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The Old Gringo

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  1,411 ratings  ·  130 reviews
One of Carlos Fuentes’s greatest works, The Old Gringo tells the story of Ambrose Bierce, the American writer, soldier, and journalist, and of his last mysterious days in Mexico living among Pancho Villa’s soldiers, particularly his encounter with General Tomas Arroyo. In the end, the incompatibility of the two countries (or, paradoxically, their intimacy) claims both men,...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 20th 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 1978)
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Pedro Páramo by Juan RulfoThe Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writings by Octavio PazLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelThe Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos FuentesLos de abajo by Mariano Azuela
Mexican Literature
9th out of 94 books — 47 voters
Time To Let Go by Christoph FischerThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest HemingwayA Christmas Carol by Charles DickensThe Tempest by William ShakespeareThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Books About Old People
87th out of 254 books — 88 voters

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Community Reviews

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Such a simple plot: the old man goes to Mexico to die in the Revolution. All he wants is a dignified death. But of course, there is a woman involved, and a Mexican general.

This is a short book but it may as well have been War and Peace based on how long it took me to read it, maybe because it's written more like poetry than prose, forcing me to slow down, re-read, savor the language and question its meaning. There are more themes here than I can probably even recognize. Death, life, love, natio...more

لطالما رغبت بالقراءة لفوينتس. فهو أحد الأعلام الأدبية اللاتينية و هو ممن تخفف من الواقعية السحرية معتمداً على لغته الشعرية كما هو الحال بالنسبة لبيندييتي و الفارو موتيس. و له الفضل بالمناسبة بالأضواء التي سلطت لاحقاً على القارة اللاتينية المجهولة أدبياً آنذاك. و لكن الياس فركوح أخفق مرة أخرى في إقناعي بقدرته على الترجمة بعد أن أعرضت عن قراءة رواياته. من المتوقع هذا الفشل الذريع فالمترجم قام بترجمتها عن نص انكليزي مترجم هو الآخر بدوره، و إذا تذكرنا أن كارلوس فوينتس ممن يكتبون بلغة شعرية مكثفة فمن...more
In the end I came sort of round to the book, but lots of impediments to the liking.
Fuentes must have read all of Faulkner, then thought: so this is how one writes.
Too many convolutions, paradoxes, contradictions, enigmas, etc. of primal, mythic, esoteric etc. essence for me. And unfortunately not Faulkner's skill at making you feel like you really are peering into the heart of something very dark and mysterious, something which you really need and want to know about but never will.
I think Fuent...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Old Gringo was agony for me to read. Carlos Fuentes came to Houston a few weeks back and I drove in to see him. He was pretty much as I'd expected. An achingly handsome eighty-year-old man who writes poetic novels. And who sees life as experienced mainly through his manly body parts. This may work for his male readers. This may work for the parts of Old Gringo told from the point of view of his male characters like Pancho Villa and one of Villa's generals and even Ambrose Bierce. But it did not...more
Yesterday's Muse Bookstore
This is not a bad book. That being said, after reading Fuentes's Crystal Frontier and being powerfully moved, The Old Gringo fell a bit short. I was excited to read this modern classic, especially as it was inspired by the mysterious disappearance of Ambrose Bierce, an author whose life and work I find compelling.

While the hypothetical circumstances and characters Fuentes creates are believable, and there is some great symbolism here (particularly his comparison of the United States and Mexico...more
An utter waste of my time, except for one passage:

"...perhaps this man had been able to do what no one was supposed to: he had come home again, he was trying to relive one of the oldest myths of mankind, the return to the lar, the earth, the warm home of our origins.

That cannot be done, she told herself, and not only because very likely the place won't be there anymore. Even if it were, though, nothing could ever be the same: people age, things break down, feelings change. You can never go home...more
Robert Ross
I have long held a sense of admiration for Ambrose Bierce, in part for him as a writer, and also because he went to Mexico during its revolution, ultimately disappearing without a trace. Fuentes' novel gives a wonderful romanticism of his disappearance and death that is moving and realistic. Who knows in what way Bierce died, but I would like to think it happened something like this.
Even though this novel came to me as a highly recommended modern classic, I didn't appreciate it that much. This may have more to do with me & my state of mind, however, than the book itself. The novel is a highly atmospheric portrait of Northern Mexico in 1914 at the time of the Revolution. The prose is dense & circular. Two gringos, a 71 year old man (purportedly the journalist Ambrose Bierce) & 31 year old woman, Harriet Winslow, cross the U.S/ Mexico border for differing reasons...more
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“And the frontier in here?” the North American had asked, tapping her forehead.
“And the frontier in here?” General Arroyo had responded, touching his heart.
“There’s one frontier we only dare to cross at night,” the old gringo said. “The frontier of our differences with others, of our battles with ourselves.”

