Thursday, May 24, 2012


"Ideas are never fully realized. At times they retract, hibernating like some beasts do, waiting for the most opportune moment to reappear. Thought does not die. It only bides its time. The idea that seems dead in one time reappears in another. The spirit does not die. It moves. It duplicates. Sometimes it supplants, and even supplicates. Disappeared, it is believed to be dead. It reappears. In reality, the spirit announces its presence in every word we utter. There is not a single word that is not infused with memory and forgotten thoughts, imbued with dreams and failures. And nevertheless, there is not a single word that cannot conquer death because there is not a single word that is not the carrier of imminent renewal. The word fights death because it is inseparable from it–stealing it, announcing it, inheriting it. There is not a single word that is not the bearer of imminent resurrection. Every word we utter simultaneously announces another word that we do not yet know because we have forgotten it and another word we do not know because we desire it. The same thing happens with bodies, which are matter. All matter contains the aura of what it was before as well as the aura of what it will be after it vanishes. For that reason we live in an age that is not ours, but we are also the ghosts of an older age, as well as the foreshadowing of an age that is yet to come. Let us not lose sight of these promises that death holds."

                                                                                     –Carlos Fuentes,
                                                                                     dead at 83 in Mexico City,
                                                                                     15 May 2012.

So they are both gone now, he and Octavio Paz, the great poet first and now the great chronicler, lover of justice and beauty. El labertino de la soledad / The Labyrinth of Solitude, Paz’s indispensable essays, and La region mas transparente (translated as Where the Air Is Clear), Fuentes’s first novel, were everything to me in 1967, my first encounter with Mexico City. I found in those books the confirmation of what I had seen and sometimes only sensed inside the city itself, the first fragments of a map that I now found a part of myself. Fuentes’s Terra Nostra, a huge novel that, like The Death of Artemio Cruz, neither Mexicans nor gringos (mi, por ejemplo) are likely to forget . . . along with Distant Relations (my most recent favorite Fuentes novel)–why not list their titles? . . . A Change of Skin; Old Gringo; Diana: The Huntress Who Hunts Alone (a fictional memoir of his love affair with Jean Seberg); The Years with Laura Diaz; and the superb novella Inez, beyond which I did not reach (not yet)–mere books as well as glimpses of reality, of truth, whatever their names, the soul of a Mexico that will live in me as long as memory keeps faith with the moments that follow one after another, until the one that is suddenly the last.

(15, 24 May 2012)

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