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The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962)

by Carlos Fuentes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,511178,997 (3.8)79
After collapsing from an illness while attending a business meeting, a dying Artemio Cruz, a rich and powerful land owner in modern Mexico, is driven by conscience to recall his corrupt life.

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English (8)  Spanish (6)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (17)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Cruzamos el río a caballo.

The 71-year-old Artemio Cruz is on his deathbed: we look back at his life through a series of flashbacks, in some kind of arbitrary non-chronological order (and ending with the moment of his birth), each preceded by a stream-of-consciousness reflection by the old man in the sick-room, vaguely aware of what is going on around him but unable to communicate with his family and staff.

Cruz started as a minor player in the Mexican Revolution, a junior army officer from the back of beyond. By the end of his life, he has risen by a mixture of betrayal, corruption and a talent for survival to control a business empire, several key newspapers, and most of the Mexican government. Fuentes uses his career as a foundation for reflecting on the nature of revolutions in general and the Mexican one in particular, the way they are started by people with real wrongs to right on behalf of their communities, but somehow always end up being taken over by people with clear personal ambition and the will to power. He points out what he sees as weaknesses in the structure of postcolonial Mexican society that make it particularly susceptible to being exploited by people like Cruz.

But this is also an extended meditation on mortality, the way our lives seem to centre on outliving other people, but death always turns up sooner or later (Fuentes was only in his forties when he wrote this!). And it's a love-song to Mexico's landscape, culture, ethnic diversity and languages — at the very centre of the text is a long prose-poem celebrating the "Mexican verb" chingar (also the subject of a famous essay by Octavio Paz).

Like most "new novels" of the period, it's not an easy read, and it's often deliberately confusing, mixing very precisely timed and dated sections with passages where we are unsure where or when we are or who is talking. But there's a lot of very exciting, captivating language there, and it's obviously a book that will repay reading two or three times. ( )
1 vote thorold | Oct 11, 2020 |
I am so not into stream of consciousness writing. Even if it is surrounded by the essence of a story. More story, less nonsense. Please! ( )
  carliwi | Sep 23, 2019 |
I read a translation by Alfred Mac Adam. This is the story of Artemio Cruz. The reader is introduced to Artemio as he lays dying. The story is told in a series of stream of conscious technique. Artemio takes us back in his life but not in chronological order and then back to the sick room where he is surrounded by his wife, daughter, granddaughter, the priest and Padilla. The author is really telling the story of Mexico through the life of Artemio. Artemio Cruz is not a real person but the revolution is real. Artemio suffers many losses of ones he loved, he hardens himself to feel nothing and he resolves to never look back, yet on his death bed, Artemio does look back. The book starts very slow and it is hard to know where you are but somewhere along in the book it starts to come together and then it is very good. Because this work, looks at time in an illogical way, the work is appropriately tagged magical realism. "Time exists in a kind of timeless fluidity and the unreal happens as part of reality. Once the reader accepts the fait accompli, the rest follows with logical precision (Angel Flores, Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction. Magical Realism. Ed. Zamora and Faris, p. 113-116). This work could also be tagged stream of conscious, Mexico, Latin American Literature, historical literature. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
Had to read this in college. If it was written in chronological order, I might have enjoyed the book more. Very hard to read. ( )
  Lupita_Garza-Grande | Aug 14, 2013 |
Typical words people would use: difficult, pretentious, complicated. I prefer "over my head". Artemio Cruz is a rich old man lying on his deathbed, and the book is a mish-mash of his dreams and memories of his life told in various styles, narrated from different points of view. It definitely had its moments: I was gripped by the climax of his activities during the civil war. I also found the style easy-going and evocative on occasion, as in the part with a weekend prostitute. But most of it was a strange style made up of feverish imaginings and stream-of-consciousness writing, and I really struggled to understand what he was talking about half the time. I often couldn't figure out which character was responsible for quoted speech, and Fuentes certainly commits that annoying crime of having several pages of dialogue, back-and-forth, single line of quoted speech after line after line, with no narrative interjections or asymmetry to indicate which character each half belongs to. When I was younger I would count it out but now I honestly can't be bothered; reading is meant to be fun and interesting, not laborious. Even when the words and grammar made sense, the meanings were usually hard to "get": after half a book of tension I discovered what the horse-crossing-the-river phrase was referring to, only to be left wondering, without resolve, what it meant.

All that aside, it's not worthless. Even the grammatically confused stream-of-consciousness passages, annoying and opaque as they were, at least conveyed a strong impression of what it might be like to die slowly of illness.

Oh, one last problem: I don't need my characters to be heroes, but Artemio Cruz is, without giving too much away in the form of spoilers, a completely pathetic wanker for whom I have very little sympathy. And I'm not talking about misdemeanors, but crimes which today would land you in prison for life.
1 vote seabear | Jun 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fuentes, Carlosprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kliphuis, J.F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vuyk-Bosdriesz, JohannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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After collapsing from an illness while attending a business meeting, a dying Artemio Cruz, a rich and powerful land owner in modern Mexico, is driven by conscience to recall his corrupt life.

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