The old gringo has come to Mexico to die: for him, night approaches. And in this richly symbolic, dream-like book we watch as t...more
Fuentes' "The Old Gringo" picks up on the mysterious disappearance of the American writer Ambrose Bierce after he crossed the border into Mexico in late 1913, just when the Mexican Revolution was in full force. Fuentes imagines Bierce joining up with a group of revolutionaries connected to Pancho Villa and eventually finding the death that he so earnestly sought (no spoiler alert needed here since his death is signalled from virtually the novel's first page). But before that death, Bierce, now s...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
F.X. Altomare
Fuentes weaves a tightly knit tale about the mysterious final days of American writer Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared into Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. The characters are extremely well-wrought: Bierce (referred to only as the "Old Gringo" throughout the novel) is a tough-minded but disenchanted victim of a life of tragedy; Harriet Winslow is a tough-minded American schoolteacher facing abandonment issues; and Tomas Arroyo is a swaggering icon of one of Pancho Villa's self-declared Gene...more
This author just passes away and NPR gave him quite the send off, so when I stumbled across this book in the library I thought I would give it a try. Set in revolutionary Mexico, where an old gringo, a Civil War veteran and former Hearst reporter, has gone in the hope of being killed in some glorious action, instead of dying a slow death of old age. I don't read much literature and this book unfortunately had all the characteristics that I don't like in literature. It jumps around without clearl...more
Russell Bittner
I’m not really sure what to conclude about The Old Gringo, by Carlos Fuentes. The man clearly knows how to think — and to write. It’s just that I had enormous pains to follow a lot of his logic … or syntax … or punctuation … or pronominal reference (when he or the translator even bothered with pronouns) and to decide who was talking — or at least thinking.

It’s always difficult—possibly unfair — to judge a book by its translation. Perhaps I’ll simply quote what I believe to be the summary paragra...more
Jan 17, 2009 Michael rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not too many people

An occasionally entertaining blend of poetically charged "dream-biography", and incoherent babbling.

I would recommend not reading The Old Gringo if you want to know something about Ambrose Bierce; though in all fairness, you should probably never read a novel to teach yourself history. Anyway, it was not Fuentes' intention to be historically specific. The life and disappearance of his subject is a very difficult obstacle for any novelist, and instead of focusing our attention on the broad range...more
I HATED this book. I had to read it for a literature class and if it wasn't for that I would have thrown in out after the first few chapters. Most of the time I'm not sure what exactly is going on because the storyline jumps from past, present, and future without letting you know half the time. The same goes for the conversations, you don't know who is talking, whether they're thinking or speaking out loud, or whether they are speaking in the present or from the future. Usually once your partway...more
Moonquake Abbott
Forging a new idea of "America" (America as a physical and imagined space encompassing both its North and South varieties, not just the USA) is main gist of this novel in which an Ambrose Bierce, a US journalist from William Randolph Hearst's publishing empire goes to Mexico to simply die. The novel takes place during the tumultuous Mexican Revolution, making train robberies, the burning of haciendas, the empowerment of the poor and the in-fighting between rebels the order of the day.

Through th...more
Cezar Petriuc
A little too pretentious in style. Too often, a crucial background story was alluded to before it was actually introduced, making the narrative hard to follow even as late as halfway through the novel. The stream of consciousness attempts ended up building on the obscurity rather elucidating character. There were occasional sparks reminiscent of the mythical characters and moods from "One Hundred Years of Solitude". In general however, more could have been achieved by dissecting Bierce's philoso...more
The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes

There have been some good, if not great expectations about this book. I have read that Carlos Fuentes is the greatest writer of Mexico.
And I have a soft spot for Mexico: it may be the movies and the TV series like Viva Zapata, No Country for Old Men, Amores Perros, The Mexican, Babel, Breaking Bad and many others that take place in Mexico, have Mexican characters or just stumble across the border.
The border between Mexico and the United States is another reason to...more
Jose Villanueva
Una historia muy sencilla e interesante, basado en Bierce aquel escritor que decidió visitar México y morir en el, jamas se volvió a saber de el, de aqui Fuentes toma esto como base para su historia, una novela muy corta, se puede leer facilmente en un fin de semana, no lleva un argumento lineal, sino que da giros en el tiempo, con monologos de los personajes y saltos tanto en el futuro como en el pasado. No he leido mucho de Fuentes, solo la Silla del Aguila y sin emabrgo siento que las 2 novel...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lourdes Encinas
Lo leí en la prepa por una tarea (clásico) y no lo dimensioné en su momento. En una segunda lectura que le di su real valor. En determinados momentos sentí deprimente la suerte de los personales.

