Mexican Literature

Professor Williams was trained in Mexican literature in graduate school by the eminent scholar of Mexican literature, Professor John S. Brushwood, author of Mexico in Its Novel. After graduate school, in addition to ongoing research on Colombian literature, Williams's early publications included analyses of fictions of Mexican writers Carlos Fuentes, Gustavo Sainz,and Jos®¶ Agust®™n. His later work on Mexican literature has focused on the fiction of writers such as Elena Poniatowska, Carmen Boullosa, Luis Arturo Ramos and Ignacio Solares, seen within the context of international postmodernism. He recently completed a collaborative project, La novella posmoderna en M®¶xico, with Professor Blanca Rodr®™guez of the University of Morelos, with the support of a grant from UC Mexus.

Below is a recent article on Fuentes, published in the professional journal Hispania in 2002:

Fuentes the Modern; Fuentes the Postmodern

Raymond L. Williams University of California/Riverside

Abstract: Since the mid-1980s, numerous discussions have taken place througilq!lt the Hispanic world concerning postmodernism, partly as an outgrowth of similar discussions since the 1960s in the United States and Europe. Increasingly, Hispanists have joined in the process of "postmodernizing" literature written in a multiplicity of modes, including what many scholars would consider either traditional or modem. Book-length studies have appeared on topics such as "Vargas Llosa among the postmoderns" and "Fuentes the postmodern" as part of this "postmodemizing" process. Simultaneously, other critical studies on the writings of Carlos Fuentes have identified him as a modem writer. Fuentes should be seen as a "Modernist" novelist (in the Anglo-American use of the term "Modernist") who has also published a few novels with postmodern tendencies. His commitment to Modernist aesthetics can be traced back to the 1950s-the period of his early fiction and his work as co- editor of the Revista Mexicana de Literatura. His vast fictional project, which he identifies as "La Edad del Tiempo," is the grand narrative of the Modernist writer par excellence. Fuentes is seen as a "bridge" or transitional figure between the modem and the postmodern, terms which should not be considered oppositional.

Key Words: Fuentes (Carlos), La muerte de Artemio Cruz, Terra Nostra, Modernism, Postmodernism, Modernist aesthetics, Postmodern novel, innovation, history, anti-totalization, grand narrative, Latin American novel

Smitten by the modernity of Faulkner, Borges, Dos Passos and Kafka at an early age, Carlos Fuentes has held a lifetime commitment to Modernist literary practices.! At the same time, he has been a well-known admirer of the more Postmodern gestures of writers such as Calvino and Sarduy. Consequently, he is a complex and difficult subject to defme-or even discuss-within the context oftoday's ongoing debates concerning Modem and Postmodern literatures.

Having published his fIrst volume of fiction in 1954 and continuing an active program of literary creation well into the twenty-fIrst century, Fuentes's fiction spans almost fifty years. As an adolescent, he witnessed the development of what many called "the Mexican Miracle," what others have identified as Mexico's modernization, and what, in contrast, others have insisted on describing as Mexico's "failed" capitalist enterprise and equally failed economic modernization. Later in his career, this Mexican writer has lived in a variety of international urban settings that some considered "Postmodern" cultural settings, and he has also witnessed the plethora of debates about the place of Postmodernism and Postmodern culture in Latin America? Paradoxically, Fuentes himself has been identified as a "Modem" or "Modernist" writer by many scholars, and "Postmodern" by others.3 Both concepts are so laden with nuances and debates that it has been difficult to sift through and understand the terms themselves, much less their potential use with respect to any contemporary writer. In this brief essay, I will attempt to make sense of some of these apparent contradictions, as well as to clarify Fuentes's relative "place" in these discussions of the Modem and the Postmodern. I will argue that Fuentes is fundamentally a writer of Modernist impulses who has published a significant set of novels of a predominantly Modernist mode; at the same time, he is the author of other novels that can be identified as Postmodern fiction.

