(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The fantastic nature of this short novel is indicated at its very beginning when Felipe Montero, an indigent young man, reads a newspaper advertisement requesting the services of a historian. The advertisement is so suited to his own experience, needs, and skills that it seems to be addressed to him and to no one else; all that is missing is his name. This sense of Montero’s being especially summoned by the advertisement is further emphasized when he arrives at an ancient mansion in the old section of town where no one lives. As he enters the door, he takes one last look to try to “retain some single image of that indifferent outside world,” before entering a realm of magic and imagination.

Although the incredibly old Consuelo Llorente ostensibly wishes Montero to edit the memoirs of her dead husband for publication, one suspects that she has other, more profound plans for the young historian. Indeed, with the appearance of her beautiful young niece, Aura, who immediately exerts a hypnotic hold on Montero, the reader’s suspicion that this is a sort of modern fairy tale or parable is confirmed. The mysterious, old, witchlike crone, the quietly beautiful young girl, and the summoned young man establish an archetypal fairy-tale situation.

The house itself is typically gothic and always in darkness; the old woman’s room is filled with religious relics and lighted only with votive candles; in private she engages in occult rituals and makes entreaties to Gabriel to sound his trumpet. She continually caresses a pet rabbit, whose name is Saga, and the trunk which contains her dead husband’s papers seems always covered with rats. Montero feels a pleasure in the house that he has never felt before, a feeling that he always knew was a part of him but that has never been set free. He decides that the old woman has some secret power over her niece, and he is obsessed with the desire not only to set her free but also to possess her himself. Consuelo’s witchlike nature is further emphasized when, as Montero studies her husband’s papers, he discovers that she must be at least 109 years old.


(The entire section is 869 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Duran, Victor Manuel. A Marxist Reading of Fuentes, Vargas Llosa, and Puig. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1994. An interesting study comparing the politics in the writings of these three important Latin American authors. Many of Fuentes’s works are examined in detail.

Helmuth, Chalene. The Postmodern Fuentes. Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell University Press, 1997. A solid overview of Fuentes’s work from a postmodernist point of view. Several individual works are discussed, focusing on the issues of identity, national and narrative control, and reconsiderations of the past.

Ibsen, Kristine. Author, Text, and Reader in the Novels of Carlos Fuentes. New York: Peter Lang, 1993. Although Ibsen does not discuss Aura, she offers valuable insight into the problem of communication, which remains one of the central preoccupations throughout the work of Fuentes. Her analysis focuses on the means of textualization by which Fuentes activates his reader and how this coincides with his notions of the role of literature in society.

Pollard, Scott. “Canonizing Revision: Literary History and the Postmodern Latin American Writer.” College Literature 20 (October, 1993): 133-147. Scott analyzes the impact of Latin American narrative on Western literary history after World War II. Focusing on authors Alejo Carpentier, Carlos Fuentes, and José Lezama Lima, Scott discusses narratives of conquest and exploration, international modernism, the fashioning of cultural identity, and the primacy of European culture. Offers valuable insight into several of Fuentes’s works.

Van Delden, Maarten. Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, and Modernity. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998. Using Fuentes’s writings as a springboard for his discussion, Van Delden presents a comprehensive analysis of Fuentes’s intellectual development in the context of modern Mexican political and cultural life. Includes extensive notes and a helpful bibliography.