Carlos Fuentes died today. He was 83. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and into this century, Mr. Fuentes was a tireless chronicler of Mexico. He was something America lacks: a public intellectual with a gilded pen. He wrote beautiful novels, biting essays, and hopeful stories. He also served as Mexican ambassador to France in the 1970s. He remained prolific until the end, publishing an article today in Reforma offering hope for the French presidency of Francois Hollande. When has the United States had anyone comparable? Mark Twain? We have politicians and writers, but a historical dearth of writers who engage the world beyond their literary stable. Imagine an American writer appointed as an ambassador. Perhaps we now live in a world where writers remain in their designated lane. Carlos Fuentes did not. He darted where his aesthetic, political, and moral interests guided him.
The Austin Public Library owns many works by Carlos Fuentes. Below are a few:
The Old Gringo fictionalizes Ambrose Bierce’s disappearance in the Mexican Revolution and was later made into a movie starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.
Perhaps his best known work, The Death of Artemio Cruz begins on the deathbed of a newspaper magnate. Through a series of interconnecting reflections, Fuentes tells the story of Cruz and modern Mexico.
In The Good Conscience Fuentes turns his attention to the evolution of morals and family loyalty. Jaime Ceballos vacillates between family loyalty and fidelity to his beliefs.
In A New Time for Mexico Fuentes analyzes problems of modern Mexico, including political disputes, repression of indigenous peoples, and poverty.
As the Mexican war on drugs escalated Fuentes wrote Destiny and Desire, a sad novel about the people caught in the crosshairs and narrated by a severed head.
On March 19, 2011 Carlos Fuentes incorporated a new medium, Twitter. He tweeted twenty-one messages that day and never used Twitter again. His final tweet reads: “There must be something beyond slaughter and barbarism to support the existence of mankind and we must all help search for it.”