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The Death of Artemio Cruz
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message 1: by Kristel (last edited Sep 01, 2019 03:45AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 3831 comments Mod
September 2019 BOTM The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes. (Spanish: La muerte de Artemio Cruz, pronounced [aɾˈtemjo ˈkɾus]) is a novel written in 1962 by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes. It is considered to be a milestone in the Latin American Boom. Carlo Fuentes was a Mexican novelist and essayist. His many literary honors include the Miguel de Cervantes Prize as well as Mexico's highest award, the Belisario Domínguez Medal of Honor. A child of a diplomat family, Fuentes lived in many places. He lived for several years in the US. He lived in Mexico for the first time when he was 16. Fuentes as an adult was a professor, writer, politician/diplomat. Fuentes' best-known novel, The Death of Artemio Cruz (La muerte de Artemio Cruz) appeared in 1962 and is today "widely regarded as a seminal work of modern Spanish American literature". Like many of his works, the novel used rotating narrators, a technique critic Karen Hardy described as demonstrating "the complexities of a human or national personality". The novel is heavily influenced by Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, and attempts literary parallels to Welles' techniques, including close-up, cross-cutting, deep focus, and flashback. Like Kane, the novel begins with the titular protagonist on his deathbed; the story of Cruz's life is then filled in by flashbacks as the novel moves between past and present. Cruz is a former soldier of the Mexican Revolution who has become wealthy and powerful through "violence, blackmail, bribery, and brutal exploitation of the workers". The novel explores the corrupting effects of power and criticizes the distortion of the revolutionaries' original aims through "class domination, Americanization, financial corruption, and failure of land reform".

Here are some questions to consider

1. Who is Artemio Cruz's biological father? As a child, does Cruz feel more affection for his father or for Lunero? Why?

2. In your opinion, did the rebels win the Mexican Revolution? Why or why not?

3. Cruz is an idealistic young man before Lunero's death, yet by the 1920s he is sly, deceitful and corrupt. What causes the change?

4. Author Carolos Fuentes suggests that idealism is a luxury only the young can afford. Do you agree?

5. Imagine how Artemio Cruz's life would have been different if he had not become corrupt. Write a paragraph explaining how his life would have turned out.

6, Do you agree that all wealthy people are necessarily corrupt? Why or why not?

7. Why does Artemio Cruz marry Catalina? Is the marriage a happy one?

8. What opportunity does Artemio Cruz recognize when he is imprisoned with the idealistic young Gonzolo Bernal?

9. This book has been compared to Citizen Kane, As I Lay Dying, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Have you read any of these? What do they share?

10. The power of idealism to prompt men to action is a theme that runs through The Death of Artemio Cruz. How does the author develop this theme in the book?


George P. | 406 comments I'm about half-way through reading the novel, so not prepared to answer most of the questions posed as yet. I have read another Fuentes novel, The Old Gringo- Artemio Cruz is much more modernist and experimental style than that, though there are some similarities of style. I am finding that i like the more traditionally-structured parts better.

4) Yes and no. I think the older person's idealism is generally much more modest. For example we don't think science will be able to "cure cancer" but believe that in the future we can do a lot better against it than we are now.

7) I think Cruz goes to Catalina's town thinking he may be able to somehow financially exploit his relationship with her deceased brother. He becomes smitten with her looks and figures he could take over the family estate (though it's not doing so well lately) if he marries her and thereby profit two ways.

9) I did read the novella or novelette The Death of Ivan Illyich, eight years ago according to my notes. The parts of A. Cruz that have the older Cruz do remind me of that, although my memory of it is somewhat hazy.


Book Wormy | 1822 comments Mod
1. If I have understood things correctly his father is a man called Atanasio who is a revolutionary who has overtaken an estate and basically raped all the women leaving several children of which Cruz is the first son.

Cruz has more affection for Lunero as it is him who has raised him, his father is a rapist who abandoned him and his grandmother refuses to let him into the family home.

