Wednesday, October 22, 2008

'Happy Families' by Carlos Fuentes

'Happy Families' by Carlos Fuentes
By Tim Rutten
October 22, 2008

It once was said of James Joyce that he had abandoned everything about the Scholastic philosophy of the High Middle Ages that suffused his education -- except its basic principles.

Carlos Fuentes, who turned 80 this year, is one of the surviving lions of a heroic generation that brought Latin American letters to global prominence and acclaim. Early in his career, he often spoke and wrote of the long cultural shadow cast by the Spanish Counter-Reformation's vain attempt to restore the lost medieval wholeness that Martin Luther shattered when he nailed his 95 Theses to Wittenburg's church door. All of Iberian culture -- and that of its daughter nations, like Fuentes' native Mexico -- the author argued, was, in some deep sense, the product of Catholic Spain's quixotic quest to put the social and intellectual toothpaste back in the tube.

Though Fuentes, like Joyce, remains a high modernist to the core, it's become increasingly clear that his own literary project -- 23 books now, with more in the pipeline -- is a part of that endeavor. "Happy Families," Fuentes' new book (superbly translated by the redoubtable Edith Grossman) is described as a collection of "stories." In recent interviews, however, the author has called it a "choral novel," which seems entirely apt. Sixteen dramatic vignettes involving contemporary Mexican families -- or people in social arrangements standing in for traditional families -- are linked by poetic "choruses" composed in free verse. The juxtapositions are typical of Fuentes: These are narratives focused deeply on his country's contemporary situation while simultaneously looking back into the traditions of Western letters and expressing themselves in the idiom of continental modernism. Though Fuentes routinely is linked with other Latin American writers of his generation, particularly his friend Gabriel García Márquez, his closest aesthetic antecedents and colleagues are Central European: Bloch, Kafka and, particularly, Milan Kundera.

Full LA Times article


Calypso said...

Carlos Funetes is one of my favorite people!

Sparks you might find this commentary he wrote in 2004 interesting - very insightful I thought-

sparks_mex said...

Good article .... he didn't hold back at all ;)

The construction of the house finished in April 2011 and I'm pretty much settled in. As of March 2014 I'm in preparation for rain mode for this coming summer. That includes sealing and painting things and dealing with drainage issues from last year.

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