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Carlos Fuentes: La muerte de Artemio Cruz (The Death of Artemio Cruz)

Many consider this to be Fuentes’ best novel and it may well be, examining, as it does, the whole impact of the Mexican Revolution on Mexico in a way that had never been done before. The novel is the story of Artemio Cruz or, more specifically, his last twelve hours of life. We follow his story in three ways – through first-person narrative, second-person narrative and third-person narrative. As he is dying the first-person narrative is often confused. Artemio is, in many respects, a symbol of Mexico and what makes it but also what, in the eyes of Fuentes and many of his contemporaries, is wrong with it. He fought and was successful in the Mexican Revolution. After the Revolution, he made his career by exploiting the beaten aristocrats, including marrying the daughter of one of them (instead of the woman he loved), solely with the intention of taking her father’s wealth. He later exploits the peasants for whom the Revolution was fought. Where the novel succeeds is in its portrayal of Mexican history through this one man and, in particular, with the images of blood and violence and exploitation. Fuentes is angry and that comes through without any ambiguity but he is also a first-class story-teller and he tells us the story of both a man and a country in a way that is hard to equal.

Publishing history

First published by Fondo de Cultura Económica in 1962
First published in English in 1964 by Obolensky
Translated by Sam Hileman (1962 edition), Alfred J Mac Adam (1990 edition)