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The ‘Transopolitan’ Novelist : Carlos Fuentes, Mexico’s Provocative Broker Among Cultures, Uncovers a New Vision of Latin America in the Rich Layers of Its Past

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<i> Anthony Day, a senior correspondent for The Times, has known Fuentes for 10 years</i>

IT IS HALF PAST 2 ON AN unseasonably rainy winter’s day in Mexico City. Carlos Fuentes, the internationalist Mexican writer, is drinking a pre-lunch martini in a bar in the Hotel Camino Real. We have been talking, on and off, for three days, about his work, himself and his ideas, his conception of the art of literature as he practices it, his view of what changes, what endures and what is to come in Mexico and Latin America.

I ask him about sex in his novels. It has occurred to me that it was fairly explicitly presented in his early novels in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s but has become even more so, or even funnier--at this he laughs--or more serious or grander or more ignoble as his books go on.

“That’s right. Let me tell you, with an anecdote,” he says. “It was in 1959, I think. I went with (exiled Spanish filmmaker) Luis Bunuel and (French filmmaker) Louis Malle to the National Auditorium in Mexico City to an exhibition of films that had been given prizes all over the world. We were watching Malle’s ‘The Lovers’ with Jeanne Moreau. There is a moment in which it is indicated that the lover of Jeanne Moreau goes down on her and she . . . has a kind of orgasm; then the audience screams in shock, in horror. The bestiality of 5,000 Mexicans screaming the most horrendous things you can imagine made Louis Malle almost tremble and sweat. He said, ‘I didn’t mean--I didn’t want this to happen. What is going on? Why this response?’ ”

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As he speaks, Fuentes gazes at me directly with animated dark eyes. His presence commands attention. Of medium height, he carries himself straight and dresses with elegance, whether in jeans, or as now, in a dark suit. His wavy, black-gray hair is ample and carefully combed back; his mustache and eyebrows are black.

“Today you can go to see the best Mexican film of the last year, ‘La Tarea,’ (‘Homework’) in which a woman for her homework at the university decides to film herself and her lover. They’re naked, they make love, it is absolutely visible frontal nudity--and in the audience there is not a whisper.

“Which means that Mexico has gone through a sexual revolution in which the presence of women--their civilized force--the greater maturity of males, the downgrading of the macho culture, general development, I guess, have made Mexicans far more serene sexually. Is this good or bad? I do not know, I do not know.

“Women have forced the Mexican male attitude toward women to change. Women are so present, so independent in Mexican society today that it is impossible to deal with them as in the past. It is as though the companions, the camp followers, of the Mexican Revolution were suddenly wearing miniskirts and dressed by Chanel. There she is in your office with you: She isn’t wearing a rebozo (shawl) or carrying a gun anymore, but she is demanding as much respect as the women fighters of the Revolution,” he says with a laugh.

Erudite, easy and articulate, Fuentes treats conversation as a literary form in which he delivers the points of his stories with little shocks of surprise and enlightenment. And the eye of the novelist and the scope of the historian are ever on display.

At 63, Carlos Fuentes stands with a handful of other people at the summit of the world’s literature. You can buy all his novels and stories in any decent American bookstore and throughout the Spanish-speaking world. They are required reading in French universities and popular in Germany and England. Fuentes has lectured at Harvard and Cambridge; given the commencement address at Harvard; received from the hand of King Juan Carlos of Spain his nation’s Cervantes Prize for Spanish literature and served as his country’s ambassador to France. And his many commentaries on politics and history have established him as the leading Mexican interpreter of Mexico to the United States.

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Now, like other Latin American writers in this year of the quincentenary of the arrival of Columbus, Fuentes is turning increasingly to history to understand and to explain both the roots of the Latin American contradictions and the possibilities for its civilization in the future.

In his fiction and journalism, he vivifies the past in the present and projects into the future a vision of a new kind of society for his Mexico and his Latin America. He has just finished a work of three years, a five-part television series called “The Buried Mirror: Reflections on Spain and the New World,” in which he offers his view of the sweep of the Spanish-speaking world from its beginnings in Spain to its culmination in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Madrid and Los Angeles. The series, which airs on the Discovery Channel starting tonight, is “one man’s version of his culture,” he says. “Everyone should be obliged to do that sometime in his life. To make him think: ‘What is your culture? Where do you come from?’ ”

The hour is approaching 5. Fuentes, whose family joined us for a leisurely lunch in one of the hotel’s restaurants, has been lovingly attentive to his mother, a beauty at 82 as she was as a young women; to his wife of 18 years, Sylvia, an interviewer for Mexican public television, and to his teen-age son, Carlos, who is struggling with questions about school and career. Fuentes excuses himself. He has an appointment, and after that, the president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, has asked him to drop by.

