Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Carlos Fuentes is without a doubt the most widely read Mexican writer on the international scene. As Branly says in Distant Relations when he suggests that the narrator might have chosen to stay in Mexico instead of going to France, “You write about Mexico, about Mexicans, the wounds of a body, the persistence of a few dreams, the masks of progress. You remain forever identified with that country and its people.” Indeed, Fuentes is a prolific writer who is both cosmopolitan diplomat and erudite professor. He is well known for his essays on contemporary Mexico as well as for his literary criticism.

In many of Fuentes’s earlier novels, he discusses present-day Mexico by looking at its relationship to its violent and often brutal past. In later novels, he has looked at Mexico in relation to other nations and cultures, without ever abandoning the historical question. In Terra Nostra (1975; English translation, 1976), a massive and encyclopedic novel, he examines Mexico’s relationship with Spain. In El gringo viejo (1985; The Old Gringo, 1985), he looks at Mexico’s relationship with the United States. In Distant Relations, Fuentes pays homage to French culture and literature, to what he calls “that strange love for France which supposedly saves us Latin Americans from our ancient subordination to Spain and our more recent subordination to the Anglo-Saxon world.”