Working name of Mexican writer and diplomat Carlos Manuel Fuentes Macías (1928-2012), active in both careers from about 1950, when he became secretary to the Mexican representative at the International Law Commission of the United Nations, in Geneva. From his first book – Los días enmaskarados (coll 1954; part trans Margaret Sayers Peden as Burnt Water 1980 US) – CF's fiction plays elaborate, Myth-saturated, Magic-Realism games around the problem of the Myth of Origin of the land of Mexico, both ancient and modern. His first novel, La región más transparente (1958; trans Sam Hileman as Where the Air is Clear 1960 US), is narrated by an Indian who is also an Avatar of the Aztec God of war, but who behaves in the modern world more like a Trickster than an entity it would be death for mortals to gaze upon. A play, Todos los gato son pardos ["All Cats Are Grey"] (1970), features a conflict of gods, each wearing the Mask of a man.
CF's most famous single novel, La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962; trans Sam Hileman as The Death of Artemio Cruz 1964 US), hints at Posthumous Fantasy in the reconciliation of various Doubles of the eponymous protagonist. Doubles – changes of skin (> Skinned) – appear throughout CF's work: gods double men, and vice versa; men and women double each other; avatars haunt creatures of the future. A typical example is Aura (1962 chap; trans Lysander Kemp 1965 US), a Supernatural Fiction in which a man is entrapped by the eponymous Ghost so that his identity may be taken over (> Possession) by the long-dead husband of the Witch who has controlled the action: in this case, echoing many 19th-century Doppelgänger tales, the double eats him. The complexities of doubling in La cabeza de la hidra (1978 Spain; trans Peden as The Hydra Head 1978 US), which slip in and out of supernatural realms, defy synopsis.
Terra Nostra (1975 Spain; trans Peden 1976 US) is an enormously complex, deeply ambitious attempt to incarnate the myth of Mexico within the scope of a single – albeit vast – novel. Alternate Realities – an early exploration of Mexico is confronted by an indigenous God of the land – interpolate and are interpolated by sf-like perspectives, conveyed mainly through a Frame Story set in 1999, at the close of which, in a kind of Licenza, various characters disrobe themselves of some of the identities they have worn, and a wedding ensues. Gringo viejo (1985; trans Peden as The Old Gringo 1986 US) presents a version of the last months of Ambrose Bierce which hedges into the supernatural. Nearly as complex as Terra Nostra, Cristóbal nonato (1987; trans Alfred MacAdam and CF as Christopher Unborn 1989 US) presents in nine sections the prenatal previsions of a namesake of the famous Columbus, who contemplates a near-future redemptive revolution in Mexico. Even at his most dazzlingly experimental, CF hews close to his central concern, which is to continue constructing a Story to shape his land. [JC]
other works: Cambio de piel (1967; trans Sam Hileman as A Change of Skin 1968 US); Un familia lejana (1980; trans Peden as Distant Relations 1982 US); Constancia y otras novelas para virgenes (coll 1989; trans Thomas Christensen as Costancia, and Other Stories for Virgins 1990 US); The Buried Mirror: Reflections on Spain and the New World (1992 US), a nonfiction study written in English.
Carlos Manuel Fuentes Macías