Vijf jaar geleden is de Mexicaanse auteur Carlos Fuentes op 83-jarige leeftijd in Mexico overleden. Ik heb van hem slechts één boek, “De kop van de hydra”, gelezen en dan nog niet eens helemaal. Destijds noteerde ik op mijn blog: “Ik zit op dit moment op p.59 (dus amper vijf bladzijden verwijderd van de ‘magische’ pagina 64) en ik begrijp er nog altijd geen knijt van. Is dit een humoristisch boek, in die zin dan dat men het werk van Franz Kafka ook als ‘humoristisch’ zou kunnen bestempelen? Of is dit juist een boek met bloedernstige thema’s zoals de jodenvervolging en over hoe “de slachtoffers van gisteren de beulen van vandaag zijn” (p.58)? Daarom ging ik een en ander opzoeken en waar kan ik dat beter doen dan op Wikipedia? Deze keer wel de Engelse versie, want de Nederlandse versie bestaat enkel uit een vertaling van het openingszinnetje in het Engels.”

Carlos Fuentes Macías (born November 11, 1928) is a Mexican writer and one of the best-known living novelists and essayists in the Spanish-speaking world. Fuentes has influenced contemporary Latin American literature, and his works have been widely translated into English and other languages.
Fuentes was born in Panama City, Panama; his parents were Mexican. Due to his father being a diplomat, during his childhood he lived in Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Washington, Santiago and Buenos Aires. In his adolescence, he returned to Mexico, where he lived until 1965. He was married to film star Rita Macedo from 1959 till 1973, although he was an habitual philanderer and allegedly, his affairs — which he has claimed include film actresses such as Jeanne Moreau and Jean Seberg – brought her to despair. The couple ended their relationship amid scandal and Fuentes then married journalist and now famous interviewer Silvia Lemus. Following in the footsteps of his parents, he also became a diplomat in 1965 and served in London, Paris (as ambassador) and other capitals. In 1978 he resigned as ambassador to France in protest over the appointment of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, former president of Mexico, as ambassador to Spain. He has also taught courses at Brown, Princeton, Harvard, Penn, Columbia, Cambridge and George Mason. He is currently teaching at Brown University. He was also a friend to the US sociologist C. Wright Mills, to whom he dedicated his book “The Death of Artemio Cruz”.
He fathered three children. Only one survives: Cecilia Fuentes Macedo, born in 1962, now working with TV production. A son, Carlos Fuentes Lemus, died from complications associated with hemophilia in 1999 at the age of 25. A daughter, Natasha Fuentes Lemus (born 31 August 1974), died of an apparent drug overdose in Mexico City 22 August 2005, at the age of 30.
Fuentes published his first novel, “La región más transparente”, at 28 years old, which became a classic contemporary novel. It was innovative not only for its prose, but also by having a metropolis, Mexico City as its main character. This novel provides an insight into the Mexican culture, which is made up of a mixture with the Spanish, the indigenous and the mestizo: all cohabiting in the same geographical area but with different cultures.
The author describes himself as a pre-modern writer, using only pens, ink and paper. He asks “Do words need anything else?” Fuentes mentioned that he detests those authors who from the beginning claim to have a recipe for success. In a speech on his writing process he mentioned that when he starts the writing process he begins by asking “Who am I writing for? “.
He published “Las Buenas Conciencias” in 1959. This is probably his most accessible novel depicting the privileged middle classes of a medium-sized town, probably modelled on Guanajuato.
His 1960s novels, “Aura” (1962) and “La muerte de Artemio Cruz” (1962) are well acclaimed for using experimental modern narrative styles (including the second person form) to discuss history, society and identity.
In 1967, during a meeting with Alejo Carpentier, Julio Cortázar and Miguel Otero Silva, Carlos Fuentes launched the project of a series of biographies depicting Latin American caudillos, which would be called Los Padres de la Patria. Although the project was never completed, it set the bases for Alejo Carpentier’s “Reasons of State” (“El recurso del método”, 1974) and various other Dictator Novels (novelas del dictador).
La cabeza de la hidra (The Hydra Head) was first published in 1978. This novel of international intrigue is set in Mexico and features the Mexican secret service. It is the story of the attempt by the Mexican government to retain control of a recently discovered national oil field. Secret agents from Arab lands, Israel and the United States attempt to wrest control of the source for their own purposes. In a plot thick with dirty tricks, violence, sex, amazing coincidences and betrayals, the novel’s movie-loving hero, Felix Maldonado, confronts the villains.
Fuentes’ 1985 novel “Gringo viejo”, the first United States bestseller written by a Mexican author, was filmed as “Old Gringo” (1989) starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.
In 1994, he published “Diana, The Goddess Who Hunts Alone”, a fictionalized account of his alleged affair with American actress Jean Seberg. However, the authenticity of this adulterous liaison has been questioned several times.
Fuentes regularly contributes essays on politics and culture to the Spanish newspaper El País and the Mexican Reforma. He is a stern critic of what he sees as American cultural and economic situations typically hidden from mainstream Mexican society.
Door Wikipedia wordt Carlos Fuentes tot het magisch-realisme gerekend. Dat is echter helemaal niet in de betekenis die o.a. Johan Daisne daaraan geeft. Hij sluit veeleer aan bij die typische Latijns-Amerikaanse stroming, waarbij de realiteit wordt doorspekt met magische elementen. Om een concreet voorbeeld te geven: in het begin van dit boek neemt het hoofdpersonage een goedkope taxi die tegen een en hetzelfde lage tarief zoveel mensen vervoerd als hij kan verstouwen. Zo nemen o.a. een stel nonnen, een jong koppeltje, een verpleegster enz. plaats in de taxi. Later blijkt dit toevallig bijeengeharkt ratjetoe allemaal een belangrijke rol te spelen in het verhaal. Om eerlijk te zijn, toen was het mij een beetje veel en heb ik uiteindelijk de lectuur opgegeven. Ik zat toen al op p.130, dus meer dan het dubbele van de magische pagina 64, maar toch heb ik hier dan maar een uitzondering op de regel toegepast.

Een gedachte over “Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012)

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