fuentes was married to the well-known Mexican actress Rita Macedo in 1959, with whom he had a daughter. The marriage ended in divorce in 1969, and in 1973 he married Sylvia Lemus, with whom he had a son and a daughter.
Fundamentally a realist, Fuentes’s search for the quintessence of Mexican reality often led him to its mythological roots. Yet for him Mexico’s Aztec, Christian, or revolutionary past is not merely a literary theme but...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Carlos Fuentes was born into a Mexican family that he later characterized as typically petit bourgeois. Son of Rafael Fuentes, a career diplomat, and Berta Macias Rivas, Carlos traveled frequently and attended the best schools in several of the major capitals of the Americas. He learned English at the age of four while living in Washington, D.C. After he was graduated from high school in Mexico City, he studied law at the National University and the Institut des Hautes Études Internationales in Geneva, Switzerland. Fuentes also lived in Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
From 1950 to 1952, Fuentes was a member of the Mexican delegation to the International Labor Organization in Geneva. Upon his return to Mexico, he became assistant head of the press section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1954. While he was head of the department of cultural relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1957-1959), he also founded and edited Revista mexicana de literatura (Mexican review of literature). He later edited or coedited the leftist journals El espectador, Siempre, and Política.
In 1954, Fuentes published his first book, a collection of short stories, entitled Los días enmascarados (the masked days). About this time, Fuentes devoted himself to writing full-time—novels, book reviews, political essays, screenplays (for Luis Buñuel, among others), and plays.
La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962; The Death of Artemio Cruz, 1964), a novel which treats the Mexican Revolution and its betrayal in modern Mexican society through the memories of Cruz, as he lies dying, is generally regarded as Fuentes’s most successful work and has been translated into fifteen languages. For the next several years, Fuentes lived primarily in Paris. He moved back to Mexico in 1969 and joined with his literary colleague Octavio Paz, among others, in an attempt to challenge the monopoly of Mexico’s official political party (the Partido Revolucionario Institucional) and to advocate more responsive democratic governmental structures. From 1975 to 1977, Fuentes served as Mexico’s ambassador to France. In 1989, he became president of the Modern Humanities Research Association. Fuentes also became a member of the Mexican National Commission of Human Rights.
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Even though Carlos Fuentes has described himself as a product of “petit bourgeois stock,” there is nothing common about him. His father was a diplomat, an attaché to the Mexican legation, when he was born. At the age of four, Fuentes learned English in Washington, D.C., where his father served at the Mexican embassy. Oddly enough, the dawning of Fuentes’s consciousness of Mexico occurred in the United States. He credits his father with having created a fantasy of his homeland, a “non-existent country invented in order to nourish the imagination of yet another land of fiction, a land of Oz with a green cactus road.” As a teenager, Fuentes began to travel on his own. He studied the politics, economics, and society of Spanish America, and he developed a sympathy for socialism that he has fervently maintained ever since. Fuentes’s interest in socialism blossomed in Chile, especially after he learned about Pablo Neruda, whose poetry had already become the anthem of the working person.
While living in Santiago, Fuentes attended The Grange, the Chilean capital’s bilingual British school, where he cultivated an appreciation of classical and modern writers. While enrolled there, he began to think about becoming a writer, he has recalled, in order to “show himself that his Mexican identity was real.” He started to read the Spanish masters of the Golden Age, and he contributed short stories, written in Spanish, to school magazines. After a...
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Carlos Fuentes is one of a small number of writers from Latin America whose works are recognized throughout the world. His life and work are truly international. His father was a diplomat, so Fuentes’ early life was influenced by his schooling and experiences in such capitals as Washington, D.C., Santiago, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City. He is equally fluent in Spanish and English and is familiar with the cultural life of most American and European countries. As one of Mexico’s most distinguished citizens, he has held important diplomatic positions in Europe, has lectured at major universities throughout the Western world, and has been awarded prestigious literary awards. The Old Gringo was made into a successful film and became the first novel by a Mexican writer to be included on The New York Times best-seller list.
All of his writings deal with the complexity of identifying what it means to be a Mexican. He seeks the identity of his people in the myth, legend, and history of the Aztec culture, in the traditions of the Catholic faith that the Spanish brought to the New World in the fifteenth century, and in the failed hopes of the Mexican Revolution. All these elements are included in his novel Terra Nostra.
Fuentes is also concerned with articulating Mexico’s relationship with the rest of the world. In Distant Relations, he examines the often troubled interaction between Mexican and European cultures. His most famous novel, The Old Gringo, is a study of Mexican-American relations. Christopher Unborn, his Christopher Columbus novel, is a penetrating investigation and satire of contemporary Mexico approaching the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Fuentes warns of a certain fall to ruin if a reformation and a redefinition of Mexico’s basic values—as found in its myth, legend, and history—do not take place immediately.
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Carlos Fuentes (FWAYN-tays) was born on November 11, 1928, in Panama City, Panama, into a Mexican family that he later characterized as typically petit bourgeois. As the son of a career diplomat, Rafael Fuentes, and Berta Macias Rivas, Carlos Fuentes traveled frequently, attending the best schools in several of the major capitals of the Americas. He learned English at the age of four while his family was living in Washington, D.C. He graduated from high school in Mexico City and then studied law at the National University and the Institut des Hautes Études Internationales in Geneva, Switzerland.
Upon his return to Mexico, he became assistant head of the press section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1954. While he...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
In his fiction, Carlos Fuentes confronts the problems of Mexican identity through the presence of ancestral voices and indigenous mythologies. His is a view of humankind molded by history yet morally responsible for individual actions, situated in time yet responsive to eternal values. The fictional mode that he uses to express his view is Magical (symbolic) Realism, a realism that can be comprehended only through symbols.
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