Where the Air Is Clear

by Carlos Fuentes

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Places Discussed

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*Mexico City

*Mexico City. Mexico’s capital city is the central location of the novel, providing a modern urban setting that contrasts with the country’s primarily rural history. Carlos Fuentes uses the city as a protagonist to which the characters must react as much as they interact with one another. Against this emerging modern backdrop, the characters struggle to understand their individual destinies, and in a collective sense, they embody the new, rising, modern Mexico coming to terms with the fallout of its early twentieth century revolution. The urban setting poignantly displays Fuentes’s cynical irony. The modern, postrevolutionary era does not provide equality nor justice. Remnants of classicism and political corruption abound.

The novel is framed with the question: “Here we abide. And what are we going to do about it? Where the air is clear.” Only in an ironic sense is Mexico City a place where the air is, in fact, clear. The phrase suggests a fatalistic alliance with a place that is changing but whose inhabitants have not yet figured out their role in the changes. There is no optimistic assertion that a movement toward capitalism and a middle class will satisfy the needs of the populace. Instead, the phrase suggests the betrayal of the ideals of the revolution that now finds itself played out in the dramas of citizens caught up in the cultural shift taking place.

Historically, Mexico City was the center of the indigenous Aztec culture and thus signified mythical and spiritual values of the land. The novel plays off this mythical association to suggest a spiritual decline of the citizenry. It calls into question whether a people living in modern urban settings can remain true to historical and mythological roots that have created them.

*Rural Mexico

*Rural Mexico. In contrast to the urban setting of Mexico City, the novel implies a connection to several less urban settings. Many of the characters have roots in outlying areas, but have since migrated to the metropolitan area. The rural landscape is not simplistically viewed as an Eden, but it is associated with the mythical origins stemming from the Aztec culture. This culture, brutally interrupted by the Spanish Conquest, has been lost, but modern Mexicans seem almost subconsciously to act out some of the principal tenets of its system. For example, blood sacrifice and sun worship are ironically continued in modern urban settings in the forms of murder, rape, and sunbathing, suggesting a mythical connection to indigenous origins.


*Acapulco. Port city on Mexico’s Pacific coast where both American and Mexican tourists intermingle in rituals of sunbathing. In these scenes, characters try to avoid the stresses of urban life, and references to these settings show the few times when people gather in collective rituals of celebration. These moments contrast with the individual struggles prominent elsewhere in the novel.


*Europe. Frequent references to the Old World continent are used collectively to suggest that Mexico is still struggling with the class issues of the Old World feudal system that presumed a romantic idealization of society. One character, for example, says that it makes him laugh to live in a “culture Europe had its fill of more than a century ago.” Aristocrats in Mexico still try to live out the values and privileges of a dying culture assumed to be alive in France and other European countries.

The novel also contains allusions to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia whose attempted land and political reforms seem to parallel the ideals of the Mexican Revolution.

*United States

*United States. The large and prosperous country to the north of Mexico is referred to collectively...

(This entire section contains 686 words.)

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and usually negatively. The use of this place suggests a counter system in which capitalism is assumed to be thriving and whose economic benefits lure Mexicans north across the border. Frequently characters discuss the choice of leaving home for economic advancement at the cost of national identity and pride. Finally, the economic concerns squelch the true need of spiritual awareness that Fuentes’s work demands. To play off the title phrase, the air is never clear in any place where materialism dominates.

Historical Context

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The Mexican Revolution The Mexican Revolution of 1910 was a result of a long line of squelched rebellions in pursuit of independence without tyranny; most of the nineteenth century passed with the country wavering between democracy and dictatorship, with the population rising against the Spanish, the French, and its own rulers. Mexico was one of the few Latin American countries in which mestizos (people of mixed white and native blood) and natives actively participated in the struggle for independence. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Mexico was under the thirty-year autocratic rule of Porfirio Diaz, who let foreign investors take control of much of his land, selling its resources for ridiculously low prices; he also stifled a few industrial strikes with violence. The Mexican Revolution erupted when Diaz was reelected to the presidency in 1910; by 1917, the fight had claimed about one million lives in a struggle, on the one hand, between the middle class and the Diaz government and, on the other, a grass-roots peasant revolt against the owner classes for a share of the wealth. Although the enemy was the same, the two groups did not agree on their revolutionary goals, which caused much confusion and prolonged the bloodshed in the race for political control.

