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The Death of Artemio Cruz: A Novel (FSG Classics) Paperback – February 3, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
First 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. Cocky, audacious, corrupt, Cruz, on another level, represents the paradoxes of recent Mexican history. Written before Fuentes's masterpieces A Change of Skin and Terra Nostra, this novel, with its freewheeling experimental prose and psychological exploration, anticipates many of the author's later themes.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“This is more than a retranslation of a masterpiece. It amounts to a restoration: here is the magnificent book that Fuentes wrote originally, superbly rendered by Alfred Mac Adam into an English version that precisely meshes with Fuentes's Spanish.” ―Douglas Day
“Carlos Fuentes is perhaps the only living Latin-American writer who has it in him to do for his country what Euclides da Cunha did for Brazil in Os Sertoes, and to make the passion of the land's rebirth and repossession comprehensible to the outsider.” ―Anthony West, The New Yorker
“Remarkable, in the scope of the human drama it pictures, the corrosive satire and sharp dialogue.” ―Mildred Adams, The New York Times Book Review
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As I said, definitely echoes of Poe, and something of a page turner, but imagine that Poe had gone a little deeper, and wrote thoughtful and somewhat existential commentaries on life, death, and the nature of love.
I can't pretend to be an expert on Latin American Literature, (and I've never traveled south of the border), but it seems to me that Artemio Cruz is Mexico--of course, it's more complicated than that metaphor--but you have to read all the way to at least page 267 to understand that Mexico is "a thousand countries with a single name." In other words, if Mexico is like Artemio's life then both are powerful and powerless, a success and a failure, extremely poor and extremely rich, loving and hateful, courageous and cowardly, dazzling and dizzying, quiet and explosive. For Artemio is all of those--and by analogy, so is Mexico, or Latin America. Fuentes had to develop a narrative structure and voice that would show us Mexico (and Artemio) in a comprehensible way. But how do you show chaos as logical and tragedy as a sign of hope? Fuentes does it here.
One reviewer of this novel didn't like the narration switching back and forth between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person, and another cited "wordy lyricism," but, Readers, this novel attempts to create order out the astoundingly beauty of all of Mexico. This novel comes forth like the Aztecs and the Mayans, Cortez and Maximilian, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Emiliano Zapata, and Pancho Villa all rolled into one. From this mix, a terrible beauty is born. No wonder we Puritan Americans--raised on Nathaniel Hawthorne and Emily Dickinson--can't understand Latin American literature.
A key line to understanding this novel can be found early: "Who is he? How did he rise out of himself?" (97) These questions come from inside his wife Catalina's consciousness; she's wondering how Mexico came to produce someone like Artemio because he's not at all like her fine aristocratic father. Catalina desires Artemio but is disgusted by his origins and suppresses her natural love. My question is: How did the world come to the surface in Artemio? What is Mexico that it brought the Artemios into existence?
Cruz has been corrupt in his career, but Fuentes is showing us the points at which a man goes either one way or the other. The author shows us that the sheer naked will to survive horrible life circumstances can drive a boy to become this type of man, to do almost anything to survive, and that men are born into circumstances not of their own making, and they make history while trying to overcome these terrible circumstances. Another reviewer says that though Cruz was corrupt, he is not a monster. True; I don't think that a monster would have enough of a consciousness to think of other people on his death bed. Cruz seems to be dying of a bilious stomach disease which has eaten him from the inside out all his life. As a man, he is aching for love; he's sad and lonely in his triumph. His dying wishes might not be fulfilled, but he will perish with one thought on his mind, a tragic accident early in his life which resulted in a loss that haunts him to his death.
Maybe it just a personal reaction but I have NO doubt that the novels by C. Fuentes should be read by all. Of course, his style changed (doesn't that happen to all of us, in life or other things?) and of course he is no longer with us. I'm a TOTALLY unpolitical person, so don't misinterpreted me!