Carlos Fuentes, Mexico’s elegant public intellectual and grand man of letters, whose panoramic novels captured the complicated essence of his country’s history for readers around the world, died on Tuesday in Mexico City. He was 83.
His death was confirmed by Julio Ortega, his biographer and a professor of Hispanic studies at Brown University, where Mr. Fuentes taught for several years. He died at the Angeles del Pedregal hospital after his doctor, Arturo Ballesteros, found him in shock in his Mexico City home, The Associated Press reported. The doctor told reporters that Mr. Fuentes had had an internal hemorrhage.
Mr. Fuentes was one of the most admired writers in the Spanish-speaking world, a catalyst, along with Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Julio Cortázar, of the explosion of Latin American literature in the 1960s and ’70s, known as El Boom. He wrote plays, short stories, political nonfiction and novels, many of them chronicles of tangled love.
Mr. Fuentes received wide recognition in the United States in 1985 with his novel “The Old Gringo,” a convoluted tale about the American writer Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared during the Mexican Revolution. It was the first book by a Mexican novelist to become a best seller north of the border, and it was made into a 1989 film starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.
In the tradition of Latin American writers, Mr. Fuentes was politically engaged, writing magazine, newspaper and journal articles that criticized the Mexican government during the long period of sometimes repressive single-party rule that ended in 2000 with the election of an opposition candidate, Vicente Fox Quesada.
Mr. Fuentes was more ideological than political. He tended to embrace justice and basic human rights regardless of political labels. He supported Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, but turned against it as Mr. Castro became increasingly authoritarian. He sympathized with Indian rebels in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas and skewered the administration of George W. Bush over its antiterrorism tactics and immigration policies, calling them unduly harsh.
He was also critical of Venezuela’s leftist leader, Hugo Chávez, however, calling him a “tropical Mussolini,” and of his own country’s failure to stem its rampant drug violence. On the day he died the newspaper Reforma published a hopeful essay by him on the change of power in France.
Mr. Fuentes was appointed the Mexican ambassador to France in 1975, but he resigned two years later to protest the appointment of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz as ambassador to Spain. Mr. Díaz Ordaz had been president of Mexico in 1968 when Mexican troops opened fire on student protesters in Mexico City.
But it was mainly through his literature, Mr. Fuentes believed, that he could make his voice heard, and he did so prolifically and inventively, tracing the history of modern Mexico in layered stories that also explored universal themes of love, memory and death. In “The Death of Artemio Cruz,” a 1962 novel that many call his masterpiece, his title character, an ailing newspaper baron confined to his bed, looks back at his climb out of poverty and his heroic exploits in the Mexican Revolution, concluding that it had failed in its promise of a more egalitarian society.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment