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The Old Gringo (1985)

by Carlos Fuentes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9832417,587 (3.5)1 / 80
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.… (more)
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» See also 80 mentions

English (19)  Spanish (3)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
8481302163
  archivomorero | Jun 27, 2022 |
8481302163
  archivomorero | Jun 27, 2022 |
The novel is framed as the reminiscence of a woman. An old journalist heads to Mexico during the time of the Mexican Revolution seeking, not a story, but his death. He joins with a band of Pancho Villa’s guerilla fighters, led by General Tomas Arroyo, and witnesses events as they destroy all but the mirrored ballroom of a once great hacienda. And there he encounters a white woman, Harriet Winslow. Harriet had been hired as a governess for the owner’s children, but they had all fled by the time she arrived from the US, and now she is stranded and yet determined to stay and defend the property as best she can.

There has been much praise for this work; it was the first translated work by a Mexican author to become a bestseller in the United States. But I had great difficulty engaging with the characters and the plot, such as it was.

Fuentes interrupts the action with long stream-of-conciousness soliloquies by each of his characters. Some of these consist of one long sentence that takes more than a page of text to get through. Now, I’ve read other works with a similar technique – Jose Saramago’s works come to mind – and I’ve enjoyed them. But in this book, I felt that these interludes did nothing so much as interrupt the meager story and make me like the book even less.

Then there are the sex scenes. I’ll say this for Fuentes, he doesn’t pull any punches. But he also has NO IDEA how women think or what motivates them to act the way they do. These are nothing but a macho man’s fantasy. Enough said.

The Old Gringo in the story is based on Ambrose Bierce, an historical figure who disappeared shortly after he travelled to Mexico during that country’s revolution. But the name is mentioned only once towards the very end of the book. ( )
  BookConcierge | Dec 21, 2020 |
Honduras-tysken
  victor.k.jacobsson | May 23, 2020 |
Clever albeit thin imagining of Ambrose Bierce and Pancho Villa in the mirrored ballroom of Fuentes' imagination; not anywhere near his best, but there was aproliferation of cheap copies at one time. A diversion at best. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carlos Fuentesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bamberg, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome 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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

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.

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