Carlos Fuentes

Carlos Fuentes was born in Panama on November 11, 1928. He studied law at the National University of Mexico and did graduate work at the Institute des Hautes Etudes in Switzerland. He entered Mexico's diplomatic service and wrote in his spare time. His first novel, Where the Air Is Clear, was published in 1958. His other works include The Death of Artemio Cruz, Destiny and Desire, and Vlad. The Old Gringo was later adapted as a film starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda in 1989. He won numerous awards including the Fuentes the Romulo Gallegos Prize in Venezuela for Terra Nostra, the National Order of Merit in France, the Cervantes Prize in 1987, and Spain's Prince of Asturias Award for literature in 1994. He also wrote essays, short stories, screenplays, and political nonfiction. In addition to writing, he taught at numerous universities, including Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Brown. He served as the ambassador of Mexico to France. He died on May 15, 2012 at the age of 83.
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Renowned as a novelist of unsurpassed invention, Carlos Fuentes here presents his second collection of stories to appear in English. Where his first, Burnt Water, published in 1980, had as its underlying theme Mexico City itself, Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins extends its imaginative boundaries out to Savannah, to Cadiz, to Glasgow, to Seville and Madrid, both past and present. This new collection is more mysterious, more magical, too, than its predecessor, and in its five related stories Fuentes comes closer to the registers of language and feeling that he explored so memorably in Aura. It reveals Fuentes at the height of his powers--bold, erudite, enthralling.

In the title story, a man discovers his wife's secret complicity with the Russian actor who is their neighbor--a complicity that includes not just a previous life but possibly a previous death as well. He finds himself "a mediator . . . a point between one sorrow and the next, between one hope and the next, between two languages, two memories, two ages, and two deaths." In "La Desdichada," two students steal--and fall in love with--a store-window mannequin. In "The Prisoner of Las Lomas," a wealthy lawyer in possession of a powerful secret is held hostage by the past he has attempted to subvert and keep at bay. The celebrated bullfighter whose fame is the theme of "Viva Mi Fama" steps from the present into a past immortalized by Goya's portrait of the matador Pedro Romero; and the architects who are the "Reasonable People" of that story find themselves drawn into the irrational mysteries not only of religious fervor but of their famous mentor's identity--they discover "there are no empty houses," only a present fraught with the past.

Though each of these novella-length stories offers compelling evidence of Fuentes's talent for narrative free rein as well as for containment and closure, they are also brilliantly interwoven. Readers of his earlier work, especially of his acclaimed ribald epic, Christopher Unborn, will recognize with pleasure Fuentes's undiminished mastery of recurrent images and themes, and all readers will delight in the witty and evocative changes he rings on them. For those few readers who do not yet know the work of Mexico's foremost man of letters, these stories offer them the full gift of his imaginative resourcefulness.

The internationally acclaimed author Carlos Fuentes, winner of the Cervantes Prize and the Latin Civilization Award, delivers a stunning work of fiction about family and love across an expanse of Mexican life, reminding us why he has been called “a combination of Poe, Baudelaire, and Isak Dinesen” (Newsweek).

In these masterly vignettes, Fuentes explores Tolstoy’s classic observation that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” In “A Family Like Any Other,” each member of the Pagan family lives in isolation, despite sharing a tiny house. In “The Mariachi’s Mother,” the limitless devotion of a woman is revealed as she secretly tends to her estranged son’s wounds. “Sweethearts” reunites old lovers unexpectedly and opens up the possibilities for other lives and other loves. These are just a few of the remarkable stories in Happy Families, but they all inhabit Fuentes’s trademark Mexico, where modern obsessions bump up against those of the mythic past, and the result is a triumphant display of the many ways we reach out to one another and find salvation through irrepressible acts of love.

In this spectacular translation, the acclaimed Edith Grossman captures the full weight of Fuentes’s range. Whether writing in the language of the street or in straightforward, elegant prose, Fuentes gives us stories connected by love, including the failure of love–between spouses, lovers, parents and children, siblings. From the Mexican presidential palace to the novels of the poor and the vast expanse of humanity in between, Happy Families is a magnificent portrait of modern life in all its complicated beauty, as told by one of the world’s most celebrated writers.

Praise for Carlos Fuentes
Winner of the Cervantes Prize

The Old Gringo

“A dazzling novel that possesses the weight and resonance of myth [and] the fierce magic of a remembered dream.”
–The New York Times

The Death of Artemio Cruz

“Remarkable in the scope of the human drama it pictures, the corrosive satire and sharp dialogue.”
–The New York Times Book Review

The Years with Laura Díaz

“Reading this magnificent novel is like standing beneath the dome of the Sistine Chapel. . . . The breadth and enormity of this accomplishment is breathtaking.”
–The Denver Post

This I Believe

“Engaging, offering surprising conclusions, provocations or turns of phrase . . . Put down the page-turner and dare to drink these full-bodied, red, shining words.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review

The Eagle’s Throne

“Dazzling, razor-sharp . . . prescient . . . a feast of political insight.”
–The Washington Post Book World
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