Fuentes-the- Modern

Fuentes belongs to that generation of Latin American writers fully committed to modernizing Latin American literature. In their youth during the 1950s, this ~eneration of writers viewed their respective national novel as excessively bogged down in the traditional strategies and approaches of the realist-naturalist fiction inherited from the nineteenth century. Indeed, Vargas Llosa's famous indictment ofth~ canonical writers of the 1920s as "primitive" set the tone, in the 1960s, for an entire generation. In Fuentes's case, he was co-director of the Revista Mexicana de . Literatura that had as its stated objective to modernize Mexican letters. Rooted firmly in the Modernist writings of the West, Fuentes, Vargas Llosa and Garcia Marquez have written and spoken extensively of their debts to such major Modernist writers as Faulkner, Kafka, Dos . Passos, and Joyce. .

Fuentes and Emmanuel Carballo co-founded the Revista Mexicana de Literatura in 1955 in order to promote Mexican literature while maintaining an awareness of writing in other countries, above all, the writing of Modernists in Europe and the United States.4 In his work on this journal, Fuentes put into practice one of the important lessons he had learned from Alfonso Reyes: "La literatura mexicana sera buena porque es literatura, no porque es mexicana." Adhering to this explicitly universal and implicitly Modernist message inherited from Reyes, the Revista Mexicana de Literatura served the cosmopolitan function of magazines that appeared throughout Latin America in the 1950s. This magazine, and others like it, such as Mito in Colombia, brought modem European and North American cultural practices to Latin America, from the T.S. Eliot generation to Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The Revista Mexicana de Literatura offered a combination of Modernist aesthetics and social commitment; Sartre was extraordinarily influential in Mexico and the remainder of the Americas in the 1950s, and his idea of the engage writer soon became virtually canonical for Latin American novelists. Consequently, the Modernist writings of Fuentes and his generation share this important difference from much Mqdernist writing in Europe and the United States, where Modernism is frequently associated with distance from political commitment.5

Some of the writers whose names graced the pages of the Revista Mexicana de Literatura included Juan Rulfo, Leonora Carrington, and Mariano Picon Salas. In accordance with the cosmopolitan interests that Octavio Paz and his cohorts had established in their magazine, El hijo prodigo, the Revista Mexicana de Literatura attempted to universaljze the Mexican literary vision. In this case, "universalization" also meant modernization; the readings that Fuentes undertook of the Western Modernists had their impact as Fuentes popularized many forms of modem literature in Mexico. Evidence of this in his work on La region mas trans parente was the publication of "Fragmento de una novela" in 1956 (Fuentes 1956,581-89).

With respect to modernization and innovation, Fuentes's volume of stories, Los dias enmascarados had appeared in 1954; it represented a substantial innovative note in Mexican fiction, even though Juan Jose Arreola, Agustin Yanez, and Julio Tom had already begun to explore some of the possibilities of the fantastic in the late 1 940s and early 1950s. Mexican fiction in the 1950s was still predominantly rural and quite traditional, even though literary historians can point to selected cases of (relatively ignored) Modernist novels ranging from 1920s avant-garde fiction-such as that of Jaime Torres Bodet-to Agustin Yanez's Alfilo del agua, published in 1947. Nevertheless, Alfilo del agua was not widely read in Mexico in the early 1950s (cf. Pitol interview with Williams).

