May 19, 2013 | 11:00 PM (BD Time)
19 May, 2013 Sunday
My memories with Carlos Fuentes
Kanan Purkayastha :
Carlos Fuentes, one of the best known novelists and essayists in the Spanish speaking world, died on May 15, 2012 at the age of 83 in Mexico City hospital. Born in Panama City in 1928, Fuentes full name was Carlos Fuentes Macias. According to the Spanish tradition Fuentes was his paternal family name and Macias was maternal family name. This essay presents his imagination and my memory meeting him in London.
Fuentes's first short story collection, Los Días Enmascarados (Masked Days, 1954) was followed by his first novel, La Región Mas Transparente (Where the Air Is Clear, 1958). The Times Literary Supplement, in their review of Fuentes published work states that "Many in Latin America and Spain have sought to deny the past. Fuentes, however, has always urged them to acknowledge and embrace it, to carry the corpse, however unappealing. The imaginative task he has pursued in an extensive and inclusive corpus of fictional work has been the exploration of what he sees as distinctive Hispanic condition……………what strikes the reader first in Fuentes' work may be his erudition and intellectual rigor, but what remain in his mind is his sympathy". This synopsis gives a clear picture of Fuentes imagination work. He compared a novel with an ancient market place in Greece, known as agora, where local citizen gathered and exchanged their ideas or opinion. He mentioned that, "We (means Fuentes and Milan Kundera) are disciples of the idea that the novel is the agora of many points of view, but also of not only a psychological reality or a political reality, but of many aesthetic realities that would otherwise have no languages."
Mario Vargas Llosa wrote about Fuentes after hearing his death news that " he was a universal man who knew many literatures in many languages, and lived his life committed to the great cultural problems of our times". In a recent BBC radio interview Fuentes said that books are innocent, but dictators do not think like that. So, they start burning books. He was the lover of such innocent book and tried to protect them through his pen.
It has been documented that he has written more than sixty books. But most famous of them is "the Death of Artemio Cruz". Daniel M. Gancedo, the professor of Latin American Literature once said about this novel where "Fuentes translated his political commitment into a fictional form combining technical experimentation and free fantasy". It is a tale set during the revolution and then fuelled by his achievements. In fact the main character of the novel is Artemio Cruz. In the end, Cruz has a heart attack. He was surrounded by his family, secretary, a priest and doctors and as Gancedo suggested "he faces the crossroads of a past and a future in which imagination and memory are mixed".
Carlos Fuentes was concerned with "time". He mentioned it as an "Internal clock". In his book "Myself and Others" he wrote, "Some time ago, I was travelling in the state of Morelos in central Mexico……….I stopped and asked…a labourer of the fields, how far it was to the village. He answered "if you had left at daybreak, you would be there now". This man had an internal clock which marked his own time and that of his culture. For the clocks of all men and women, of all civilisations, are not set at the same hour. One of the wonders of our menaced globe is the variety of its experiences, its memories, and its desires". Despite his long standing concern with time, as IIan Stavans put it, " nowhere in his oeuvre can one find an explicit tribute to, or even an insightful comment on, the science fiction tradition, which is to him altogether an alien territory". However, he has often praised Borges, whom he sees as a beloved mentor and liked his science fiction. Though Isaac Asimov or Jules Verne does not interest him, he was a loyal re-reader of H.G.Well's "The Island of Dr Moreau". In fact Fuentes was interested in chronological and cultural time and has limited interest in science fiction, but tried to distinguish between science fiction and mythic writing (also called magical realism).
Fuentes was a regular newspaper column writer. In his last column, published in the Mexican daily La Reforma the day he died, he endorsed the change of government in France and congratulate through his writing the return of bold thinking socialist Francois Hollande to power. Fuentes wrote, "within limits, socialism has been able to demonstrate what the right never even thought of doing".
In 2003, he came to the English Pen organised International Writer's Day event, where I was present. In his lecture he said, "if you think about what I did yesterday, I will stop thinking about what's happening to me now……Think yesterday". This reminds us about Mexico's obsession with its collective past and as a nation in love with mythological time. In a book signing event after lecture, I asked him to write something on the book "Myself with others"and he wrote "My dearest friend Kanan". Within a second I became his dearest friend. This is the character of Carlos Fuentes. This memory and his imagination will remind me how powerful writer he was in our time.
(The writer lives and works in United Kingdom)
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