Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Although many of Fuentes’s novels have been concerned with political and social reality, his short stories and novellas, or short novels, have more often been mythic and symbolic. Aura is perhaps his best-known work in which magic, the occult, and particularly the witch archetype are of central importance. In an earlier collection of short stories, Los días enmascarados (1954), the same witch figure appears, as does the prevailing theme developed in Aura of the dominance of the past over the present.

Various sources for the story have been noted by critics. Perhaps the most commonly mentioned are Henry James’s The Aspern Papers (1888), Pushkin’s Pikovaya dama (1934; The Queen of Spades, 1896), and Haggard’s She (1887). The single most important source, however, as Fuentes himself has noted, is Jules Michelet’s La Sorcière (1862; The Witch of the Middle Ages, 1863), in which a woman is depicted as a witch who has the ability to give birth to a being identical to herself.

Aura was practically ignored by reviewers when first published because it appeared almost at the same time as Fuentes’s best-known and most controversial novel, La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962; The Death of Artemio Cruz, 1964). Now, however, Aura is recognized as a central text in Fuentes’s continuing exploration of history, myth, and the anima archetype, as well as a particularly fine example of the genre of the fantastic.