The struggle began when the would-be opponent of Diaz, Francisco Indalecio Madero, called for nullification of the election; Diaz resigned and fled to France in 1911 because of the riots in Mexico City. Madero, who then assumed the presidency but did not make the expected reforms, was denounced by the peasants' revolts led by Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa. Madero was ousted and murdered in 1913 by General Victoriano Huerta, a corrupt dictator eventually driven from power. Zapata and Villa held the presidential seat for a year, until the bloody battle of Celaya in 1915 when Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregon conquered the city and full-scale civil war erupted.

The revolution formally ended in February 1917 with a proclamation of a new constitution: it was a nationalistic, anti-clerical document, considered the world's first socialist constitution, which allowed only one-term presidency, in order to prevent the possible Diaz-type dictatorship. It also gave government, rather than the Catholic Church, control over schools; provided for public ownership of land and resources; and ensured basic labor rights. Carranza became president in 1917, but political instability and fighting between various revolutionary groups continued throughout the next decade. The revolutionary hero Zapata was killed in 1919, and both Carranza and Obregon (president 1920-24) were assassinated in military coups.

In 1929, Mexico entered a period of political stability with the formation of an official government party that united most of the social groups that had participated in the revolution; since 1945, it has been called the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional—PRI). Although the business environment improved during the stable years, the mix of socialist leadership, foreign investment, and years of exploitation has had a damaging effect on the national economy.

Post-WWII Mexico Economic reforms that took place after the Mexican Revolution allowed for the formation of a stable middle class. The leadership of Lazaro Cardenas (1934-40) aimed to realize the socialist goals of the revolution: he orchestrated massive land redistribution, helped establish strong labor unions, extended education to remote areas of the country, and nationalized foreign petroleum holdings, mostly U.S.-owned. Mexico and the U.S. reached a compensation agreement in 1944, when the two were WWII allies.

In the post-war years, the Latin American intellectual world burst forth with a powerful ideological sense of national identity; the "Boom" started once the native intellectuals returned from European universities and applied modern philosophical, literary, and artistic techniques, novelties, and approaches to the state of their countries. In the 1950s, the temporal setting of Where the Air Is Clear, Mexico was undergoing a post-revolutionary revival of national identity. In that and the following decade, the country's intellectuals—among them painter Diego Rivera and novelists Octavio Paz and Fuentes—also engaged in this attempt at redefining Mexican nationality. In 1958, when Fuentes' first novel was published, the issue of social class became important to the concept of national identity.

Although the post-war years brought political stability, economic growth, and the formation of the middle classes, the country's poorest population still suffered a low standard of living which differed little from pre-Revolutionary times. The artists working in the tradition of magic realism also recalled their national past, the pre-European Latin America of distinct spirituality, and used it both as a contrast and as a supplement to the discussion of modern-day social issues in their countries.

Literary Style

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Symbolism The narrative of Where the Air Is Clear contains an abundance of symbols, which serve to relate Aztec mythology and contemporary history into a new Mexican identity. Some of the symbols that connect the novel's themes of self as ancient and modern are jewelry, fire, and vision.

Two diametrically opposed characters who rely on jewelry as their symbol of status and self are Teodula and Norma. Teodula proudly wears her wedding jewelry and refuses to take it off, because it symbolizes the ancient life of the Aztec culture; her last name is a link with the Aztec emperor Moctezuma, who was killed by the Spanish conquistador Cortes. Teodula's persistence in wearing the elaborate jewels signifies that she hangs on to the famous lost treasure of Moctezuma, and expects revenge on the "newcomers." Only when she witnesses an apparent sacrifice of Norma's death in the flames, Teodula throws her jewels into the pyre. Ironically, the fire starts when Federico leaves his house in rage, crashing furniture and throwing burning candles on the floor, angered because Norma refuses to give him her jewelry to sell in a financial crisis. Like Teodula, Norma clings to her beliefs and her idea of self, as well as the jewelry as a visible statement of her status.

Another important symbol in the novel, fire is a recurring element in the Aztec mythology, most clearly evident in Ixca's name: his first name means ‘‘to roast,’’ and his last ‘‘a thousand fires.’’ Ixca's function is that of an avenger who would burn off the impurity in a sacrificial offering and let the true Mexican identity arise. The imagery of flames appears in many descriptions of the city's panorama, as well as in the imagery of the sun (another powerful Aztec element). The importance of fire as a symbol of self is here present in the name of the individual and his sense of social purpose; Ixca also often sees flames, real or imagined, and uses the imagery of fire to describe his visions of Mexico City.