2. Based on this book I have no idea about the real world. In terms of the story I would say no as it appears that the revolutionaries like Cruz are just as bad as the leaders they overthrow.

3. He has seen the love of his life hung for no other reason than the fact that those in authority knew her village had been helping the rebels. He has married a woman whom he thinks he loves only to learn that she hates him. He has been captured and escaped from the enemy. In short, circumstances make him what he is.

4. Yes I would agree I think the young are idealists the old are realists and cynics.

5. To do this you would need to rewrite his entire history as it is all those circumstances that lead to the corruption.

6, I don't agree but then I live in a country that has been peaceful for years (at least internally) yes there will be corrupt rich people but being rich doesn't mean you have to be corrupt.

7. I think he believes he loves her and at first he does what he can to please her. The marriage is not happy as she can't forgive him for the death of her brother and her resentment finally kills of his feelings for her.

8. That he can use lies to bargain for his life and his enhancement.


10. Not sure that we do see it developed we see it in the younger Cruz but not in the older and with the younger Cruz it turns to cynicism until he eventually becomes the very thing he was fighting against.


message 4: by Gail (last edited Sep 08, 2019 03:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gail (gailifer) | 1196 comments 1. Who is Artemio Cruz's biological father? As a child, does Cruz feel more affection for his father or for Lunero? Why?

Artemio's biological father is the first son of the estate owner where he was born. His mother was a worker on the estate and Lunero was his uncle, his mother's brother. Cruz was named after his mother, had the green eyes of his father and loved Lunero because he was the only father, and the only family he had ever known.

2. In your opinion, did the rebels win the Mexican Revolution? Why or why not?
As the Mexican Revolution was actually a civil war and not their war of independence, the "rebels" won in that they briefly united the middle class, the labor unions and the agrarian workers (peasants) and solidified a government. However, the generals and their armies splintered with Huerto being conservative and Pancho Villa and Zapata both fighting for peasant's rights and land reform. Carranza emerged as the victor and there was some recognition of societal reform and the establishment of a constitution but much work was needed for true reform. The war was particularly ugly because of the splintering....in the book you read about the men once going to fight for their rights, then fighting for loyalty to their general and lastly not knowing what they were fighting for.

3. Cruz is an idealistic young man before Lunero's death, yet by the 1920s he is sly, deceitful and corrupt. What causes the change?

Cruz makes choices, some of the seemingly small and some of them larger in the face of death or in the face of other people's deaths. He does not stand by and take care of one of his wounded soldiers as that would have been certain death to himself and would not save the wounded solder. He loses his idealism as a consequence. He makes a choice to shift sides when he realizes that all is lost and he doesn't care which side he is on as they are both corrupt and one side at least promises life versus death. After losing his first love he has a different relationship to death and to time and starts to make decisions based on what would be best for his own material wellbeing.

4. Author Carolos Fuentes suggests that idealism is a luxury only the young can afford. Do you agree?
The author does an excellent job of showing the relativism of an ideal. The civil war in Mexico is a classic example of idealism being kidnapped by power struggles. The ideal of one man may be the sin of another. As he grows older Artemio Cruz is loyal only to his memories, to his ideal loves as remembered by him and to his own wealth and need for respect.

5. Imagine how Artemio Cruz's life would have been different if he had not become corrupt. Write a paragraph explaining how his life would have turned out.
I thought the book did a great job of sketching out the possible lines of divergence in Artemio's life choices. To begin he could have grown up as a simple peasant working on someone else's estate if he had not made that first decision to attempt to stop "change". Truly, for many of his choices if he had selected a different path he would simply be dead. On the other hand, at many points in his life he could have said okay, from here on out I am going to change and care about my wife and my family and live a humble small life away from power. Would his enemies have allowed that, would they have let him go away and lead a small humble not corrupt life? Fuentes does not suggest that was ever a true option. If Cruz lead a small life and had not worked so hard to break the unions, or control the press or use the government officials, would his wife have loved him more? In the end, you feel that Artemio himself does not regret most of his choices, he questions them, he contemplates them, but he does not appear to regret most of them. His regrets appear to be only that he is dying without having the time to really live his life again through his memories and he regrets not being able to love fully Regina, Catalina, Lara and Lilia who to him are one person, one ideal and one regret. He also fully regrets the choice of taking his son away from his mother and that son making a life choice in line with his father's choices to go and fight in the Spanish civil war. He also is angry that his death has no dignity.