With the rise of Fuentes and his journal in the 1950s, the group of writers and artists known in Mexico as the generation of "Medio Siglo" began establishing themselves in Mexico as a cultural force. The fiction writers of this generation were Sergio Pitol, Elena Poniatowska, Sergio Galindo, Juan Garcia Ponce, Rosario Castellanos, Ines Arredondo, and Josefma Vicens, among others. They have all become recognized modem writers in Mexico whose fiction can be easily associated with the aesthetics of Modernism. This iconoclastic group was anxious for radical change in the Mexican cultural scene when a fictional revolution appeared in the form of Fuentes's novel, La region mas trans parente. By the mid-1950s, this generation of writers had fully discovered their modernity, as Fuentes has explained: "For my generation in Mexico, the problem did not consist in discovering our modernity but in discovering our tradition" (Myself and others 23)

What were the typical characteristics of Modernist aesthetics in fiction? The commonly accepted tenets of Modernist fiction, as developed by writers such as Proust, Joyce, Kafka, Faulkner and others, involved formal innovation, such as fragmentation, the use of multiple points of view, the use of neologisms, and the like.6 This was the work of Fuentes in La region mas trans parente. Much nineteenth-century fiction of the Realist-Naturalist mode operated on the basis of strict causality: the world of cause and effect was a fundamental assumption of these writers, and the Modernists questioned this assumption in some cases, undermined it in others. Fuentes's inversion of causes and effects in the historical chain ,of events in La region mas trans parente and La muerte de Artemio Cruz are among his most typical Modernist strategies in these early novels. Modernist novelists were also engaged in a virtually incessant search for order within an apparently chaotic world. The Anglo-American Modernist project also became associated with a subjectivist relativism (Conner 107). Consequently, Modernism had increasingly less to do with the world of ideas or substances that may be objectively known within themselves than with the fictionalization and understanding of the world that can be known and experienced through individual consciousness (ibid). This world of individual consciousness, of course, is the world of the character Artemio Cruz; the reader gets to know Mexico as this individual knew and experienced it.

The novels of Fuentes that are most closely aligned with Modernist fictional practices are La region mas trans parente (1958), La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962), and Zona sagrada (1967). The novels Terra Nostra (1975), La cabeza de la hidra (1978), La campana (1990), El naranjo (1993) and Los anos con Laura Diaz can also easily be associated with Modernist fiction. In these noveis, Fuentes fully exploits the technical devices pioneered by European and American Modernis.~ to explore the past and present of modem Mexico. In La region mas trans parente, he uses the multiple points of view and collage of this work's most important predecessor, Dos Passos's Modernist classic Manhattan Transfer. The structure and narrators of the fiction of Faulkner and Butor are evident in La muerte de Artemio Cruz. In both of these early novels, Fuentes-the-Modernist moves the reader from a fictional world of apparent fragmented chaos to one of order and harmony. Zona sagrada, a work written under the influence of film, uses many of the same narrative strategies. For an authority on Modernist and Postmodern fictional practices in the West in general, Brian McHale, novels such as Fuentes's La muerte de Artemio Cruz and Zona sagrada represent variants of the Modernist interior-monologue novel that focuses on a grid that each mind imposes on the outside world, or through which it assimilates the outside world (as set forth in the flfSt chapter of Postmodernist Fiction).

The early Fuentes, like his Modernist predecessors, was still searching for truths and still producing the totalizing grand narrative (Williams, The Postmodern Novel... Chapter 1). For Fuentes and his generation of fiction writers, the novels of the 1960s Boom represented the culmination of a Modernist project that still privileged issues of truth. Novels such as Garcia Marquez's Cien anos de soledad (1967), Vargas Llosa' s La casa verde (1966), and Fuentes's La muerte de Artemio Cruz were among the last significant confrontations with truth in Latin American fiction-before the skepticism of the Postmodern, the postboom and the postdictatoriaI. entered the scene} At the same time that the possibilities for universal truth claims were questioned in these novels, there was a general sense among many Latin American novelists of the 1960s that they were among the most resonant voices of the few in such closed societies who could speak for historical truth.

