|Carlos Fuentes is one of Mexico's leading writers, known for his experimental novels and his social criticism. A lawyer by training, Fuentes published his first work, a collection of surrealist short stories, in 1954. The interaction of myth and history has been an important theme in his work. Fuentes is also the author of two absurdist plays, and collections of essays on American and Mexican writing and art.
|Carlos Fuentes was among the most respected writers in the Spanish-speaking world. The son of a Mexican diplomat, he was born in Panama and moved frequently throughout South America during his childhood, depending on where his father was posted. In 1936 the family moved to Washington, D.C., and during his four years there, Fuentes learned to speak English fluently. He later struggled, he told interviewers, with deciding "whether to write in the language of my father or the language of my teachers," but he ultimately chose Spanish because English had "a long and uninterrupted literary tradition [and] did not need one more writer." Although his parents were supportive of his desire to become an author, they also suggested that he study law as a backup. He took that advice and, like his father, entered Mexico's diplomatic service upon his graduation. Still, he found time to write, and his first novel, WHERE THE AIR IS CLEAR, was published when he was 30 years old. It met with great acclaim, and in the wake of that success Fuentes left his diplomatic job to write on a full-time basis. Over the course of his career he penned several novels, plays, short stories and pieces of nonfiction, and he was a major force in a movement known as El Boom, a resurgence of Latin American literature that took place in the 1960s and ?70s. Among his most widely praised books is THE DEATH OF ARTEMIO CRUZ (1962), in which an aging newspaper publisher looks back on his rise from poverty and participation in the Mexican Revolution. Although Fuentes never closely allied himself with a particular political party, preferring instead to maintain an ideology based on human rights and social justice, the U.S. government considered him a leftist, and in 1963 he was denied permission to enter the country. Members of Congress intervened, and by the end of the decade the ban had been lifted. Fuentes later taught at several American Universities, and in 1985 his novel, THE OLD GRINGO, became the first book by a Mexican writer to reach the best-seller lists in the U.S. (It was made into a film starring Gregory Peck in 1989.) Fuentes's many honors included the prestigious Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's highest literary honor, and he was repeatedly on the shortlist for the Nobel Prize.