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Mexican novelist, essayist Carlos Fuentes dies

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Fuentes, like his good friend Garcia Marquez, belonged to the tradition of literary author as social commentator.

"I wear two hats," he said in the 2006 interview, likening himself to Honore de Balzac in producing a combination of human comedy, acute social portraits and ghost stories.

At a glance

Some reaction to the death of Mexican author Carlos Fuentes:

“Carlos Fuentes has died. One of a kind. An era, a genre. A writer for all seasons. To Silvia, all my affection.” — Mexican writer Hector Aguilar Camin

“Thanks for his words and his thoughts. Goodbye Master!” — Consuelo Salazar, director of Mexico’s National Council for Culture for the Arts

“Author of lasting novels and short stories, a vigorous, enriching presence. I think the center of his literary creativity was language. The renovation of language.” — Enrique Krauze, Mexican historian considered Fuentes’ harshest critic

Fuentes was “one of the most brilliant writers of the 20th century.” — Krauze

“I deeply lament the death of our beloved and admired Carlos Fuentes, a universal Mexican writer.” — President Felipe Calderon

“What sadness. Carlos Fuentes has left forever. I send all my affection to Silvia, his true and only love. Mexico is in mourning.” — Mexican writer Guadalupe Loaeza

“I’m deeply sorry for Carlos Fuentes’ death.” — Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska

“Mexico has suffered a great loss.” — Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard

“I’m terribly sorry for the death of Carlos Fuentes, Mexico’s greatest novelist, a generous friend. A big hug to Silvia and Cecilia.” — Mexican writer Jorge Volpi

“I send my condolences to the family of the great writer Carlos Fuentes. Rest in peace Maestro.” — Salsa musician and actor Ruben Blades.

“Carlos Fuentes was a brilliant intellectual but also a very generous and fun man. We will miss him.” — Peruvian writer Santiago Roncagliolo.

“A big hug to the family of Carlos Fuentes. A very sad day.” — Mexican actor Diego Luna.

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He said at the time he believed he had many more books in him.

"If I thought I had already peaked, I wouldn’t be sitting here. There’s always another book in there," he said. There is "the psychosis of the empty page" he admitted, but he said "I sleep, dream, get up, write something."

He had no favorites among his many books: "They are all my children. Maybe some are cross-eyed, but I love them all."

Fuentes in 1987 won the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world’s highest literary honor.

He also was named in 1997 a commander of the National Order of Merit, France’s highest civilian award given to a foreigner. Spain gave him a Prince of Asturias Award for literature in 1994.

Throughout his life, Fuentes also taught courses at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and Brown universities in the United States.

Fuentes served as Mexican ambassador to Paris beginning in 1975. He resigned from the foreign service again in 1977 when former President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz was appointed ambassador to Spain, saying he wouldn’t serve with the man who ordered a student massacre in Mexico City, which activists said killed up to 350 people.

A believer that literature allowed him to say what would be censored otherwise, Fuentes also was the subject of censorship.

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His mystery novel "Aura," which narrates a romantic encounter beneath a crucifix with a black Christ that some officials claimed was too racy, was banned from public high schools in Puerto Rico. It also sparked controversy in Mexico in 2001 when a former interior secretary asked the novel to be dropped from a suggested reading list at his daughter’s private junior high school.

Fuentes was born in Panama City on Nov. 11, 1928, to Mexican parents. He lived most of his life abroad, growing up in Montevideo, Uruguay; Rio de Janeiro; Washington, D.C.; Santiago, Chile; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. He later divided his time between homes in Mexico City home and London, where he did most of his writing.

Fuentes was married from 1959 to 1973 to actress Rita Macedo, with whom he had his only surviving daughter.

After the couple divorced, Fuentes married Lemus, and they had two children together. Their son Carlos Fuentes Lemus died from complications associated with hemophilia in 1999, and Natasha Fuentes Lemus died in 2005 after a cardiac arrest.

Fuentes also acknowledged having affairs with actresses including Jeanne Moreau and Jean Seberg.

As he grew older, Fuentes left many novels unfinished with imperfections and "wounds that make the book bleed," he said.

He continued to publish essays and do public speaking to the very end, including the day he died. In an opinion piece in the newspaper Reforma, he expressed optimism for the new government of Francois Hollande, who was sworn in Tuesday as president of France, saying he hoped it would be "defined less by its technocratic profile and more by what the French understand as ‘humanism’ ."

Fuentes, however, always postponed writing about himself.

"One puts off the biography like you put off death," he said. "To write an autobiography is to etch the words on your own gravestone."


Associated Press writers Marjorie Miller and E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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