The Death of Artemio Cruz

by Carlos Fuentes
Mexico. 320 pages. 1962.

The Death of Artemio CruzFirst translated into English more than a quarter-century ago, Fuentes’s acclaimed novel about modern Mexico has since gone through nearly 30 printings. Despite its popularity, the original English version often was unclear, obscuring Fuentes’s language and intent. MacAdam’s meticulous new rendering gives the English-reading public a fresh slant on the fictional Cruz, a newspaper owner and land baron.

The novel opens with Cruz on his deathbed, and plunges us into his thoughts as he segues from the past to his increasingly disoriented present. Drawn as a tragic figure, Cruz fights bravely during the Mexican Revolution but in the process loses his idealism—and the only woman who ever loved him. He marries the daughter of a hacienda owner and, in the opportunistic, postwar climate, he uses her family connections and money to amass an ever-larger fortune.

Carlos Fuentes manipulates the ensuing kaleidoscope of images with dazzling inventiveness, layering memory upon memory, from Cruz’s heroic campaigns during the Mexican Revolution, through his relentless climb from poverty to wealth, to his uneasy death.

Cocky, audacious, corrupt, Cruz, on another level, represents the paradoxes of recent Mexican history. —Publishers Weekly and other sources

About the author

Carlos FuentesCarlos Fuentes Macías (born November 11, 1928) is a Mexican writer and one of the best-known living novelists and essayists in the Spanish-speaking world. He has influenced contemporary Latin American literature, and his works have been widely translated into English and other languages.

When he was 30 years old Fuentes published his first novel, La región más transparente, which became a classic contemporary novel. It was innovative not only for its prose, but also by having a metropolis, Mexico City as its main character. This novel provides insight into Mexican culture, which is made up of a mixture with the Spanish, the indigenous and the mestizo, all cohabiting in the same geographical area but with different cultures.

His 1985 novel Gringo viejo, the first United States bestseller written by a Mexican author, was filmed as Old Gringo (1989) starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.

The author describes himself as a pre-modern writer, using only pens, ink and paper. He asks “Do words need anything else?” Fuentes mentioned that he detests those authors who from the beginning claim to have a recipe for success. In a speech on his writing process he mentioned that when he starts the writing process he begins by asking “Who am I writing for?”

Fuentes regularly contributes essays on politics and culture to the Spanish newspaper El País and the Mexican Reforma.

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