“GOD DIDN’T GIVE CARLOS HIS WORDS,” SAYS A LOVING FRIEND. “He has worked at it. He has done it all himself.” He has worked with dogged energy since his teens, creating in his fiction, with will and imagination, a world more real than that which the eye alone can see.

When Fuentes is writing fiction, he works from 8 until 1 every day, including weekends, then reads. He writes in longhand on yellow pads, then edits as he transcribes his work on a favorite manual typewriter, producing six or seven typed pages a day. He gives them to Cecilia, his 29-year-old-daughter from his first marriage, to actress Rita Mazedo. Cecilia types them into a personal computer, then returns the work to her father, who revises. She retypes until it’s right.

Fuentes is an intellectual, a thinking man of letters. He did not stumble upon the worlds he presents in his books, but constructed them out of his literary experiences and his ratiocinations upon the nature of reality and the role of literature and art in bringing reality into being. These are the themes ever-present in his work: What is real is not real until it is named; we imagine what we desire, we give it a name, it becomes real. Truth is not unitary, but, since the world of the Renaissance, consists of duality and the tension between the appearance and the reality of things.

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His former American editor, David Rieff, characterizes him as a writer who deliberately set out to limn human life and history much in the manner that the 19th-Century novelist Honore de Balzac did in “The Human Comedy.”

Indeed, Fuentes says Balzac was a great influence because of his “extraordinary capacity for the social canvas and for the realistic portrait of the society, but always combined with the fantastic element. This mixture of what is visible and what is invisible in life and society and human beings--and the capacity of literature to give you the invisible in words--this really became essential to my conception of writing since my teens.

“It’s, ah, the way I see life. Because you know I think it is very important for a writer to write about what he doesn’t know,” Fuentes says. “I find it facile at times to write about what you know. But writing about what you don’t know is wonderful adventure. It plunges you into realities, invisibilities, that you hardly suspect.”

Fuentes is speaking in English, in which he has been fluent since his childhood and early years at the Henry D. Cooke Public School in Washington, one of the numerous postings held by his late father, Rafael, a Mexican diplomat--”He considered himself a sort of gypsy with top hat.” Fuentes’ English is exact, punctuated by laughs of surprise and pleasure, as if he were encountering the world’s beauty and mystery and comedy for the first time. When he warms to a subject, his speech accelerates until it is almost as rapid as his cultured Spanish.

“The Campaign,” a historical novel of Latin American independence from Spain that was published in English last year, is the most recent of a long line of novels, novellas, stories and plays that began in 1958 with “Where the Air Is Clear” and includes “Aura,” “The Death of Artemio Cruz,” “Terra Nostra,” “Burnt Water,” “The Old Gringo” and “Christopher Unborn.”

“The Campaign,” though it has its fantastical and dreamlike elements, seems more sparely written than most of his earlier works. Fuentes explains that though he had used baroque language in those works to render the complexities of his country (“Mexico is not a simple country, it is not a spare country”), “I felt personally that I have more or less exhausted a certain vein of experimentalism in fiction and word play. It’s the culmination of my modernistic approach to writing. There is a certain exhaustion of the veins of the 20th-Century vanguard.”

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He, along with Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa and the late Argentine Julio Cortazar, broke with flat naturalism in the 1960s, he says, and produced works in a surrealistic style called by some “magical realism.” And that style, he says, is yielding to a new one.

“Just as there was a great sense of experimentation in the 1960s, there is a blooming of the historical novel in the 1990s. As we come to the end of the century and as we go through the ordeal of 1992 and the quincentennial, there is a need to clarify our history, to understand who we are and what we have done. So ‘The Campaign’ is also part of that trend”--as is Garcia Marquez’s tale of the last days of liberator Simon Bolivar, “The General in His Labyrinth,” and “1492,” the Mexican novelist Homero Aridjis’ tale of Spain in the fateful 15th Century.