Terra Nostra, La campana, La cabeza de la hidra, El naranjo and Los anos con Laura Diaz (1999) represent a continuation, to different degrees, of Fuentes's Modernist project. Now writing in a Western culture of the 1970s and 1980s increasingly aware of the end of modernity, he tempered the ambitiously Modernist and totalizing impulses of his earlier work with Postmodern considerations and attitudes. Nevertheless, to some extent, Terra Nostra, La campana, and El naranjo can be read as historical and truth-seeking works still written under the influence of his earlier Modernist interior-monologue novels. In addition, La campana, La cabeza de la hidra, and El naranjo all reach denouements more typical of Modem ambiguity than of Post modem indeterminacy. Paradoxically, La cabeza de la hidra can also be associated with the Postmodern in a minor way: the characterization of the protagonist involves his complete effacement of authority (cf. Villalobos, 405).

Van Delden has argued convincingly that Fuentes's concern for the past makes Fuentes a . Modernist writer (Carlos Fuentes: Mexico and Modernity). Fuentes's totalizing master narratives are guided by an interest in multiplicity and relativism, two concerns that easily associate Fuentes with Modernism. Novels such as La muerte de A rtem io Cruz, Terra Nostra, and . Los anos con Laura Diaz are Fuentes's attempts at recuperating history and keeping it alive. As Van Delden argues with respect to Terra Nostra (and it could be argued with respect to all of Fuentes's historical novels), Fuentes undertakes the task of rewriting the past not to prove the fictional quality of historical reconstructions (as many theorists of the Postmodern would have it), but as a means of reconstructing the past as part of a present that still lives this past (cf. Villalobos).

Fuentes's mark as a Modernist novelist of the twentieth century will quite likely be his early contributions-the already-canonical works La region mas trans parente and La muerte de Artemio Cruz. As a Modernist, Fuentes was an innovator and aesthetic leader in Mexico and throughout Latin America. The legacy of their Modernist classics will probably be the legacy of all the writers of the Boom.8 Of course, these Modernists, like their counterparts in Europe and the United States, have suffered harsh critiques, even from some of their former supporters. Benjamin, an admirer of some Modem writers, lamented after World War I the devaluation of "experience" in the Modem novel ("The Storyteller," 83-110). Frank Kermode criticizes the Modernists' "elitist" need for order and its revolutionary formal innovations. David Daiches, one of the early champions of the Modernist novel, later questioned its anarchistic urge to destroy existing systems and its reactionary political vision of an ideal order (Daiches 197).

Referring to Anglo-American Modernists (and probably not Fuentes), Jameson argues boldly in The Political Unconscious that Modernism is an ideological expression of capitalism (The Political Unconscious 236). An analogy for Jameson's polemical statement is that Modernism is the truth of capitalism. It would be difficult to argue successfully, however, that a novel so overtly critical of capitalism as La muerte de Artemio Cruz (dedicated, in fact, to Marxist economist C. Wright Mills) can be viewed simply as a product of capitalism that engages in strategies of containment to deny the truth of history. This novel, to the contrary, is a strong critique of Mexico's institutionalization of modem capitalism.

For Fuentes, history goes far beyond Postmodern interests in reducing historiography to just another text. A commitment to an understanding of history and culture are essential to most of Fuentes's writing, including his texts with Postmodern tendencies. History and culture undergird the concept of identity in much of Fuentes's fiction. For this writer, writing implies an in-depth engagement with history, culture and identity. The foundations of Latin American history are to be found primarily in Terra Nostra, but are then elaborated in La campana and El naranjo.

Fuentes's early novels-La region mas trans parente, Aura, La muerte de Artemio Cruz- coincide with some ofOctavio paz's formulations on Mexican identity to be found in Ellaberinto de la soledad. Echoing the earlier writings of Samuel Ramos and Alfonso Reyes, Paz had traced Mexican identity back to the key moment when Cortes, by fathering the first Mexican mestizo with La Malinche, created the first Mexican of Spanish and Native American identity. Similarly, Fuentes returned to the pre-Hispanic past in his early fiction. By the mid-1960s, Fuentes's ideas on identity had evolved beyond the concepts of Paz in the 1950s. In Zona sagrada, Cambio de piel, Cumpleanos, and Terra Nostra, his trans-historical vision is more universal and less focused on the Aztec past as the primary means of understanding the present. Now Fuentes begins including Europe as part of a historical vision beyond the Mexican pre-Hispanic and Colonial past; he also begins questioning the very concept of historical space. In these works of the late 1960s and 1970s, his vision is as universal as he and his generation of intellechIals had desired back in the 1950s when they published the Revista Mexicana de Literatura. With these "universal" interests, it is also the vision of an ambitious Modernist now well advanced in his vast, totalizing Modernist enterprise.

