"What the United States does best is to understand itself. What it does worst is understand others." -- Carlos Fuentes
Carlos 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. Fuentes' generation of writers include Elena Poniatowska, José Emilio Pacheco and Carlos Monsiváis.
Fuentes was born in Mexico City, Mexico, to Mexican parents. His father was a diplomat, and he spent his childhood in various capital cities in the Americas: Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Washington, Santiago, Quito, and Buenos Aires. As an adolescent he returned to Mexico, where he lived until 1965. He was married to film star Rita Macedo from 1959 till 1973, although he was an habitual philanderer and allegedly, his affairs - which he has claimed included film actresses such as Jeanne Moreau and Jean Seberg - brought her to despair. The couple ended their relationship amid scandal and Fuentes then married journalist and now famous interviewer Silvia Lemus. Following in the footsteps of his parents, he became a diplomat in 1965 and served in London, Paris (as ambassador), and other capitals. In 1978 he resigned as ambassador to France in protest over the appointment of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, former president of Mexico, as ambassador to Spain. He has also taught courses at Brown, Princeton, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Cambridge, and George Mason University. He is currently teaching at Brown University. He was also a friend of the US sociologist C. Wright Mills, to whom he dedicated his book The Death of Artemio Cruz.
He fathered three children. Only one of them survived: Cecilia Fuentes Macedo, born in 1962, now working in television production. A son, Carlos Fuentes Lemus, died from complications associated with hemophilia in 1999 at the age of 25. A daughter, Natasha Fuentes Lemus (born 31 August 1974), died of an apparent drug overdose in Mexico City 22 August 2005, at the age of 30.
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.
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? "
He published Las Buenas Conciencias in 1959. This is probably his most accessible novel depicting the privileged middle classes of a medium-sized town, probably modelled on Guanajuato.
His 1960s novels, Aura (1962) and La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962) are acclaimed for using experimental modern narrative styles (including the second person form) to discuss history, society and identity.
In 1967, during a meeting with Alejo Carpentier, Julio Cortázar and Miguel Otero Silva, Carlos Fuentes launched the project of a series of biographies depicting Latin American caudillos, which would be called Los Padres de la Patria. Although the project was never completed, it provided the base for Alejo Carpentier's Reasons of State (El recurso del método, 1974) and various other Dictator Novels (novelas del dictador).
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.
In 1994, he published Diana, The Goddess Who Hunts Alone, a fictionalized account of his alleged affair with Jean Seberg. However, the authenticity of this adulterous liaison has been questioned several times.
Fuentes regularly contributes essays on politics and culture to the Spanish newspaper El País and the Mexican Reforma. He is a canny observer of Mexico-US relations and critic of the United States' policies in Latin America.