6, Do you agree that all wealthy people are necessarily corrupt? Why or why not?
In the context of the book, the implication is that during this era in Mexico, it was a form of corruption that built wealth. However, when a whole economic system supports corruption one wonders what individual's choices are. Remain a peasant? Live a good decent life of starvation and soul crushing labor? If you are a Christian, perhaps to die from an assassin with one's ideals intact like Pancho Villa died may be a better choice. I do not believe that all wealthy people are corrupt. I do believe that there are many economic systems in the world that foster corruption.

7. Why does Artemio Cruz marry Catalina? Is the marriage a happy one?

Artemio sees her and desires her as an ideal. He continues to love her as that ideal even though he no longer has anything to do with her practically. He even says "no" to a truer love, Lara, to continue to hold onto the old ideal of Catalina. It also doesn't hurt that marrying her gives him some legitimacy in his taking over her father's estate.

8. What opportunity does Artemio Cruz recognize when he is imprisoned with the idealistic young Gonzolo Bernal?
Gonzolo introduces him to the facts about his father's estates and that he has a sister Catalina. It is in conversations with Gonzolo that Artemio makes choices about living and what kind of death he would chose to have in the face of both sides being compromised in their ideals. He does not mourn for Gonzolo although he does nothing to save him.

9. This book has been compared to Citizen Kane, As I Lay Dying, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Have you read any of these? What do they share?
I read The Death of Ivan Ilyich relatively recently and the two books share the inner dialogues and reminisces of a dying man. However, in Tolstoy's story the dying man is someone who had never made life decisions based on life and death and is now looking at death for the first time. In The Death of Artemio Cruz, Cruz has faced death many times, is intimate with death, has chosen life on his own terms repeatedly in the face of death and now struggles to remember his life in order to postpone just a touch longer the inevitable. Artemio Cruz is all about who he was, is and could be in the future. He has always lived in these parallel lives, so his thoughts on death are very different than Ilyich's.
Also, I think that both books are really masterful.

10. The power of idealism to prompt men to action is a theme that runs through The Death of Artemio Cruz. How does the author develop this theme in the book?
Fuentes, by sharing Artemio's life with us in non-chronological order, is able to build in us a version of Artemio who is rarely idealistic. We are shown his idealism only after we know what he is capable of outside of his idealism. However, by ending the book more or less on the first deciding act and on the choice of his son to live up to Artemio's original ideals and sacrifice himself to those ideals in a way that Artemio never did, you do feel the power of idealism and also the way it can rot if left in the wrong hands.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 1. Who is Artemio Cruz's biological father? As a child, does Cruz feel more affection for his father or for Lunero? Why?

I believe that Artemio's biological father is the son of the estate owner where he was born. Lunero was his maternal uncle. Cruz loved Lunero because he was the only father he ever knew. Lunero was the real father, in this case, despite biology.

2. In your opinion, did the rebels win the Mexican Revolution? Why or why not?

The Mexican Revolution was actually a civil war and I don't feel there was a clear winner in that both sides had victories. The "rebels" briefly united the middle class, the unions and the poor.
They helped to solidify a government. However, the generals and their armies left Huerto. Carranza eventually won, and a constitution was written. This war reminded me a bit of the way our fighting forces felt in Vietnam -- the soldiers didn't understand what they were fighting about.

3. Cruz is an idealistic young man before Lunero's death, yet by the 1920s he is sly, deceitful and corrupt. What causes the change?

The person he loved most was hung just because of the place she lived. He is married but has learned that she hates him. He was taken by the enemy and had to escape. It is no wonder he has changed for the worse!