Carlos Fuentes es mi autor favorito. Me gusta su estilo fuerte y las referencias históricas que siempre hay en sus libros.
Colin Hinde
about a civil war vet and former muckraker who went to Mexico in a time of revolution to die, the revolutionary who killed him, and the woman who loved them both. I was alternating between boredom and fixation through this short novel.
"Un libro que no es una historia, eso es secundario. El libro es una serie de frases, cientos de párrafos repletos de reflexiones sobre la vida, la muerte, el amor, la tristeza, la añoranza y más, una vida resumida en pocas páginas, un país dibujado fácilmente, su gente narrada magistralmente. Carlos Fuentes no solo nos deja con la sensación de haber creado un libro íntimo, donde nos confía muchos de pensamientos, es algo más, algo que no sé expresar pues para mi tuvo un significado y tengo la s...more
Pablo Astorga
Gringo viejo es una excelente novela ambientada en el México revolucionario de principios del siglo XX.

Carlos Fuentes se basa en un hecho real (el viaje del periodista estadounidense Ambrose Pierce a México) para crear una novela de ficción que se centra en la historia de dos hombres y una mujer, y en cómo sus vidas se cruzan.

El autor utiliza la revolución de Pancho Villa como telón de fondo para esta historia, pero en realidad el texto va mucho más allá y presenta a unos personajes llenos de...more
Apr 15, 2014 Lourdes rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Almas pacientes y simpatizantes de Freud
Recommended to Lourdes by: Felipe
Las fronteras no son sólo geográficas: también quiebran el espacio interior de cada ser humano en un vitreaux irreparable. Algunas están hechas de miedo e impiden a las personas realizar sus deseos más ocultos. Otras, todas de soberbia, obstaculizan la apertura hacia los demás. En cualquier caso, todos los personajes de Gringo Viejo, la novela que hizo a Carlos Fuentes famoso en USA, tienen el coraje suficiente para cruzar estos límites autoinfligidos. Lo paradójico es que ninguno es más feliz o...more
Ned Mozier
This was brilliant, especially the finish. In the traditional style, it was a story that built on itself, revealed more to the reader with intentional pacing, and finished with a revelation. There was still much I didn't understand, but I think Fuentes may have done it intentionally since the story was told from an old, feeble protagonist from memory. It will be interesting to see if his other books have a cleaner narrative like Hemingway. He does resemble Hemingway in that he says little about...more
This book is by one of Mexico's most outstanding authors, and the prose is excellent. The author presents his viewpoint regarding who the Mexican people are and who Americans are and why it is extremely difficult for them to understand each other. He is a man who is well acquainted with both cultures, but his viewpoint is fundamentally Mexican and fatalistic. In the book the main characters clash as they interact with one another and are never able to bridge the gap between their cultures. The p...more
Christian Chavez
Old gringo a novel by Carlos Fuentes. Fuentes is known to be a good author and the book is a national bestseller, so I decided to read this book. An unnamed journalist, known by Old Gringo, goes to Mexico and find himself in the middle of the Mexican Revolution. Old Gringo bumps into the army of Pancho Villa, a leader of the Mexican Revolution. Old Gringo also meets a woman, Harriet Winslow who is interested in living the Mexican life.

The story is mainly Man vs. Man. Old Gringo has issues with...more
Laura Hancock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Carlos Fuentes Macías was a Mexican writer and one of the best-known novelists and essayists of the 20th century in the Spanish-speaking world. Fuentes 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 childhoo...more
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“Did you know we know we are all the object of another's imagination?” 3 likes
“And the frontier in here?" the North American woman had asked, tapping her forehead. "And the frontier in hear?" General Arroyo had responded, touching his heart. "There's one frontier we only dare to cross at night," the old gringo said. "The frontier of our differences with others, of our battles with ourselves.” 2 likes
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