“There is a beautiful element in being able to reach a certain age, because you feel that you have been able to write the books that you wanted to write when you were 20 and didn’t know how to write them,” he says. “And invariably they are simpler books than the books you began with. I’m now reaching some kind of classical plateau, I think. ‘The Campaign’ is that kind of book exactly. I’ve learned my own lessons and I can write all those books I’ve had in my mind since I was a teen-ager, almost.”

WE BEGAN OUR RECENT TALKS IN THE LIVING ROOM OF HIS HANDSOME, modern home on a narrow cobbled street in an old village, now a suburb,in southern Mexico City, continued them over a rainy weekend in the home of a mutual friend in the small, ancient village of Tepoztlan, on the other side of a mountain from Mexico City, and finished them over the martini.

In this quincentenary year, Fuentes is almost endlessly on the road, traveling and speaking. In February, he, Garcia Marquez and others put on an international conference of intellectuals in Mexico City to discuss the end of the Cold War. Then to the Netherlands, for a speech. Over the next months, he said, he would give an address at Cambridge University, travel to the United States to promote his new book and television series and give three lectures on Latin American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, address the Norwegian Parliament, visit the University of Madrid for a week devoted to his work, and, after several more stops, including Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on Sept. 26, deliver a lecture at Brown University. “Then,” he says with a laugh, “I hope I’m left alone.”

“I am a ‘transopolitan,” ’ Fuentes says pridefully and ruefully. Born in Panama, he lived with his diplomatic parents in Ecuador, Uruguay, Brazil. He spent six years in Washington, then, in his formative teen-age years, in Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires. “I think I did get to understand the world from the perspective of being in contact with other cultures,” he says. “You know, I could have easily been an Argentinian or a Chilean. It is just the fates.”

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His father encouraged him to explore literature, art, films and the life of the mind, and along with his friends he started writing in Washington, in English, “the lingua franca of the modern world.” Yet this almost-exiled son of a diplomat came to understand that his identity was Mexican. “I wanted to write, and I wanted to write in order to show myself that my identity and my country were real. In Chile, as I started to scribble my first stories . . . I learned that I must in fact write in Spanish.”

“The English language, after all,” he wrote in an essay, “did not need another writer. The English language has always been alive and kicking, and if it ever becomes drowsy, there will always be an Irishman.”

When he said he wanted to be a writer, his father told him to go to law school and sent him to see the great Mexican writer Alfonso Reyes. Reyes, too, told him to study law, “because you know Mexico is a very formalistic country. The degree in Mexico is like this thing on the cup,” he recounts, pointing to the handle on my cup of chamomile tea. “If people don’t have handles, they don’t know how to pick you up. They’ll burn their hands.”

Fuentes laughs, as if to himself, “That’s a good name for a writer: the cup that burns.”

As a student in Mexico City, he says, “I got up at 6, took a collective taxi to the law school, where I had classes from 8 to 11, went to work at the Foreign Ministry till after 3, came home, had a light lunch, banged the typewriter till 7 or 8 in the evening to get the novel done, and then--I was a young man--would go out with girls, would go to bars and mambo clubs, and come home rather late, thinking that next day I could do it all again.”

His first novel, “Where the Air Is Clear,” was published in 1958 when he was 29. It is a funny and utterly serious satire of the Mexican upper class, which is undone by the enduring, living past of ancient Mexico. And in an earlier story, “Chac-Mool,” the statue of an ancient Indian rain god comes to life in a cellar and dominates those now living in the house. “That’s one of the central things I’ve always had, since I was growing up: Beware, beware the past! The past is not dead in Mexico. It’s very much alive, and if you don’t believe it, it’s like not believing in vampires: You give them all the opportunity to arrive at night and suck your blood.

“I believe the past has to be with us,” he adds. “The past has to be alive. You’ll have a dead future with a dead past. We (in Mexico) have the great, great advantage in the modern world to be the heirs to many traditions: the Roman legal tradition, the Stoic tradition of Seneca, the Arab and Jewish components of the Spanish soul; Indians, blacks. I don’t want to sacrifice any of that; I think it’s our duty to create a civilization that honors the past.” Cultures are produced by a clash of cultures, he believes, even as his Mexico is a mixture of Spanish and Indian--the mestizos --and he sees the United States heading toward such a clash.

