brian 's Reviews > The Death of Artemio Cruz

The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes
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Sep 30, 2008

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carlos fuentes is another one of those latin american writers that makes me hate myself. beyond his tremendous skill as a novelist, he's good looking, well dressed (the world was just cooler when novelists and film directors wore suits), worldly, dashing, daring, and claims to have slept with jean seberg and jeanne moreau. the bastard.

and then i came across an article he had written (first three paragraphs below) and now hate him as the series mentioned would probably be my favorite bunch of books ever written. and they don't exist. oh, and the 3 1/2 stars that this book deserves gets rounded down for this offense.

"In the fall of 1967 I happened to be in London at the same time as the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. We had both read, recently and with admiration, as well as a touch of envy, Edmund Wilson's portraits of the American Civil War in ''Patriotic Gore.'' Sitting in a pub in Hampstead, we thought it would be a good idea to have a comparable book on Latin America. An imaginary portrait gallery immediately stepped forward, demanding incarnation: the Latin American dictators.

Individuals such as Mexico's Santa Anna, the peg-legged cockfighter who lost the Southwest to President James K. Polk's Manifest Destiny; or Venezuela's Juan Vicente Gomez, who announced his own death in order to punish those who dared celebrate it; or El Salvador's Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, who fought off scarlet fever by having street lights wrapped in red paper; or Bolivia's Enrique Penaranda, of whom his mother said, ''If I had known that my son was going to be president, I would have taught him to read and write'' - all of them pose tremendous problems for Latin American novelists: How to compete with history? How to create characters richer, crazier, more imaginative than those offered by history?

Mr. Vargas Llosa and I sought an answer by inviting a dozen Latin American authors to write a novella each - no more than 50 pages per capita - on their favorite national tyrant. The collective volume would be called ''Los Padres de las Patrias'' (''The Fathers of the Fatherlands''), and the French publisher Claude Gallimard took it up instantly. Unfortunately, it proved impossible to coordinate the multiple tempos and varied wills of a wide variety of writers who included, if my recall is as good as that of Augusto Roa Bastos' character El Supremo, Mr. Roa Bastos himself, Argentina's Julio Cortazar, Venezuela's Miguel Otero Silva, Colombia's Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cuba's Alejo Carpentier, the Dominican Republic's Juan Bosch and Chile's Jose Donoso and Jorge Edwards (one of them promised to take on a Bolivian dictator). When the project fell through, three of these authors went on to write full-length novels of their own: Mr. Carpentier (''Reasons of State''), Mr. Garcia Marquez (''The Autumn of the Patriarch'') and Mr. Roa Bastos (''I the Supreme'')."

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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brian   speaking of... were you up here for the w. hollywood book fest and didn't lemme know, you ignorant jackass? better hope you don't run into me in a dark alley...

Marichee Excellent review! Beautifully written, clear, an yes, erudite. (Nods towards the "deleted member.") And I totally agree - given those reasons, Carlos Fuentes is a bastard. Hehehe.

I've loved Mr Fuentes since I started reading him in college.

And you did an awesome review of books that were never written!

Ravi Jain my sentiments exactly ... have you seen his dust-jacket photos for "Artemio Cruz"? And apparently he had an affair with Jean Seberg. Bastard.

message 4: by José (new) - added it

José Another Venezuelan did end up writing a novel about Gómez, though. Arturo Uslar Pietri and his "Oficio de Difuntos".

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