4. Author Carolos Fuentes suggests that idealism is a luxury only the young can afford. Do you agree?

I don't know if they are the only ones that can afford it... but I do think that older people become more cynical.

5. Imagine how Artemio Cruz's life would have been different if he had not become corrupt. Write a paragraph explaining how his life would have turned out.

I don't think I have the ability to write this paragraph. I feel as though to rewrite something as essential as this personality trait I would have to rewrite his entire history.

6, Do you agree that all wealthy people are necessarily corrupt? Why or why not?

No. I think the corruption came from the political system. I do believe that there are corrupt poor people as well as wealthy ones.

7. Why does Artemio Cruz marry Catalina? Is the marriage a happy one?

He is idealistic and has her on a bit of a pedestal. It is sad to me because he even turns away a woman who offers him a truer, two-sided love. The cynic in me would attribute much of it to her father's wealth, but I think it is much more than that. I think he is so damaged from all that came before that he thinks this is what he deserves. Of course that is the sappy part of me extrapolating...

8. What opportunity does Artemio Cruz recognize when he is imprisoned with the idealistic young Gonzolo Bernal?

He finds some power in understanding how the system works and realizes that he can lie, bargain, marry, do anything he can to stay alive and to gain some power.

9. This book has been compared to Citizen Kane, As I Lay Dying, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Have you read any of these? What do they share?

I have read the latter two. I honestly didn't see the comparison to either of them while reading this one. While I thought this book was good. I liked Tolstoy's better and Faulkner's even better.

10. The power of idealism to prompt men to action is a theme that runs through The Death of Artemio Cruz. How does the author develop this theme in the book?

I felt like Cruz was rarely idealistic and became less so... not sure I agree with the premise of this question.

My review will go up soon.


George P. | 406 comments Kelly wrote: "I believe that Artemio's biological father is the son of the estate owner w..."

I finished this morning. I enjoyed reading your comments and review Kelly.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments George P. wrote: "Kelly wrote: "I believe that Artemio's biological father is the son of the estate owner w..."

I finished this morning. I enjoyed reading your comments and review Kelly."


thanks George


Amanda Dawn | 905 comments 1. Agree with comments above. He has more affection for Lunero who actually raised him.

2. The initial and immediate goal to remove Diaz from power and institute a functional democratic constitution succeeded. But the more radical revolutionary faction of Pancho Villa didn’t really end up getting what they wanted, based on my understanding. Wealth inequity and corruption remain huge issues in Mexican politics to his day.

3. I agree with another comment that he was pretty conniving before as well, but we definitely see an increase in the devils of his nature after Lunero’s death. Disillusionment in the progression and mire of the revolution fuels this change, particularly with Lunero’s unjust hanging contribute to this. As does his dismal personal life/marriage.

4. Emphatic NO.I think he is right in that I think there is a tendency of people to get less idealistic as they age due to disappointments in the world, and feeling like the change they fight for doesn’t happen. But. On the macro scale, it usually does if people refuse to become too cynical, it just takes far longer than it should. I mean the civil rights movement and the women’s suffrage movement took generations to get their basic goals, and even now, racial and gender equality haven’ been fully met. But if people like MLK and the suffragettes just gave up: would we even have the progress we have now? I don’t see idealism as a luxury, I see it as a necessity, even if it is a hard ad unnatural position to take. And (side rant), that is something that often frustrates me about many people in my parent’s generation and the one before it having that “well nothing really changes anyway no matter what you do” attitude (usually accompanied by condescension about caring). Of course nothing changes in the face of mass apathy. Conversely, given the climate, political, and economic conditions my generation inherited I actually think apathy and cynicism is a luxury we can’t afford. But anyway….

5. Who knows? Possibly he would have lived a peasant on the estate forever, but perhaps there would have also been many unexpected opportunities had he not been corrupt either and still turned out successful. That’s what kind of bothers me about the hindsight being 20/20 idea: we don’t know how anything would turn out except for what happened.

