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The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes
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The Old Gringo (1985)

by Carlos Fuentes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6961613,671 (3.43)1 / 65

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English (14)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
I’m not really sure what to conclude about The Old Gringo, by Carlos Fuentes. The man clearly knows how to think — and to write. It’s just that I had enormous pains to follow a lot of his logic … or syntax … or punctuation … or pronominal reference (when he or the translator even bothered with pronouns) and to decide who was talking — or at least thinking.

It’s always difficult—possibly unfair — to judge a book by its translation. Perhaps I’ll simply quote what I believe to be the summary paragraph in the book and let you be the judge. On p. 180, we have the following:

“While she sat eating her tortilla beside the woman that long-ago night in the dessert; or later, while she was sitting beside the old man’s tomb inscribed with her father’s name; or still later, as an old woman, alone, remembering all those things, she prepared herself for a sense of compassion she had betrayed perhaps only once in her life, when she demanded the old gringo’s body, knowing what the consequences would be. The new compassion granted her precisely by virtue of that sin, she owed to a young Mexican revolutionary who offered life and to an old American writer who sought death: they had given her enough life to live for many years, here in the United States, there in Mexico, anywhere at all: pity was the name of the emotion Harriet Winslow had felt when she looked into the face of violence and glory, and both were finally unmasked to show their true features: those of death.”

The principal characters in this story? Four — at least two of whom are clearly instances of what we call ‘historical fiction’: Harriet Winslow; Tomás Arroyo; Ambrose Bierce (the old gringo) and General Pancho Villa.

Read The Old Gringo and tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about with this brief review and these paltry three stars. Please! A writer of Carlos Fuentes’s stature and reputation undoubtedly deserves better.

RRB
09/09/13
Brooklyn, NY
( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Even though this novel came to me as a highly recommended modern classic, I didn't appreciate it that much. This may have more to do with me & my state of mind, however, than the book itself. The novel is a highly atmospheric portrait of Northern Mexico in 1914 at the time of the Revolution. The prose is dense & circular. Two gringos, a 71 year old man (purportedly the journalist Ambrose Bierce) & 31 year old woman, Harriet Winslow, cross the U.S/ Mexico border for differing reasons (the Old Gringo has come to Mexico to die, the younger woman to teach English to the children of Hacienda owners). These landowners have fled, however, in advance of the arrival of a contingent of Pancho Villa's troops commanded by General Arroyo. The rebels burn down all but the Hall of Mirrors ballroom. Arroyo grew up on this hacienda, son of an indigenous woman raped by one of the sons of the landowning family. The "action" takes place mostly as interior monologue or in conversations between and among the characters, Old Gringo, Harriet & the General. We also hear the tale of the Moon Woman, Arroyo's "woman." As the back jacket blurb suggests, the novel can be read as a meditation on death, love, the burden of history, border crossing, suicide, patricide etc. It just didn't enrich my thinking on any of these large subjects in any significant way. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
Ambrose Bierce, an American short story writer, went into Mexico in 1914 to cover the Mexican Revolution by finding and traveling with Poncho Villa. He disappeared without a trace. Fuentes has written this novel in which he suggests what may have happened to Bierce.

Not the easiest read as Fuentes infuses the narrative with much philosophical meandering the slows the story. ( )
  lamour | Feb 5, 2014 |
a Sad book, but trying to deal with the relationship of USA - Mexico. The essential mystery of what happened to Bierce, the noted misanthrope remains unsolvable, so it is a good beginning for this meditation on unequal relationships. Stands up well to a reread. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Sep 22, 2013 |
Reads too much like an essay -- a lot of abstract narrative, not much fictive involvement (not sure how else to put it). The writing kept me at a distance from the story, and I lost interest in it. Picked up this copy at a library book sale. ( )
  BobNolin | Aug 24, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carlos Fuentesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peden, Margaret SayersTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
But who knows the fate of his bones
or how often he is to be buried?
--Sir Thomas Browne
What they call dying
is merely the last pain.
--Ambrose Bierce
Dedication
To William Styron whose father included me in his dreams of the American Civil War.
First words
Now she sits alone and remembers.
Quotations
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374530521, Paperback)

One of Carlos Fuentes's greatest works, The Old Gringo tells the story of Ambrose Bierce, the American writer, soldier, and journalist, and of his last mysterious days in Mexico living among Pancho Villa's soldiers, particularly his encounter with General Tomas Arroyo. In the end, the incompatibility of the two countries (or, paradoxically, their intimacy) claims both men, in a novel that is, most of all, about the tragic history of two cultures in conflict.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:51 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"The Old Gringo tells the story of Ambrose Bierce, the American author, soldier, and journalist, and of his last mysterious days in Mexico living amoung Pancho villa's soldiers - particularly his encounter with one of Villa's generals, Tomas Arroyo, as well as with a spirited young american woman named Harriet Winslow. In the end, the incompatibility between Mexico and the United States (or paradoxically, their intimacy) claims both Bierce and Arroyo, in a novel that is, most of all, about the tragic history of these two cultures in conflict."--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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