DRIVING TOWARD Tepoztlan, a town known for its sorcerers, we crest the mountain; Fuentes points out the Valley of Morelos and exclaims: “Wonderful land! It is really one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It’s unique. Not only the physical but the architectural side of it. Wow! The people! . . . It’s been so unlucky generally politically, and has had such a sad history, though it can count the blessings of the capacity for survival, which I think is so developed in Mexico,” he says, laughing.

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His self-assigned role as interpreter of Mexico and Latin America to the rest of the world and to themselves has expanded with his fame and age. To Fuentes, Mexico can be understood only through its past, which is its present--the past of sacred pre-Columbian beliefs and the past of Spanish Catholicism.

“I am a nonbeliever,” he says, “but I am a Catholic in the sense that I belong to a Catholic culture. I can’t get away from it. It impregnates everything--my world view, my view of politics, my view of women, of education, of literature.

“The Catholic outlook in the deepest sense is to propose the world as alternatives. Not as one dogmatic definition; when Catholicism becomes dogmatic I’m set against it. When it offers the possibility of fruitful conflict between the natural and the supernatural, between the sacred and the profane, between the pagan and the religious mystic--it is these options that I find very, very fruitful in the Catholic ethos when it expresses itself fully. I reflect myself, my literature and my life in this kind of conflict, in which the opposites do not annul each other but rather tend to fuse each other.”

He likens the difference between the Protestant and Catholic worlds to the difference between Bunuel and Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. “That kind of dryness or spiritual barrenness that comes from the fight between good and evil in Bergman, in Bunuel is suffused in humor, the possibility of fusing, of sacralizing the erotic, of bringing things together rather than separating them,” says Fuentes. “In which one thing does not expel the other, and you’re not caught up in a conflict of virtue, which is what I sometimes do not like in the Protestant world, that it makes you choose between good and evil, constantly, and you get a very Manichean view of the world.”

Mexico itself, he says excitedly, is more than merely Catholic. Because of its Indian past, he calls it a “sacred” country: “When the Indian world entered Catholicism, it carried the burden of the sacred. Mexico is a syncretic culture, that’s its power, that’s its deep roots.

“I’ve always said this is why Christianity did triumph in Mexico,” he continues. From our seats on the veranda of our friend’s country home, we survey an abrupt, cloud-shrouded mountain cliff. At the top of the cliff is an ancient Indian shrine; at the bottom, a church built by Indian laborers soon after the conquest. “It’s very clear it’s the figure of Christ on the cross, telling people you don’t have to be sacrificed anymore: I am the sacrifice. The god is sacrificed, not you. Nobody wants to be sacrificed! I will never believe that anybody is willing to have his child taken and killed--especially having read the ritualistic poems of the Aztecs, so humane, so tender, so full of love. I cannot accept that they say, ‘Yes, so that the sun may rise tomorrow, let my child be killed.’ ” So, says Fuentes, Mexico embraced the Christian notion of sacrifice, ending what he calls the state terrorism of Aztec rule.

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After generations of nonbelievers, of modernity, how long is the Latin world, the Spanish world, still going to be Catholic in outlook?

Fuentes becomes passionate. His voice rises and he gestures for emphasis. “I hope it’s Catholic in outlook forever. Because one thing I like to stress is that we should not sacrifice any of our traditions. Modernity has proven to be so brittle, so contradictory. The belief in progress unchecked--untrammeled progress--has practically led us to the death of progress. The exclusion of the tragic consciousness--because we (believe we) are perfectible and progress is unlimited--has led us to the gulag and Auschwitz and Hiroshima--all these horrors of the 20th Century.”

To explore the past and present of Spain and the New World and to point toward an achievable future, Fuentes both conceived and narrated “The Buried Mirror.” He wrote the accompanying illustrated book under deadline pressure, doing the English first, then translating himself into Spanish.

The title refers to the symbol and image of the mirror, which appears in both Spanish art and literature and Mexican lore and art, and frequently in Fuentes’ own writing. In Mexico, mirrors were buried in tombs of the Olmecs and the Totonacs around Veracruz, the home of Fuentes’ family, apparently as guides to the underworld for the ancient peoples. Symbolically unburying these ubiquitous mirrors, Fuentes uses them as bridges among the many strains of the Spanish-speaking culture.

