EVERY summer holiday when he was at school, Carlos Fuentes would stay with his grandmothers, one in Veracruz, on the steamy Gulf coast, the other from Mazatlán, near the badlands of Sinaloa on the Pacific. The women told the young boy stories, tales of Mexico, of revolution, of peasants who were leaving the land to make great cities, of bandits, of love and lust, of feud and food, of Indians, of Spaniards and baroque Spanish towns in America. He took these stories back with him to Washington, to Santiago, to Buenos Aires, to wherever his father, a Mexican diplomat, was posted (Carlos himself was born in Panama). The solitude of this peripatetic childhood turned the boy into a writer: he began to publish his stories when he was 11, and never stopped until the day he died.
The routine was always the same. He rose early and wrote, in longhand on the right-hand page of large blocks, later correcting on the left-hand page. E-mail he did not use, not even a computer. He was, in the old-fashioned sense, a man of letters. There were some 60 books, novels mainly but plays and essays too, as well as much political commentary and journalism. Afternoons and evenings, whether in Mexico City or London, where in recent decades he lived for part of each year to escape celebrity, were for reading (his tastes were wide, including Wordsworth), the cinema (a lifelong passion), for seeing friends and for seduction, at which he was a master. He was always elegantly dressed, his suits as sharp as his conversation; his verbal thrusts were often delivered with a wicked twinkle in his eye. A dandy, his detractors said, but women loved that in him. He claimed that his conquests included Jean Seberg and Jeanne Moreau, and perhaps they did.
Clearing the air
So prolific was his output that it was inevitably uneven. Some of the early novels will last the best. They are panoramic, richly-textured reflections on Mexican history, its underlying contradictions of world view between Indian and Spaniard and their sometimes awkward melding in mestizaje and in the country’s revolution of 1910-17. “La Región Más Transparente” (translated as “Where the Air is Clear”), his ambitious debut novel set in Mexico City, reflects on the challenge to Mexican identity posed by modernity. “The Death of Artemio Cruz”, published in 1962, chronicles the descent from the idealism of revolution to the cynicism of the long rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) through the life of a politician and newspaper tycoon enriched by graft.
他的太多產難免會造成不平衡。一些早期的作品將會維持在最佳。它們是墨西哥豐富歷史的完整寫照，印度人和西班牙人之間世界觀的根本矛盾，麥士蒂索人和這個國家在1910-17改革的一段尷尬融合。“La Región Más Transparente”（譯為“空氣清新的地方”）是他首次野心勃勃在墨西哥城寫的小說，反映了現代性對墨西哥身份提出的挑戰。1962年出版的“阿特米奧克魯斯之死”記錄了在從理想主義革命淪為制度革命黨（PRI）長期統治的犬儒主義背景下，他從一位政客變為報業大亨貪污肥足的一生。
The creative antagonism of the relationship between Spain and America was an obsession for Mr Fuentes, recurring in “Terra Nostra”, a sprawling historical fantasy, and “The Buried Mirror”, an extended essay. The narrator in “Artemio Cruz” imagines in a baroque church
西班牙和美國之間創造性的對立關系是富恩特斯偏執的意淫，并反復出現在一部叫做“Terra Nostra”的龐大歷史幻想中和一篇叫做“The Buried Mirror”的拓展性論文里。“阿特米奧克魯斯”里的敘述者想象在一個巴洛克風格的教堂里
“the fa?ade of the Conquest, severe yet jocund, with one foot in the dead Old World and the other in the New, which did not begin here but on the other side of the ocean: the New World arrived when they arrived; fa?ade of austere walls to protect their avaricious, sensual, happy hearts. You will enter the nave, where all that was Spanish will be conquered by the macabre smiling lavishness of Indian saints, angels, and gods.”
Mr Fuentes was a leading figure in the Latin American literary boom of the 1960s and 1970s, a friend of both Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa (as well as of Octavio Paz until their relationship was destroyed by an intemperate attack on Mr Fuentes in Mr Paz’s literary magazine). Many thought it unjust that he alone of these four did not receive the Nobel prize.
富恩特斯先生在20世紀六七十年代繁榮的拉丁美洲文壇是頭號人物，他是Gabriel García Márquez和馬里奧·巴爾加斯·略薩的朋友（也是奧柯塔維歐·派茲的朋友，直到他們的友誼被一篇寫在派茲先生文學雜志里對富恩特斯先生的過激批判所摧毀）。很多人認為四個人當中就只有他沒有得到諾貝爾獎這件事是不公平的。
He was no magical realist. His inspirations were Cervantes and Borges. His language was complex. He employed multiple voices and styles. His upbringing in two cultures, Latin American and Anglo-Saxon, made him both a Mexican and a universal writer.
He was a man of the left, but a democratic one. He was initially enthusiastic about both the Cuban revolution and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, but later criticised their authoritarianism. He had no time for Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, calling him a “tropical Mussolini”.
His later years were marked by personal tragedy. Both his children with Silvia Lemus, his second wife who was a television presenter, died before him, one of complications from haemophilia and the other from drug addiction. As Mexico descended into drug-related violence, his later novels became darker. “La Voluntad y La Fortuna” (“Destiny and Desire”) begins with the musings of a severed head, floating in the Pacific. He dismissed Enrique Pe?a Nieto, the PRI candidate and front-runner in Mexico’s presidential election, due on July 1st, as a lightweight, unequal to the country’s problems.
他的晚年基本上就是個悲劇。他的孩子和第二任夫人職業是電視節目主持人的西爾維婭﹒萊姆斯，都死得比他早，一位死于血友病的并發癥，另一位死于吸毒成癮。當墨西哥落入與毒品有關的暴力行為時，他的后期作品也變得黑暗起來。“La Voluntad y La Fortuna”（“命運與欲望”）以一只漂浮在大西洋上斷頭的沉思開篇。他不理睬Enrique Pe?a Nieto，制度革命黨的候選人也是墨西哥總統競選的領先人物，7月1日任期到期，他認為此人無足輕重，也沒有能力解決這個國家存在的問題。
Mr Fuentes was at home in Europe, New York and Mexico. But he still felt the pull of Veracruz, where Cortes and the Spaniards first landed. When asked in 2009 to write an article about his favourite museum for Intelligent Life, our sister magazine, he instantly offered to return to the Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa, the state capital, with its colossal Olmec stone heads and laughing figurines, the union of the sacred and the human. Veracruz, he declared, was “where I belong”.