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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Author Carlos Fuentes dies at 83

Novelist was key player in boom of Latin American literature

In 1997 interview, author said he did not want to investigate evidence that might disprove his assassination conspiracy beliefs

Fuentes also made recommendations of Mexican novelists to read

By David Gaddis Smith

carlos fuentesCarlos Fuentes, author of "The Death of Artemio Cruz" and "The Old Gringo," has died in a Mexico City hospital at age 83 with heart problems. He won the Cervantes Prize, Spanish literature's top honor, in 1987. Story, Associated Press.

The late Chilean novelist Jose Donoso credited Fuentes with being a forerunner in creating what came to be known as a boom in Latin American literature. "I see . . . Carlos Fuentes as the first active and conscious agent of the internationalization of the Spanish American novel of the 1960s," Donoso wrote in his  book "The Boom in Spanish American Literature." 

In December, after Institutional Revolutionary Party presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto got Fuentes confused with Fuentes' arch-critic Enrique Krauze in December, Fuentes lit into Peña Nieto, saying he did not belong on the world stage with other top leaders.

In a 1997 interview in San Diego, Fuentes told me that Mexicans were happy that the PRI had lost its overall majority in Congress earlier that year for the first time since the party was founded in 1929. Fuentes lauded the Mexican people for opting for democratic, as opposed to violent, change. But he said the PRI, while full of "dinosaurs," also had progressive politicians. In 2000, the PRI lost the presidency. This year, however, it appears that the PRI will be voted back into the presidency. It is unclear whether it and its Green Party coalition partner will obtain a congressional majority.

What I remember most about Fuentes was his ability to quickly synthesize information and also his closed-mindedness about conspiracy theories. When I told him about developments I had observed taking place in Mexico, he synthesized that information into a talk he gave shortly afterward. He was closed, however, to opening his mind to look at non-conspiracy possibilities in the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963 and PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio in Tijuana in 1994. Fuentes was not interested in taking a look at Gerald Posner's "Case Closed," which decimates many conspiracy theories in the Kennedy case; Fuentes' mind was made up. Nor was he interested into examining the Tijuana newspaper Zeta's reporting on the Colosio assassination, which found no conspiracy.

In the interview, Fuentes suggested that people interested in Mexican literature read the following:
• Juan Rulfo's "Pedro Paramo"
• Martín Luis Guzman's "La Sombra del Caudillo" ("The Shadow of the Tyrant")
• Mariano Azuela's "Los de Abajo" ("The Underdogs")
• Rafael Munoz's "Vamonos con Pancho Villa"
• Rosario Castellanos's "Balun Canan" and "Oficio de Tinieblas"
• Salvador Elizondo's "Farabeuf"
• Fernando del Paso's novels
• Sergio Pitol's novels