In the series, Fuentes displays Mesoamerican mirrors and discusses the one in Velazquez’s “Las Meninas,” the astonishing painting hanging in the Prado museum in Madrid, in which you see the painter painting, the infant princess of Spain with her attendants, a court dwarf, the king and queen reflected in a mirror, and a man in black looking through an open door in the back. Nearly all the subjects are looking directly at you, the viewer.

The painting’s artistic suggestiveness and ambiguity challenge Fuentes’ imagination. “Did this scene ever occur?” he asks in the book. “Was it posed, or did Velazquez imagine some or all of its components? . . . Was the painting ever finished? . . . Does it not raise the possibility that everything in the world--this painting, but also this history, this narrative--is unfinished? And that, more specifically, we are unfinished ourselves, men and women who cannot be declared ‘complete,’ enclosed within boundaries of finitude and certainty--unfinished even when we die, because forgotten or remembered, we do contribute to a past that our descendants must keep alive if they are to have a future?”

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Fuentes writes that the two great artists of Spain’s Golden Age, Velazquez and Cervantes, “were able to redefine reality in terms of the imagination. What we imagine is both possible and real”--a statement that comes close to expressing the essence of Fuentes’ view of the nature of art, and of his own work.

“I remember the fright I had the first time I looked into a mirror and saw myself--this was sometime in my childhood,” says Fuentes. “I remember that fright so much, and the immediate realization that I could not see myself and that I could only be seen by others. Without the gaze of the other I would be nothing, I would be a prisoner within my own skin. The mirror from very early childhood in my imagination became a very powerful symbol for exactly the kind of communication I’ve always wanted.

“I cannot see myself if you do not see me; I cannot see myself if you do not privilege me with your gaze. I will never be complete without you.”

FUENTES’ GREATEST hope is that the peoples of Latin America can make the leaps of imagination in politics and economics they have achieved in the art and the literature that he celebrates in “The Buried Mirror.”

“I think that the end of the Cold War has put the ball in our court squarely,” he says, pulling himself up in a low chair at our friend’s country home in Tepoztlan. “The left in Latin America no longer has to look and say, ‘What is the Soviet Union saying? What is Marxist dogma on this?’ The United States can no longer intervene saying, ‘You are a communist beachhead.’ That has ended, so we are facing our social and economic problems and the problems of reform in Latin America squarely on our own terms. We have no excuse anymore for not trying to solve them.

“Right now there is a kind of drunkenness: Capitalism has triumphed! Socialism is dead! I think this is going to pass, because our social problems are very deep, economic problems are very deep, and we’re going to have to solve them. It’s not the bankers and the private sector that are going to solve these problems. It’s going to be something--a social movement, the left, call it whatever you want--that will have to approach these enormous problems of inequities, social services, health, social justice.

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“OK,” Fuentes says, his speech accelerating. “So let’s create a new utopia for Latin America, which is: Let’s renew development, but this time with democracy and social justice. And don’t do any of the three without the others, don’t think that any longer we can have social justice without democracy and development, as in Cuba, or development without social justice and democracy, as in Pinochet’s Chile. Let’s have these three--let’s see if we can do that. On non-revolutionary terms, of course.”

Fuentes believes that the 19th-Century kind of Romantic revolution has come and gone and will not be repeated.

“The Mexican Revolution (of 1910 and the years following) was probably the last of that kind of revolution. The Mexican Revolution failed in many political aspects and economic aspects, but it was a tremendous cultural success. It’s the first Latin American country that dared to look itself in the mirror and say, ‘This is the way I am, warts and all.’ It did shape the country up. This country’s different from the rest of Latin America because of the revolution. The Cuban revolution suffers so much from being so anachronistic.”

Fuentes, like many Latin Americans of the left at that time, was initially enthusiastic about Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution, but before long became disillusioned. For his beliefs, and to his great anger, he, like Garcia Marquez and others, was put on the U.S. blacklist of people refused entry to these shores without special permission. It was especially infuriating to Fuentes, for he and Garcia Marquez and others of their generation had been standard-bearers in a skeptical Latin America for U.S. culture, notably literature, films and jazz.

And Fuentes wishes that Mexicans could adopt certain elements of the American character, such as freedom of expression, grass-roots democracy and the Americans’ “openness, kindness, hospitality and informality of manner,” which he finds most pronounced in California.