Vision is a symbol of relation to the true Mexican identity: the contemporary world is often referred to as visible, while the mythological world of Mexico's past is difficult, if not impossible, to see. Ixca tries not to see anything clearly when he first arrives at Bobo's party, yet is himself described rather mystically as being "everywhere, but no one ever sees him.'' The mystical quality in the vision of Teodula and her son appears in their "visions'' of the world and the future: Teodula apparently perceives the wishes of the Aztec gods, while Ixca can occasionally "see" his ancient land, like on ‘‘a corner where stone broke into shapes of flaming shafts and red skulls and still butterflies: a wall of snakes beneath the twin roofs of rain and fire.'' The insight into the authentic Mexico is granted only to those who look within, and allow themselves to "see" their memories: Hortensia's blindness gives her great spiritual "vision"—she can "see" the true Federico beyond his modern personality. Also, Federico can remember his old, real self when he lets "the heavy curtains inside his eyes slowly rise and reveal the inner pupil of memory, liquid, pinpoint.’’

Magical Realism Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier first used the term "magical realism'' in the 1940s to describe the tendency of contemporary Latin American authors to use the elements of folklore, myth, and fantasy in descriptions of their everyday issues, especially to veil the political and historical problems of his day in mystical narration. An exemplary magical realist novel is One Hundred Years of Solitude by the Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez; other writers in this tradition are the Brazilian Jorge Amado, the Argentines Julio Cortazar and Jorge Luis Borges, the Chilean Isabel Allende, and Fuentes. This generation of Latin American novelists usually focuses on the major theme of searching for epic and heroic universal "Truths'' in their works; in the highly symbolic language and narrative shifts from the realistic to the mythological, these authors employ the fantastic in order to illuminate the mundane elements of life.

In Where the Air Is Clear, the lack of separation between 1950s Mexico and the mythology of Aztec gods is magical realism. Superstition or witchcraft is not sufficient, rather the fantastic notion that Ixca is the Aztec god of war trying to bring back the pantheon of Aztec gods to avenge their dethronement makes the novel a member of the magical realist genre.

Narrative The fragmentary technique of Fuentes's writing style in Where the Air Is Clear is a modern device adopted from contemporary European and American authors, namely William Faulkner and James Joyce. Many critics have noted that the narrative defies time and space, as the plot flows from one setting and period to another; Fuentes thus presents the city as fluid, its community changing from day to day, but at the same time fragmented and divided across numerous boundaries of social signifiers. Fuentes stated that he wanted to create an effect of omniscient interdependence of all the elements of Mexico City: from its ancient past (Ixca's Aztec visions), to the revolution (memories of violence and change), to the modern day (the everyday lives in the social strata). The narration is thus given a collective voice, as all city's inhabitants become united in the social fabric of the text—through unseen relations among characters, the time and space travel in the metamorphosing Mexico, and the rapid point-of-view changes. Chapters are named after characters whose memories give various perspectives and situate them in the history of Mexico. Manuel is Federico's son, though neither knows it; Federico's recollections flow from the street into a modern office building and link the top and the bottom of the society; and Lorenza's reality feeds on the country's aristocratic past. The narrative is especially fluid at the novel's end, as Ixca's voice blends with the voices of the whole city and envelops all of the elusive Mexican identity in its equally volatile structure, moving ‘‘over all the city's profiles, over broken dreams and conquests, over old summits of headfeathers and blood.’’

Literary Heritage Mexcio City, founded on top of the ruins of the Aztec capital which the Spanish conquistadors dumped into the lake, became one cultural center of Spanish American dominion (Lima served as the other). Except for a few codices, the libraries of the Aztecs and the Mayans—when they were found—fueled huge bonfires conducted by the Spanish Inquisition. Any information that survived in oral or parchment form, therefore, formed a natural resistance to the colonial overlords.

With Spanish conquest, literature began appearing in the Spanish language about the Mexican Valley. Most notably, Bartolome de las Casas, a Dominican missionary, deplored the treatment of the indigenous at the hands of the Spaniards in The Devastation of the Indies. Bernal Diaz del Castillo wrote a three-volume history of the conquest between 1568 and 1580. The most influential writings of the colonial period were those composed by conquistadors in letters and reports back to Spain. These writings formed the basis of culture clash—the Spanish soldiers had no preparation for the sights they encountered in the Aztec capital and no way of understanding Aztec culture.

