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Meeting Carlos Fuentes Through la lengua de Cervantes

Me toca el turno de saludar a Carlos Fuentes, lo saludo y empiezo a parlotear: “Hola, mi nombre es *****, mucho gusto en conocerlo.  Admiro su manera de escribir, sus libros me transportan al pasado de México y al México que me falto por conocer y creo que usted es uno de los escritores más influyentes de todo Latinoamérica.  Hace tiempo lo fui a ver a una charla, de ese tiempo para acá se nota que los años han hecho de las suyas, como que ya anda “chocheando”.  ¡Ups! (pensé en voz alta).  ¡Lo que quise decir es que usted es todo un Chocho de la literatura!  (mejor ya cállate).  Bueno, perdón me distraje, en resumen usted es un gran escritor (sonrisa avergonzada).  Le agradecería mucho me autografié su libro Las Familias Felices ah y tengo algunas dudas: ¿Por qué en sus novelas no habla de personajes actuales de nuestra generación? ¿Qué piensa de la reforma migratoria? ¿Por qué Gabriela Mistral es la única mujer de Latinoamérica con premio Nobel, acaso aun prevalece el machismo hasta en la literatura?  ¿Por qué las novelas de los escritores mexicanos siempre toman lugar en la ciudad de México, acaso no existe el México mágico fuera de la capital? Por ejemplo, no es por presumir, pero yo conozco un lugar mágico cerca de Matehuala, la ciudad donde crecí, se llama Real de Catorce, tal vez ahí puede tomar lugar su próxima novela.   Y por último, ¿Le podría dedicar este libro a Sofía? En una entrevista usted menciono haber estado agradecido el pasar con sus abuelas los veranos en México para aprender bien el español, yo espero que Sofía pueda leer este libro en su lengua materna cuando crezca y así pueda comprender lo complejidad de nosotros los mexicanos y evitarse un fuerte “culture shock” cada vez que visite mi país.  Gracias por su dedicatoria y autógrafo, ¿Qué dice aquí, perdón?” (¿Qué son estos garabatos?). 
Today I meet Author Carlos Fuentes again, but this time I will introduce myself in person with a handshake, one of his books, and a pen ready on my hand so luckily I can get an autograph.  Above, I describe how my horrible imaginary introduction would be after the talk as I’m about to meet him (of course all in Spanish), blabbing slurred Tourettian spasms of words due to my nervousness.  What I mean by meeting him again doesn’t mean I have met him before in person (although last time I saw him at a previous talk, we were both younger, ha!), it just means I’ve known him through reading his books.  I’m not a book critic, for I don’t have a scholarly background on literary styles, characterization, and so forth, nor I possess the talent to remain objective enough about the topic in question.  However, I would have to agree with the critics out there who cite him as one of the most prominent writers in Latin America. His quality of writing is comparable to Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz, and the recent Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, all whom I’ve had the privilege of reading throughout my College years and beyond.
Reading the works of Carlos Fuentes, I understand little of his ideology and in a way his etiology for Mexican identity, although I don’t know if this is the case, I would have to ask him.  His books seem to intertwine the rhetoric of politics and the history that has shaped Mexico in a philosophical way.  However, I haven’t found much in his writings the current topics affecting the next generations in Mexico, nor the current representation of the everyday young female or male in a typical family circle of the 21st century.  Which brings me to a spontaneous thought, why don’t we have young writers of the caliber of Carlos Fuentes and others of his time who can relate and write about our generation?  It would be cool to read a novel set in current times through a clone of Carlos Fuentes who understands our family affairs, our relationships with others and the way we are shaping the world differently than our antecessors, mainly because of his style and the way he integrates current world affairs, politics, and history.  I would define his work a “capirotada of the United Nations specialized in Latin America”.  Pardon me if this definition sounds too vernacular, but I don’t know how to describe it any other way (at least for now). 

