Don Carlos Fuentes, 1928-2012
The following Op-Ed piece from the New York Times by Kyle Jarrard (Rolling the Stones and Over There) honors the great Mexican writer, Carlos Fuentes. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/opinion/fuentes-and-the-forsaken-borderlands.html?_r=2&ref=global-home
I would like to share this passage from one of his short stories, “Apollo and the Whores,” about an Irish B-Movie actor named Vince Valera who goes to Acapulco, Mexico to die, and ends up cannibalized by a group of young female Mexican exotic dancers floating on the Sea of Cortez. Although dead, he can see inside the women’s thoughts and see their memories as his spirit floats above the water. The story closes with Vince Valera reading his own obituary and finding it insufficient:
“Dead, I would like to add something, much more, to that brief biography. I dream of other destinies that could have been mine. I imagine myself in Mexico conquering Great Tenochtitlán, loving an Indian princess. I imagine myself in jail, dreaming about my dead, abandoned mother. I imagine myself in another century, amused, organizing toasts and serenades in a baroque city I don’t recognize. Opposite another unknown but ancient city, I imagine myself dressed in black standing before an army in mourning, determined to win in a battle against pure, invisible space. In a long night of fog and mud, I see myself walking along a river holding a child by the hand. I’ve saved her from prostitution, sickness, death…
I dream about the orange tree and try to imagine who planted it, a Mediterranean, Oriental, Arabian, Chinese tree, in this distant coast of the Americas.
Since my face disappeared because of seawater, the sun, and death, María de la Gracia took a papier-mâché mask she bought in the village market and put it over my face before burying me.
“This is your face. Your face for death.”
That’s what the girl said, as if she were intoning an ancient rite.
I’ve never been able to see the mask. I don’t know what or whom it represents. You see: I’ve closed my eyes forever.”
–Carlos Fuentes, “Apollo and the Whores,” in The Orange Tree (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994).