With the exception of Juan Ruiz de Alarcon y Mendoza who contributed to the Golden Age of Spanish Literature during the seventeenth century, Mexican literature was a vapid imitation of European forms. After the Spanish left, Mexico had to form its own national identity and actively looked to the arts and literature for help. This aid arrived with the Latin American Vanguard; the term is used to designate Latin American modernists who were inspired by late-nineteenth-century French literature. The Vanguard plus the European Avant-Garde would inspire ‘‘El Boom.’’ These movements rejected traditional "imitative" literature and resuscitated indigenous culture (in part by visiting it in European museums) while performing the role of social critique.

A prominent figure from this period in Mexico was Peruvian Cesar Vallejo. In his Human Poems (1939), he investigated the Maya-Quiche myths. These sacred tales had been written down for the first time in the sixteenth century. Vallejo inspired socio-political consciousness among writers. Octavio Paz proved even more influential on Latin American literature but especially Mexican literature and identity. He shared Vallejo's theory of political being. He made his first mark on the literary world in the mid-1920s but it was his Labyrinth of Solitude that won him the greatest notoriety. This collection of essays described the Mexican character with all its pimples—it angered people but it inspired more honest and uniquely Latin American works of fiction.

Inspired by the European Avant-Garde as well as the Argentinean Jorge Luis Borges and Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes launched Latin American literature into the international spotlight and thereby instigated ‘‘El Boom.’’ His first novel, La región más transparente (Where the Air Is Clear) of 1958, fabricated Mexico City using indigenous myths and showing all social classes. The success of this novel inspired other Latin American writers (many of whom had met in Europe) to cease imitation and answer Borges' demand that they create.

Literary Techniques

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Where the Air Is Clear is a very ambitious first novel by a young writer. Fuentes created a novel different from most Mexican novels that had preceded it. Divided into three parts, part three of the book takes place three years after the events of Part Two. The book begins and ends with a monologue by Ixca Cienfuegos. Immediately following the first monologue, and just prior to the conclusion are parties at Bobo Gutierrez's home.

This is a city novel, and Fuentes uses as his model for the structure of his book John Dos Passos' Manhattan Transfer. Writing in 1925, Dos Passos attempted to capture New York as he saw the city, a constantly changing metropolis in which few people could attain any degree of individuality. Fuentes sees Mexico City, which was growing so rapidly in the 1950s that the old staid capital of the country was no longer recognizable, nearly the same way. People coming into these cities were soon destroyed by their corruption. Few could escape. Dos Passos attempted to present his city as a chaotic center of endless activity, and he structured the novel accordingly. The narrative coheres because it is presented through the eyes of Jimmy Herf, a journalist who aspires to become a novelist. Fuentes presents Mexico City in a similar fashion with Ixca Cienfuegos, a witness who is practically omnipresent. Dos Passos, who would end his career as a conservative Republican, was Marxist at that stage in his career. Fuentes still professes to be one. Among the characters in Manhattan Transfer, only Herf and his friend Congo escape New York. Only Federico Robles, totally bankrupt, leaves Mexico City. Herf, too, has lost everything and leaves his city as a vagrant.

The influence of James Joyce, the chronicler of Dublin, is also seen in Where the Air Is Clear. Fuentes frankly admits his debt to Joyce and Dos Passos. The monologues which frame the novel are very Joycean as are the sections devoted to Rodrigo Pola and other leading characters. The city novel seems to lend itself to satire similar to that of Joyce.

Fuentes's knowledge of Mexico City and of Mexican history serves him well in his first novel, although some critics charge him with little genuine understanding of anything Mexican. Most of his novels deal with history, particularly that of the Revolution. His description of the battle of Celaya is very effective as even some of these same critics admit. Cienfuegos in his final monologue gives a capsule history of Mexico from colonial days to the present (circa 1951). Cienfuegos questions whether present history is better than the mythical past of which he is representative.

Social Concerns

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Through a huge cast of characters, Fuentes in Where the Air Is Clear attempts to show life in Mexico City in the early 1950s where "there is never tragedy, only outrage." The outrage in question is especially evident in the lives of the city's hopeless, and helpless common people. Fuentes is deeply aware of their misery which seems to increase as the population of the city multiplies. These people, mestizos and Indians alike, possessed nothing as dwellers in the countryside, and the system will not allow them anything in the urban slums.