In summary, "Fuentes-the-Modern" is the author of several now-classic Modernist novels that were paradigmatic works for the modernization of Latin American fiction in the twentieth century. Recognition of his central role as a Modernist writer means understanding some of the major contributions of Latin American writing of the century. Indeed, his legacy for the century could well be his role as the author of the Modernist classic La muerte de Artemio Cruz. More recently, Los aiios con Laura Diaz, similar in many ways to La muerte de Artemio Cruz (such as in its broad, historical vision of twentieth-century Mexico), is te~gmony to the strength and durability of the Modernist legacy of Fuentes and the Latin American writer in the twentieth century.

Fu entes-the- Postmodern

Umberto Eco claims that the Postrnodern is born at the moment when we discover that the world has no fixed center. This moment occurred in Latin American literature with the rise of Borges in the 1940s; he became a key figure for some European theorists of the Postrnodern and even more for young Latin American Postrnodern novelists of the 1970s and 1980s. The discourse and concepts ofPostrnodernism-lo indeterminado, la problematizacion del centro, la marginalidad, la discontinuidad la simulacion, and the like have been circulating in Latin America since the late 1970s. Perhaps the name that North and South share the most with respect to Postmodernism, however, is Borges. The same Borges cited by Barthes, Foucault, Baudrillard and Lyotard also established the foundation for a Latin American Postrnodern fiction with his stories of Ficciones (cf. Williams, The Postmodern Novel... Chapter 1).

After'Borges, the most notable contribution to the later publication of a Latin American Postmodern fiction was Cortazar's Rayuela (1963). Cortazar's novel itself is not really a Postrnodern work, but its Morelli chapters at the end were a radical proposal for Postmodern fiction (cf. Williams, The Modern... Chapter 9). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Postmodern novel began to appear in Latin America, frequently inspired by either Borges or Cortazar, and it was constituted by such experimental fictions as Guillermo Cabrera Infante's Tres tristes tigres (1967), Nestor Sanchez's Siberia Blues (1967), and Manuel Puig's La traicion de Rita Hayworth (1968). Another key novel for the formation of a Latin American Postmodern fiction was Severo Sarduy's Cobra (1972), a hermetic text, yet widely read among the writers of the Postrnodern generation of Diamela Eltit and Ricardo Piglia.

What is Postrnodern fiction? Given the lack of consensus concerning its possible definition, it is more appropriate to speak of its tendencies. Writing about contemporary fiction in general, Linda Hutcheon has been interested in the contradictions of Postrnodernism and, more specifically, the unresolved contradictions ofPostrnodern culture. Citing Larry McCaffery, she also refers to Postrnodern literature as literature that is metafictionally self-reflective and yet speaks to us powerfully about real political and historical realities (A Poetics of Postmodernism 36). For Hutcheon, key concepts for Postrnodernism are paradox, contradiction, and a movement toward anti-totalization. The concepts of the multiple, the provisional and the different are also important for Hutcheon.

Hutcheon proposes that the term Postrnodernism in fiction be reserved for "historiographic metafiction" (49). This Postrnodern fiction, as she describes it, often enacts the problematic nature of writing history to narrativization, raising questions about the cognitive status of historical knowledge. It refuses the view that only history has a truth claim, both by questioning the ground of that claim in historiography and by discourses, human constructs, signifying systems, which derive their major claims to truth from that identity (93). Historiographic metafiction, such as Fuentes's Terra Nostra, suggests that truth and falsity may not be the most appropriate terms. Rather, we should be speaking of truths in the plural.