The new Latin American reality that will supplant failed revolutions and discredited dictatorships will of necessity be different from the democratic society the United States represents, Fuentes stresses.

“The North American has to understand that Latin America comes from things that you have never known at all,” he says. The house in which we sit, with its adobe walls and roofed veranda, is appointed with Mexican folk art and some crucifixes. The European and the Mesoamerican are never out of sight here.

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“You have never known Indian empires based on theocracy and vertical structures of power,” he says. “You were not colonized by a European autocracy constructed also in a vertical fashion--the Hapsburg empire of Spain and the Americas, where authority was always at the top and very little of it trickled down to the bottom. There was no instance of self-government whatsoever for over 300 years. Over 300 years we had a political class that was educated in the ideals of scholasticism, of the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas and of St. Augustine.

“Which means the common good is the purpose of politics and it is best achieved by unity exercised through one will, through an autocracy. That is ingrained in the Latin American soul. So everything is being ordained from the top down and from the center to the periphery.”

But as a result of evolution and revolution, mass movements and elections, intellectual thinking and journalism over the past 50 years, he says, there is, in Latin America, a civil society trying to organize itself from the periphery toward the center and from the bottom up. “And the civil society is incredibly energetic in Latin America--professionals, intellectuals, technocrats, students, trade unions, agricultural co-ops, business associations, women’s organizations, neighborhood committees--they’re bursting through the traditional seams of political parties, so I think there’s a lot to be done and a lot that’s going to be done.”

FUENTES IS GOING TO BE only at the edges of this movement. He was appointed by President Salinas to the Mexican National Human Rights Commission and is a member of the Committee of 100, an organization of intellectuals pushing, often against the government, for tougher environmental standards. But he is not going to take a central political role. You get the strong impression that Fuentes has seen enough of the sad trivialities of evanescent politics, in both the public and the literary worlds.

For example, the force of change in Latin America has not left untouched the once-fabled friendship of its great writers. Four years ago, he found himself embroiled in a much-publicized quarrel with Octavio Paz, the Mexican poet and essayist who in 1990 won the Nobel Prize. Paz’s literary magazine, Vuelta, published a ferocious attack on Fuentes, reprinted in the New Republic, that called Fuentes a derivative writer and--much worse in Mexico--not a real Mexican. Fuentes and Paz have not spoken since.

“I cannot tolerate his betraying a friendship of 40 years so whimsically,” says Fuentes with no little anger. “Nothing can assuage his desire for glory and applause. He’s totally unhappy. It’s very sad, but then, there are people who age well and people who age badly. That’s a fact of life.”

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The feud continues. Fuentes and Garcia Marquez did not invite Paz to a recent conference until the last minute, and he did not come. But messages calling Fuentes “scandalous” were slipped under the hotel doors of each conferee--all of which was daily front-page news in Mexico’s newspapers. (They are not always on opposite sides, however: Each, from his own view of history, is calling for a more balanced view of the much-hated conquistador Hernando Cortes.)

There is feuding, too, on political grounds, between his old literary comrades Vargas Llosa, on the right, and Garcia Marquez on the left. “We had a closely knit group of very creative people working at the same time contributing a lot to the literature and the culture, and that this should have broken up so radically on political grounds I think is very heartbreaking,” Fuentes laments. “When the sense of comradeship you can achieve in life is broken it’s like losing the woman you love.”

He was appalled by reports that Vargas Llosa planned to run again for president of Peru at the expense of his writing. Fuentes is staring time in the face and feels compelled to follow his calling ever more urgently. This summer, he and his wife will be at their flat in London (where their teen-age daughter, Natasha, lives) to finish his next novel about 19th-Century Mexico and its infatuation with France. Then he plans a novel about the day in 1919 when presidential soldiers shot peasant revolutionary Emiliano Zapata to death.

“Then I have a whole series of short novels which I am preparing. They have to do with very contemporaneous subjects. One of them came up in Chile. Others have to do with other events in Latin America and Mexico.

“The time for writing grows shorter and shorter,” he says, looking at me with an expression that is both determined and pensive. “It’s my life, it’s my passion. It’s what I really enjoy and I am not going to sacrifice a minute to do any work which is not literary. It would be like throwing away your destiny.”

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