The intellectuals talk constantly and confusingly about what it means to be Mexican. Their awareness of the country's problems is greater than that of the high society party goers who rarely think in those terms at all. But much of what they say is empty phrase making. Meanwhile the people experience starvation in ever growing numbers and have no hope that the situation will ever change.

Compare and Contrast

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1950s: The U.S.S.R. beat the U.S. into space with the launching of Sputnik in 1957.

Today: Russia insists on maintaining the oldest orbiting space station in hopes that tourism will bring revenue to its space agency. Meanwhile, the U.S. has had to pay part of Russia's contribution to the International Space Station to keep work on schedule.

1950s: Six European nations form the European Economic Community (EEC). Between them, the nations abolish mutual tariffs and begin laying the groundwork for a Common Market.

Today: Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. form a free-trade zone, NAFTA. The European Union more than doubles the number of countries in the EEC, and has its own currency, bureaucracy, and the beginnings of an EU military organization that will be separate from NATO.

Mexico: In 1998, 27 percent of the Mexican population lived below the poverty line and 2.8 percent were unemployed. Its industrial sector remains a mix of outmoded and modern machinery. NAFTA has allowed exports to nearly double to the U.S. and Canada. Living standards are expected to keep rising. The accompanying positivism has hid many of the pitfalls—increased environmental problems and rampant consumerism.

United States: As the new century opens, the U.S. is enjoying its longest running boom economy, its lowest unemployment rates, budget surpluses, and almost zero inflation. Ironically, the U.S. has been unable to solve many of its growing infrastructure problems—crumbling public school buildings, overreliance on automobile transit, and a stockpile of nuclear waste.

Mexico: The Zapatistas rose against the Mexican government in 1994. They are Indians who are still waiting for government and land reforms. They received military attention but little has changed to alleviate their impoverishment.

United States: During the 1990s, various radical groups challenged the U.S. government. Unfortunately, the clash between U.S. authorities and a religious group in Waco, Texas led to unnecessary deaths. Other standoffs have ended peaceably. Unlike the Zapatistas, these groups were not united in a demand for rational reforms of government based on universal human rights accords.

Literary Precedents

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With the growth of cities which resulted from the industrial revolution, many writers, novelists in particular, began to make them the setting of their books. Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders and The History and Surprising Life of Colonel Jacque, both written in 1722, show a thorough knowledge of the lives of London's poor and its underworld. The English novel in the eighteenth century, thanks to Defoe and later, Richardson and Fielding, assumed the form which has characterized it since. With few exceptions it spoke for the rising middle classes. The novels of Charles Dickens in the nineteenth century frequently view the financial and industrial developments of the time with a satirical eye. From The Christmas Story (1843) through the later novels such as Bleak House (1852-1853), Little Dorrit (1855-1857), and Our Mutual Friend (1864-1865), Dickens depicts London and its society as a hell for those whose lower social status and little education make competition impossible. His hostility to the selfishness of the time increased as he grew older, and Our Mutual Friend portrays a London where huge rubbish heaps become the source of fortunes, and the Thames, by this time thoroughly polluted, has become a sinister sewer where corpses are as common as other forms of refuse. Higher society with its Podsnaps and Veneerings is treated with equal sarcasm. Dickens sees the London of his day the same way as Joyce and Fuentes see Dublin and Mexico City in the twentieth century.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources Dwyer, John P., ‘‘Conversation with a Blue Novelist,’’ in Review, Vol. 12, Fall, 1974, pp. 54-8.

Gilman, Richard, "The Self-Conscious Culture of Modern Mexico,’’ in Commonweal, 1961, pp. 510-11.

Krauze, Enrique, "The Guerilla Dandy,'' in The New Republic, Vol. 198, No. 26, June 27, 1988, pp. 28-34, 36-38.

Leal, Luis, "History and Myth in the Narrative of Carlos Fuentes,’’ in Carlos Fuentes: A Critical View, edited by Robert Brody and Charles Rossman, University of Texas Press, 1982, pp. 3-17.

Maloff, Saul, ‘‘Growing Pains of a Bourgeois,’’ in Saturday Review, Vol. XLIV, No. 50, December 16, 1961, pp. 20-1.

van Delden, Maarten, ‘‘Myth, Contingency, and Revolution in Carlos Fuentes's La region mas transparente,’’ in Comparative Literature, Vol. 43, No. 4, Fall, 1991, pp. 326-45.

West, Anthony, ‘‘The Whole Life,’’ in the New Yorker, March 4, 1961, pp. 123-25.

