Last Updated September 5, 2023.
"Aura" by Carlos Fuentes (1962) is about a man in Mexico who introduces himself to the reader (remaining in the second person throughout the narrative) as Felipe Montero. Felipe responds to an advertisement in the newspaper looking for a ghost writer and historian who knows French. After several days, he finally goes to the home where the job is being advertised, he meets an old woman named Doña Consuelo, who invites him to write the memoirs of her late husband, dead husband, Don Llorente. Upon seeing Aura, the beautiful niece of Doña Conseulo, the man agrees. After a series of sexual encounters as well as macabre and mysterious goat-killings, Felipe realizes that Aura is Doña Conseulo, and he himself resembles a photograph of the late Don Llorente. Eventually, he loses control over his own body and makes love to the 109-year-old Doña Consuelo, whom he now recognizes as Aura.
The story is in many ways a showcase of magical realism—a genre which straddles the line between the generic fiction and fantasy by combining realistic and fantastical elements. Fuentes's corpus is preoccupied with time and the origin of things (as explored in his later book, Terra Nostra). The experience of the narrator in Aura coupled with the second person narration invites the reader to consider how they might be a reflection of the protagonist (whether this means imagining himself or herself at a more advanced age, or, alternatively prompting an individual to question the source of his or her own identity).
This invitation to the reader to evaluate the story with a view to examining himself or herself is consistent with the literary movement of the 1960s (chiefly under the influence Roland Barthes) who maintains in his seminal essay "The Death the Author" that the author and reader should be regarded as unrelated. The second person narration and the magical realist experience forces the reader to make connections from the novella to his or her own life, as well as (more broadly) the nature of existence. Aura is, in this way, both an invitation and injunction to the reader to engage in the dialectic that this interesting tale offers.