McHale offers several useful distinctions for an understanding of Post modern fiction. On theone hand, he associates an emphasis on the epistemological with Modernist writing and emphasis on the ontological with the Postmodern (cf. Chapter 1). The Postmodern text with emphasis on the ontological can ask or imply the question, "What is this world?" In Moriras lejos (1967), Mexican Jose Emilio Pacheco shares the ontological concerns of the Postmodern when he blurs the boundaries between the ancient and modern worlds, as well as between the fascist operations of the Nazis and the "democratic" operations of more supposedly democratic states, such as modern Mexico. On the other hand, McHale speaks of the double coding that is typical ofPostmodern

culture. .

As a continuation of the Modernist tradition rather tluln in opposition to it, Postmodern fiction shares some Modernist impulses. This is certainly the case in Fuentes's predominantly Postmodern novels Cambia de piel (1967), Cumpleaiios (1969), Terra Nostra (already described with strong Modernist impulses, too), Unafamilia lejana (1981), Gringo Viejo (1985), Cristobal Nonato (1987) and Instinto de Inez (2001). Cambia de pielwas one of his early experiments with characters of multiple (rather than just double) identity, as well as with characters and space in constant transformation. When it is revealed at the end of this novel that the text of Cambia de piel has been produced by the mad inmate of an insane asylum, it is evident that the fiction of Fuentes has moved from concerns over the epistemological in La muerte de Artemio Cruz to the ontological, a change that McHale identifies as a shift toward the Postmodern.

Cumpleaiios is Fuentes's most radical experiment with space, an experiment continued with Terra Nostra and later novels. If innovation with time was an outstanding characteristic of Fuentes's Modernist texts (La region, La muerte de Artemio Cruz), in his Postmodern works, particularly Cumpleaiios and Terra Nostra, an important innovation is with space (Williams, The Writings of Carlos Fuentes Part III). As Helmuth has pointed out, Fuentes's use of indeterminacy, hi~tory and characterization all associate Cumpleaiios with the Postmodern (25).

Una familia lejana, Gringo viejo, Cristobal Nonato, and Instinto de Inez continue the Postmodern strategies and motifs of Cambia de piel, Cumpleaiios, and Terra Nostra. Characters of multiple and transforming identities are evident in these four texts, and Fuentes not only employs, but also flaunts the umesolved contradictions that are Postmodern gestures. As frequently happens in Postmodern novels, the reality of texts, of fiction, or of storytelling predominates over empirical reality and often subverts it. These are fictional worlds that inevitably revert to language as their principal subject. A noteworthy sub-theme of this interest is found in Instintode Inez, for here Fuentes deals with the origins of language and music, exploring the primordial relationships between these two forms of human communication.

The Postmodern elements are so evident in Terra Nostra that McHale has described it as one of the "paradigmatic texts of postmodernist writing, literally an anthology of postmodernist themes and devices" (Chapter 1). Trans-historical operations in Terra Nostra allow Fuentes to include fictional and historical centuries from different centuries, from the medieval period to the twentieth century. Terra Nostra is Fuentes's major rereading of Latin American culture and history. In addition, it is one of Latin America's major projects of the Postmodern on identity, knowledge, and the novel itself. Vargas Llosa had asked the historical question, "At what moment did Peru mess up?" and, in attempting to respond to this question, wrote the lengthy historical and political novel, Conversacion en La Catedral (1969). Near the end of Terra Nostra, Fuentes poses a similar question, but in broader terms: "At what moment did Spanish America mess up?" In addition to the particulars of Latin American history, Fuentes is concerned with how history, culture, and identity are constructed and then understood. As a reader of Ortega y Gasset and Foucault, Fuentes has understood history not as a compilation of immutable truths, but as a living world in transformation.

