Carlos Fuentes Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Known primarily as a novelist, Carlos Fuentes has also written plays and has collaborated on several screenplays. His numerous nonfiction works include political tracts, essays on Mexican life, and literary criticism. He has also been a frequent contributor to periodicals in the United States, Mexico, and France.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Carlos Fuentes is regarded by many as Mexico’s foremost contemporary novelist. Perhaps the most valuable contribution of Fuentes’s writing is that it introduced innovative language and experimental narrative techniques into mainstream Latin American fiction. His concern for affirming a viable Mexican identity is revealed in his allegorical and thematic use of his country’s history and legends, from the myths of the Aztecs to the Mexican Revolution.

Aside from receiving honorary degrees from numerous colleges and universities, such as Columbia College, Harvard University, and Washington University, Fuentes has won many literary awards. These include the Rómulo Gallegos prize (Venezuela) in 1977 for Terra nostra (1975; English translation, 1976), the Alfonso Reyes Prize (Mexico) in 1979 for the body of his work, the National Award for Literature (Mexico) in 1984 for Orquídeas a la luz de la luna (pb. 1982; Orchids in the Moonlight, 1982), the Miguel de Cervantes Prize from the Spanish Ministry of Culture in 1987, and the Rubén Darío Order of Cultural Independence (Nicaragua), and the literary prize of Italo-Latino Americano Institute, both in 1988.

Fuentes received the Capita Maria Medal (1991), the Chilean Order of Merit (1992), the French Legion of Honor (1992), and the Menendez Pelayo International Award from the University of Santander (1992). He was named honorary citizen of Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, and Veracruz (1993) and received the Principe de Asturias Prize (1994). He was a candidate for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (1996) and received honorary degrees from Bard College, Cambridge University, Columbia College, Chicago State University, Dartmouth College, Essex University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, and Washington University.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to his work as a novelist, Carlos Fuentes (FWAYN-tays) has cultivated short fiction throughout his career. His earliest work was a collection of short stories, Los días enmascarados (1954; the masked days); this volume and subsequent collections such as Cantar de ciegos (1964; songs of the blind) and Agua quemada(1980; Burnt Water, 1980) have been critically acclaimed. (Burnt Water, Fuentes’s first short-story collection to be translated into English, contains stories published in earlier collections as well as in Agua quemada.) The subjects of these stories are reminiscent of his novels. They are set in contemporary Mexico and are characterized by social and psychological realism. Several stories feature the interpenetration of the real and the fantastic, so much a part of the author’s longer fiction. In La frontera de cristal (1995; The Crystal Frontier, 1997) Fuentes explores in nine fictional stories the relationship gap that has occurred between Mexico and the United States as well as the internal problems that have pushed many Mexicans to emigrate to the United States. In El naranjo: O, Los círculos del tiempo (1993; The Orange Tree, 1994), a collection of novellas, Fuentes explores the creation of the Mexican culture as a result of language choice.

Fuentes has also written several plays. In 1970, he published El tuerto es rey (the blind man is king) and Todos los gatos son pardos (all cats are gray). The latter work dramatizes the author’s fascination with the subject of the Conquest of Mexico and portrays Hernán Cortés and other historical figures. Orquídeas a la luz de la luna (Orchids in the Moonlight), which premiered at Harvard University in 1982, was Fuentes’s first play produced in the United States.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Carlos Fuentes is known the world over as one of Latin America’s premier novelists and intellectuals. He has earned this reputation through involvement in international affairs and prodigious creative activity. Fuentes has produced a broad spectrum of literary works in several genres that convey a sense of Mexican life, past and present. He has projected the image of Mexico by means of extremely varied treatments in his works, from the historical and legendary backgrounds of the Spanish Conquest in Terra Nostra to the analysis of contemporary social reality and the profound aftershocks of the Mexican Revolution in The Death of Artemio Cruz. While Fuentes has manifested his concern for the historical and social realities of Mexico, he has also experimented with fantastic fiction in his short stories and the novella Aura, and he has evoked the voluptuousness of decadent settings in Holy Place.

In view of Fuentes’s achievements in capturing and imagining the myriad faces of Mexican reality, it is hardly any wonder that his literary production must be analyzed from several critical stances. Fuentes has resisted any narrow categorization of his work with the dictum “Don’t classify me, read me.” Fuentes is one of Latin America’s most popular novelists, and his works are eagerly awaited by critics. He is considered to be on the same level with such luminaries of Latin American literature as Mario Vargas Llosa and...

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Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

What is Carlos Fuentes’s view of the United States’ influence on Mexico?

How does Fuentes use art and artists to convey his ideas about politics?

What is the relationship between myth and history in Fuentes’s works?

What is the importance of Santiago’s The Fall of Man painting that Laura renames The Ascent of Humanity in The Years with Laura Díaz? How does it relate to Fuentes’s portraits of the two priests?

To what extent has “General” Arroyo, a character in The Old Gringo, crossed a frontier to die?

Discuss Harriet’s feelings about her father and how those feelings affect her actions in The Old Gringo.

What point does Fuentes make about the writing of history in The Old Gringo?

Laura Díaz seems driven to probe her lovers’ deepest secrets, to know their private and public selves. How does her desire affect her relationships, and if she changes her mind, what prompts her change of heart?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brody, Robert, and Charles Rossman, eds. Carlos Fuentes: A Critical View. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982. This well-written collection of essays takes various critical approaches to Fuentes’s major works of prose, drama, and literary criticism. The work also includes bibliographical references and a chronology.

Brushwood, John S. Mexico in Its Novel. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1966. This book takes account of a nation’s search for identity through an examination of its fiction. The section devoted to Fuentes discusses the author’s major works (published before 1966). Brushwood underscores Fuentes’s belief that Mexico has accepted realities that prevent the realization of its potential. Contains a chronological list of Mexican novels and a select bibliography.

Dupont, Denise. “Baroque Ambiguities: The Figure of the Author in Terra nostra.” Latin American Literary Review 30 (January-June, 2002): 5-19. Examines the interaction between the literal author and the author as envisioned within the text of Terra nostra.

Duran, Gloria. The Archetypes of Carlos Fuentes: From Witch to Androgyne. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1980. The first work in English to deal exclusively with the body of Fuentes’s novels that have been translated into English. Duran maintains that an examination of the place of witchcraft and occultism is critical to an understanding of Fuentes’s work as a whole. Contains biographical data, an appendix, and a bibliography.

Fainaru, Steve. “Poisoned Pen.” The Boston Globe, November 4, 1997,...

(The entire section is 716 words.)