Later, as I arrived to the talk unclear of any expectations, I waited outside Alley Theatre for two good friends from Mexico who wanted to see him as well.  While waiting, I saw a diverse incoming audience, ranging from all ages, races, and backgrounds.  Finally we got to our prime seating and he was introduced, the stage was ready for him, lights at a center table and a full audience.  As Carlos comes in, a member from the audience yells in Spanish “¡Bienvenido!”, and Carlos responds in a tenuous voice, “gracias” while bowing his head.  He starts reading excerpts from 3 of his novels, and his new novel to be released next year Destiny and Desire.  As he starts reading an excerpt from his first novel in English, a thought boggles my mind:  (Wow, he doesn’t have a narrator voice at all, I guess everybody is best at what they have a passion for, and his thing is writing, not narrating). His voice sounds tired at times, spotty, a bit quiet, or maybe lacking a bit of excitement.  His wrinkled hands talk in sync with his narrative, with long arched fingers fluttering in the air.  He talks about love, love at first sight, love through the eyes as an important element, a love relationship between egotism and acceptance.  Love of the imperfection and the love of loves as an attentive love.  The captivated audience applauds and quiets down immediately to hear his next excerpt, and so he moves on.  Then Carlos Fuentes starts reading in heart starts pounding and I realize I was wrong!!  He is a true narrator!  His tone of voice transforms into a radio voice, it gets louder, exciting, and moving.  He grasps for me and throws me into the novel, here, here, meet them! 
Su voz en español se convierte en un libro vivo, Carlos Fuentes se transforma en actor.  Los matices de la voz van cambiando conforme a lo que sus personajes van emitiendo en frases y palabras; palabras vivas, eufóricas, potentes, embriagantes.  El sonido fonético de cada palabra pronunciada, el ronroneo de las erres, “perro, perro, perro”, el énfasis en lo exaltado, el flujo de sonidos al compás del mensaje final, todo eso crea una imagen narrativa tangible, palpable y dinámica.  Envuelve a la audiencia, la transporta al pasado y la mete a su novela, la introduce a los personajes, la pone frente a frente a estos, lo hace real.  No hay mejor narrador que el mismo escritor de su novela, conocedor de sus creaciones y des sus palabras escritas por su puño y letra.  Mientras sigue narrando, manotea y manotea, sus dedos siguen aleteando en el aire y su cabello casi blanco en su totalidad brilla con los reflectores del escenario. 
 The inspiration keeps going all across the audience; you hear loud laughter, spontaneous applause between his phrases, whooping, and all the happy and vibrant response of a moved Latino audience.  “Concepción, Concha, Conchita”, he keeps talking: “Puras papas”, he continues on.  I’m thinking, how warm and cozy it sounds to be called Conchita, if your name is Concepción.  It doesn’t have the same effect if your name is Michael and someone calls you Mikey.  It is the beauty of the derived Latin languages, such that provides a warm proximity between the people.  The phrase “puras papas” doesn’t sound the same in English when you literally translate it to “Plain potatoes” to simply mean: that’s all B.S!  Maybe the excitement of hearing the narration in my mother tongue produces a biased effect on me (that is why I could not be a book critic), but it sure caught my short attention span. 

At the end of his narrative presentation, he was interviewed by a professor from the University of Houston, and I don’t know the competency of this Professor, but two ladies next to me apparently knew about her work and kept talking about how a better interviewer should have been chosen.  Throughout the talk, all kinds of topics were touched and most of my questions were answered, including the one about why all the novels take place in Mexico City.  Carlos Fuentes explained this city is very complex and hard to understand, it has so many different subcultures and such a great history that is hard not to make it the stage of a novel.  To his defense I would say it might be true, every time I visit Mexico City, I always learn something new about it and somehow I feel a connection there, as if we all belong to or come from such place.  Carlos Fuentes described current writers as diverse compared to the writers of his time who are no longer an avenue of expression from censored governments as before and who no longer emerge from a particular style of writing or art movement.  Carlos emphasized Spanish as no longer being the language of slaves as someone once told him, it is the language of Cervantes, Borges, Octavio Paz and many others who have opened up the platform of this language to be open for the world, including the U.S. (taking into account Hispanic minorities will be the majority in about 3 or 4 decades).  

Current problems in Mexico came up, including the issue of population growth of young mexicans under the age of 30, and how this could be taken as an opportunity to educate the country, provide jobs, infrastructure, and keep Mexico in a competitive economic status worldwide to keep Mexicans from migrating to the U.S (also pointed this phenomenon is a worldwide problem).  He talked about the legalization of drugs to alleviate the violence in Mexico, and how both countries are part of the problem. The baroque movement was discussed as well, as a Catholic expression to Protestantism in Europe, however in Latin America and Mexico as an outlet of the indigenous and the blacks to denounce repression from the Spanish Conquest.  Last but not least, he didn’t want to elaborate on what his favorite book was, describing it as an allegory to asking parents to choose who their favorite child was. Carlos forecasted the Mexican writer Jose Miguel Pacheco to be a future Nobel Prize Winner in response to the question if he would be the next one (he thinks the nominations are based on generational selection, and Mario Vargas Llosa already has the award for his generation).  At the end of the talk there was a standing ovation and the same member of the audience who yelled in the beginning yelled again:  “¡No te mueras Carlos!” causing all heads to turn his way.... Carlos Fuentes just responded with a bowing nod. 

After the talk, I was one of the last ones to be in line so he could autograph my book Happy Families.  As I was waiting for the great moment, my mind rehearsed all of things I wanted to say.  Finally I meet him, I extend my hand to shake his.  My word enunciation freezes up, as I seem to face a type of vocal cord shock, I utter nothing except; “nice to meet you, could you please sign this for my daughter so she will one day read this book in Spanish.  His tired grimace glances at me with a smile; he signs the book and tells me “mucho gusto y buena suerte a ti y a Sofia”.  As I turn around and walk away, I open the front matter of the book and read his dedicated autograph....I pause, get excited, read the dedication.....hmmmm, I try to read the dedication again.... (¡¿Qué son estos garabatos?!).

#CarlosFuentes #LalenguadeCervantes #LasFamiliasFelices #HappyFamilies

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