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>  News Releases >   2000 >   November

Influential novelist Carlos Fuentes to speak on Mexican politics

Posted 11/17/00

Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes will give a lecture at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 20, called "Mexican Election: Speaking from Mexico/Talking to the World." The lecture is open to the public and is in 3 Rockefeller Hall.

Fuentes' latest novel, The Years with Laura Diaz, published in October, features a female protagonist, an artist with strong political convictions who lives through a difficult 20th century Mexico.

Fuentes was born in 1928 in Panama and lived for most of his childhood in Washington, DC. His father was involved in Mexican politics. After graduating with a law degree from Mexico's National Autonomous University, Fuentes worked for the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. After a year, he returned to Mexico to begin a double career: diplomacy and literature. He worked in Paris for a few years as ambassador to Mexico, but became dissatisfied with Jose Lopez Portillo, the then Mexican president. He switched back and forth over the years from suporting to criticizing the government in Mexico, according to a 1999 article in Mexico Connect, a Web magazine.

One of the most influential and prolific writers in Mexico, he is credited with starting the El Boom phenomenon, an explosion of Mexican writings in the 1960s that introduced the unique style of magical realism, a mixture of reality and unreality, that catapulted Latin American literature into the world canon. According to a Latin American Literature page on Texas Wesleyan University's Web site, Fuentes's 1958 novel, La region mas transparente (Where the Air is Clear), and his 1962 novel, La muerte de Artemio Cruz (The Death of Artemio Cruz), are considered two of the most important works of the period. Where the Air is Clear is about a recreation of life in Mexico City in the 1940s and '50s, representing all social classes and criticizing Mexican society. Again including political life, he wrote The Death of Artemio Cruz about a group of patriarchs and their families during the history of Mexico's independence.

Other authors whose work became well known during the El Boom period are Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Julio Cortazar, Jose Donoso, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and mario Vargas Llosa, most of them in exile and working independently of each other. A common theme of the period is a strong belief in the cause of freedom, the Wesleyan site says. El Boom writers came into their own around the same time, writing more about their national identity, and gradually breaking free of imitating their greatest influences, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Jean-Paul Sartre and Franz Kafka. A concerted effort by publishing houses to translate and distribute El Boom writers' work contributed to their exposure and popularity.

Fuentes' visit to Dartmouth is part of two meetings of the Trans-Atlantic Work Group, which meets at Dartmouth on Monday and at Brown University on Tuesday. He will also deliver closing remarks of the group's open meeting, "Migrations and Culture," which starts at 9:30 Tuesday morning in the Faculty Lounge at the Hopkins Center. The visit is sponsored by the Trans-America Project, The Dickey Center and Brown University. For information about the visit, call the Dickey Center at 646-2023.

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