Fuentes's awareness of historical discourse and, above all, his questioning of the very assumptions of Western historiography, align Terra Nostra with the Postmodern described by Hutcheon. In this sense, Terra Nostra is more deeply historical and political than many Modernist novels, including such overtly historical and political Latin American novels as Garcia Marquez's Cien aiios de soledad, Vargas Llosa's Conversacion en LaCatedral, and Fuentes's own La muerte de Artemio Cruz.

As a Postmodern text., Terra Nostra is Fuentes's rewriting of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Neoclassical architecture of EI Escorial. For Jencks, one common Postmodern architectural design is the skyscraper with perfectly Modem lines, but with classical Greek columns in open

. opposition to the Modem design.9 In this Postmodern construct, no harmonic resolution of these blatantly contradictory lines is designed or desired. They remain in unresolved (Postmodern) contradiction. The palace and other aspects of Terra Nostra function in this fashion. In his use of . a '\painting from Orvieto" (amoral by Luca Signorelli actually located in Orvieto, Italy), Fuentes appropriates this erotic mural from Orvieto and places it into EI Senor's severe and austere palace. Just as the Postmodern architect leaves the Greek columns on the modem building with no resolution, Fuentes leaves the Signorelli mural in the palace in open contradiction-with no visible resolution.

In a similar manner, Fuentes appropriates the well-known novelistic ruse of the manuscript in the lost bottle and uses it anachronistically in a novel published in 1975. In the process, Fuentes juxtaposes his typically Modem novelistic strategies with the anachronistically traditional. The result is comparable, once again, to the Postmodern architectural image of the Modem skyscraper with its Greek columns.

The double coding of the Postmodern is evident in Terra Nostra in a variety of ways. One notable case involves the use of characters of Spanish Golden Age literature who appear as characters in Terra Nostra: they are and they are not Golden Age characters. The double voice of Fuentes's pastiche is more subtle when the narrator intercalates the phrase "polvo enamorado" in the novel, thus evoking simultaneously the double voice of Fuentes, author of the text we are reading, and of Quevedo, author of the original sonnet that ends with the same words. Consequeptly, these words are and are not those of Quevedo, according to the rules of double coding. Similarly, the reader of Terra Nostra hears the double voice of Fuentes and Garcia Marquez when the omniscient narrator uses the phrase "muchos alios despues. . ." twice (near the middle and near the end of the novel). This phrase is followed by a clause in the conditional tense, exactly as it appears in Cien alios de soledad.

Fuentes's tendency to use double coding is also evident in the characters of several of his novels. Some of these characters are at the same time specific historical characters while they also are not these historical characters. In some of these cases, such as the authority figures in Terra Nostra, they are and are not several historical Spanish kings and queens. Most of the novel's major figures, in addition, have double codes rather than any fixed, singular identity. These multiple identities in constant transformation, which question the very concept of psychic unity and the individual subject, align Terra Nostra (and several other novels with similar characters) with the Postmodern.

Terra Nostra can be read as a Postmodern architectural construct imposed on a Medieval, Renaissance, and Neoclassical architectural model. This construct rediscovers the heterogeneity of Latin American culture and the heterogeneity ofPostmodern culture in the Americas. Fuentes's palace is one of several unresolved contradictions. Representation in Terra Nostra takes as its point of departure (and then exploits) the representation of Don Quijote and the fiction of Borges. The complex Terra Nostra, consequently, is neither just the Modernist work positing truth nor the totally enigmatic and mysterious Postmodern work with no meaning at all.

Fuentes's usage of mirrors and doubles also evokes the Postmodern. He employs mirrors, doubles, and a multiplicity of images of each to question representation. In his book, Cervantes or the Critique of Reading, Fuentes himself points out that the painting Las meninas by Velazquez involves an interplay in which representation is represented at every point. In Terra Nostra, Fuentes problematizes representation similarly, for the omnipresent mirrors and doubles seemingly represent representation at every point in the novel (Williams, The Writings... Part II).

