B.O.S.S. Imaginatively Inventive -Ism #0000000000017
“Incredible the first animal that dreamed of another animal. Monstrous the first vertebrate that succeeded in standing on two feet and thus spread terror among the beasts still normally and happily crawling close to the ground through the slime of creation. Astounding the first telephone call, the first boiling water, the first song, the first loincloth.”
Carlos Fuentes - Terra Nostra (opening lines of)
For if one was to tackle anything — anything at all — should it not be this thing we call life? This thing that starts and stops and loops? This thing that has been bounded and released and sliced and given away and taken back? This thing that perhaps can only be understood in the rear-view mirror of:
The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes
And reading it is going to be cool for the following reasons:
- While Fuentes is one of Latin America’s most well known novelists, the Mexican author isn’t easily covered with a handful of descriptors. His dozens of works — both fiction and non-fiction —run the gamut from the romantic grappling with the relationship between Catholicism, morality, and class (The Good Conscience, 1959) to articulating the blend of ancient mythologies, European influence, and constant political churn in Mexico (the collected stories of Burnt Water) to a sprawling, epic to end all epics, that painstakingly dissects the limitations of an individual’s power in a world where a single life’s arc cannot be completed in a single lifetime, à la Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return (Terra Nostra, 1976).
- The Death of Artemio Cruz fits snuggly into many of those aforementioned themes and is renowned for Fuentes’ inventive narrative techniques. An intermingling of segues and cut-up passages are weaved together in order to tackle complicated histories and emotions, of both the main character and Mexico itself.
- Fuentes continued to evolve and explore into his late career. Christopher Unborn examines a near future of total corruption and political collapse in Mexico with humor and continual literary allusions to the likes of Borges and Cervantes, all in a package that feels especially Pynchonian (though perhaps it is Pynchon’s comedy-filled work that is Fuentes-esque, given the parallel timelines of creation). His last work, Nietzsche on His Balcony, was published posthumously and features a version of the author having philosophical conversations with the undead German nihilist himself. (Editor’s note: Damn, that sounds like a cool idea.)
The Death of Artemio Cruz is of medium length, so let’s shoot for a halfway point in mid-November and a finale just before the holidays.
There are multitudes in here somewhere,
Nick - B.O.S.S. Department of Nested Life Loops
Post-Script: We’ll also be checking out Fuentes’ short novel Aura as well as his essay How I Wrote One of My Books in the collection Myself with Others. Since the essay deals with his writing of Aura, it should be illuminating to learn Fuentes’ own view of his craft.
Post-Post-Script: With Nathan having departed on his lengthy motorcycle ride down into Latin America (perfect for Fuentes!) we are starting a guest artist rotation for the accompanying prints. This selection’s art is by San Francisco designer Tim Belonax.