6. Not necessarily, but I think it depends how they accrued their wealth and how they respond to it. Like Disney heiress Abigail Disney works as a documentary maker on social issues, is an anti-poverty advocate, regularly refuses family shares embroiled in uncontainable work conditions, openly speaks about not having earned or deserving her wealth, and has even come after Disney Corp itself for CEO compensation and working conditions (I think she’s pretty cool lol). But, I firmly believe that if you are a billionaire you are inherently corrupt. I know that’s a bit of a controversial position, but either you have inherited this wealth you didn’t earn and have hoarded it to the detriment of the world, or you have made it off the labour of others not equivalent to your own productivity (as it is impossible to be that many orders of magnitude more productive than any worker) and are hoarding it to the detriment of humanity. As far as millionaires go, I feel like it’s a bit more ambiguous, but I often feel the same way: that degree of discrepancy of wealth between you and your workers/the average person at that point means you have taken an unrepresentatively large chunk of profit from collective labour, and if you collect it without substantially redistributing it, I do think that is corruption whether it is legally or not.

7. Financial and elitism gains, and due to that being the foundation they are unhappy together.

8. This is largely where he learns his lessons in deceit.

9. I read Death of Ivan Ilyich: yeah it’s about a man slowly dying in agony and going over his life. Super similar.

10. It feeds the sections about his involvement with the revolution to a degree- but more so in his son’s choice.

I liked this book overall and I really like the sections from it where it addresses the nature of moral ambiguity, but I did find myself weaving in and out of attention at times due to the structure.


Diane | 1943 comments 1. Who is Artemio Cruz's biological father? As a child, does Cruz feel more affection for his father or for Lunero? Why?
Cruz is the illegitimate son of the heir to the hacienda where he was born. He was conceived by rape. He feels most affection toward his uncle Lunero who raised him and treated him like his own son.

2. In your opinion, did the rebels win the Mexican Revolution? Why or why not?
Yes and no. They won the fight, but didn't necessarily win all that they were fighting for in the first place.

3. Cruz is an idealistic young man before Lunero's death, yet by the 1920s he is sly, deceitful and corrupt. What causes the change?
His quest for justice as a revolutionary and his state of disillusionment lead him to make poor choices and become deceitful, dishonest, greedy, and violent. He essentially becomes just like the people he is fighting against in the revolution.

4. Author Carlos Fuentes suggests that idealism is a luxury only the young can afford. Do you agree?
I would not agree. Idealism definitely fades with age and exposure to the realities and hard knocks of life.

5. Imagine how Artemio Cruz's life would have been different if he had not become corrupt. Write a paragraph explaining how his life would have turned out.
He would have remained a poor peasant with few prospects, but he probably would have been a happier man.

6, Do you agree that all wealthy people are necessarily corrupt? Why or why not?
Absolutely not. I think a few bad apples give the rest a bad name. I do think that the wealthy have an obligation to share their wealth and influence to the betterment of society and that they should acquire and maintain their wealth in an ethical way. In the book, the political system did foster corruption among the wealthy.

7. Why does Artemio Cruz marry Catalina? Is the marriage a happy one?
Cruz uses the information obtained in prison from Bernal to blackmail his sister, Catalina, into marriage. Knowing that women are not allowed to own property, he marries her in order to inherit her land when her father dies. He uses this as a starting point to accrue more wealth. The marriage is loveless and not happy.

8. What opportunity does Artemio Cruz recognize when he is imprisoned with the idealistic young Gonzolo Bernal?
To betray Bernal and take his inheritance.

9. This book has been compared to Citizen Kane, As I Lay Dying, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Have you read any of these? What do they share?
I have read The Death of Ivan Illych. It is similar in that it is a man who reviews his life during his last days. I didn't read Citizen Kane, but I watched the movie a long time ago. It also has a theme of looking back upon one's life with regrets. "Rosebud" sticks in my mind.


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