Further Reading Cortazar, Julia, Hopscotch, translated by Gregory Rabassa, Pantheon Books, 1987. Originally published as Rayuela in 1963, Cortazar's book of "El Boom'' soon transcended his generation. The work is a rare example of the truly innovative surviving the moment of its publication. According to a plan Cortazar sets forth, the reader must arrange the pieces of this open-ended novel into a whole.

van Delden, Maarten, Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, and Modernity, Vanderbilt University Press, 1998. Van Delden discusses the various modernist philosophies reflected upon throughout Fuentes' fiction. These include Fuentes' use of existentialism as well as his utilization of theories of national identity construction.

Faris, Wendy, ‘‘The Development of a Collective Voice: Where the Air Is Clear,’’ in Carlos Fuentes, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1983. Faris explores the ways in which Fuentes' Where the Air Is Clear builds communication between his characters through memory, myth, and personal and national identity.

Fuentes, Carlos, A New Time for Mexico, translated by Marina G. Gutman, University of California Press, 1997. At the end of the twentieth century, Fuentes looks back on Mexico's history since the Mexican Revolution of 1910. From that moment of liberation, Fuentes argues, Mexico has stumbled along a path toward authoritarianism that resulted in the long rule of the PRI. This reflection includes Fuentes' conversation with the Zapatista spokesman, Subcommander Marcos.

Fuentes, Carlos, The Crystal Frontier: A Novel in Nine Stories, translated by Alfred J. Mac Adam and Alfred M. Adam, Farrar, Straus, 1997. This recent work by Fuentes weaves together nine stories to show the state of tension and space that exists between Mexico and the U.S. The work is a meditation on border relations suggesting that crystalline walls, not razor wire, separate gringos and Mexicans. This is a shame since the two are destined to live together.

Krauze, Enrique, Mexico: Biography of Power: A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996, translated by Hank Heifetz, Harperperennial Library, 1998. This new history of Mexico uses the biographies of men who controlled or struggled for control of that nation during the past two centuries. The most interesting aspect of Krauze's work is his argument that the caudilloa leader had a tremendous influence on Mexican history. Men's fortunes rose and fell depending on their proper use of this role.

Poniatowska, Elena, Massacre in Mexico, translated by Helen R. Lane, University of Missouri Press, 1992. Originally published as La noche de Tlatelolco in 1971 and containing an introduction by Octavio Paz, this work has been since claimed as a masterpiece of documentary work. Poniatowska recounts the events of the 1968 massacre using information gathered through interviews. The work and the author have created controversy on both sides of the political aisle ever since.

Reeve, Richard M., ‘‘The Making of La region mas transparente: 1949-1974,’’ in Carlos Fuentes, A Critical View, edited by Robert Brody and Charles Rossman, University of Texas Press, 1982. Fuentes' novel aroused some controversy for a number of years after publication because it seemed to describe real people and real events. Reeve discusses the making of the book as a reflection of the events of the time period and Fuentes' biography.

Silko, Leslie Marmon, Almanac of the Dead: A Novel, Penguin, 1992. Partially responsible for the boom in fiction by indigenous people of the U.S., Silko's monster novel, Almanac of the Dead, follows magical realism more closely than Ceremony (1977). The novel centers on Tucson but involves illegal border crossing, drug dealing, prophecy, and the historical consciousness that the American Southwest is not American. In fact, the illegality of activities along the border merely continues 500 years of struggle against the European invaders.


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Brody, Robert, and Charles Rossman, eds. Carlos Fuentes: A Critical View. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982. Good and varied collection of essays on the stories and novels.

Duran, Gloria. The Archetypes of Carlos Fuentes. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1980. Discusses female archetypes in Fuentes’ major works of fiction.

Faris, Wendy B. Carlos Fuentes. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1983. Excellent introduction to Fuentes’ works. Focuses upon Fuentes’ capacity to absorb, transform, and transmit multiple voices.

Foster, David W. “La región más transparente and the Limits of Prophetic Art.” Hispania 56, no. 1 (March, 1973): 35-42. Insightful discussion of Fuentes’ use of myth and archetype in the novel. Describes myth as a unifying principle between the present and the past in Mexican history.

Guzman, Daniel de. Carlos Fuentes. Boston: Twayne, 1972. Overview of Fuentes’ work in a historical, social, psychological, economic, and cultural context. Bibliography.


Critical Essays


Teaching Guide