Fuentes's Postmodern fiction, despite its unresolved contradictions and metafictional qualities, is deeply historical and political. His Postmodern work is a "transhistorical carnival" (as McHale calls it) in which characters interact in their projected fictional worlds and a supposedempirical reality. At the same time, Fuentes engages in multiple intertextual boundary violations, including fictional characters from other novels in his texts. Consequently, the reader of Fuentes' s Postmodern fiction experiences an even more complex confrontation with history than in his overtly historical and political Modernist texts, La region mas trans parente, La muerte de Artemio Cruz, and Los alios con Laura Diaz. Novels such as Terra Nostra and La cabeza de la . hidra are easily associated with both Modernist and Postmodern stratagems.


The ambiguity and perhaps confusion over the modem and postmodern Fuentes-as well as the "modern-and-postmodern Vargas Llosa"-are Both writers engage in practices that align them with both the Modernist mode of fiction writing and certain other tendencies more typically associated with Postmodern fiction. Consequently, it is understandable that entire books have been written about the "Postmodern" Fuentes and the "Postmodern Vargas Llosa." Both writers lend themselves to such alignments, and both writers have published novels since the 1970s that readers can easily identify with Postmodern fiction. But these alignments are not representative of the total fiction of either writer, and one-sided arguments for a Postmodern Fuentes, a Postmodern Vargas Llosa, and the like, are often weakened by the almost casual acceptance of Postmodern theory as set forth by a limited number of theorists.!!

The potential for confusion is enormous when one takes into account that novels such as Fuentes's Terra Nostra and La cabeza de la hidra, as well as Vargas Llosa's La tia Julia and l,Quien malo a Palomino Molero? share characteristics typical of both Modernist and Postmodern fiction. In many ways, then, the generation of the Boom is really the bridge generation, so to speak, between their Modernist predecessors (Asturias, Yatlez, Carpentier, et al) and their Postmodern followers of the generation of Ricardo Piglia and Diamela Eltit. Stated in another way, Fuentes should be seen not as a Modernist unrelated to Postmodern culture, nor as the strictly Postmodern writer that he is not; rather, Fuentes and Vargas Llosa should be read as authors of transitional texts that bridge the gap in the discussions of Modernist "versus" Postmodern literature.

Fuentes and his generation have made a significant contribution to the modernization of the Latin American novel that was originally-in the late 1950s and early 1 960s-associated closely with Modernist aesthetics. Fuentes and some of his cohort do indeed deal with language, history, and identity in ways that are of interest to Postmodern theory. In the end, however, the grand narrative that frequently synthesizes these Postmodern interests afflrIns the Modernist enterprise that the total work of Fuentes, his "La Edad del Tiempo," represents. Indeed, the very conceptualization of his total fiction as a master narrative titled "La Edad del Tiempo" is an indicator that Fuentes himself sees his project as the grand narrative of the Modernist writer.i2

It can easily be argued that the fourteen cycles of"La Edad del Tiempo" represent one of the most significant bodies of literature to have been created by a single writer over the past century . A vast body of work in time and space, it is set in the entire Hispanic world, from Spain to the Americas, from Argentina to the borders between Mexico and the United States, and it represents a rewriting of history from Roman times to the present. This enormous, ambitious project is the result of the aspirations of a Modernist writer who decided at a very young age that his task was to modernize Hispanic fiction and to rewrite the history of the Americas. His production to date, which includes over twenty books of fiction and numerous volumes of essays, is testimony to the success of his exceptionally ambitious Modernist, historical enterprise.


'I use the term "Modernist" here in accordance with the Anglo-American usage of the term referring to Modernism. This term is not to be confused with Spanish-American modemismo, an entirely different literary movement. Just in terms of basic chronology, Modernism referred originally to Anglo-American literature of the 1920s and 1930s, and modemismo to Spanish American literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In this