Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Interview with Carlos Fuentes

A 1998 interview with Carlos Fuentes

DC: That's also interesting in terms of the kind of vexed relationship that you've spoken about in your own life--and also historically--between the United States and Mexico, where American tastes have had such a profound effect while at the same time culturally there is a very strong antipathy. In what way is the United States a countersite for you?

CF: Very much so. That again is a biographical thing because I grew up in this country, because I'm bilingual, because I know the United States well and admire its culture and its institutions, and I'm appalled by its policies towards Latin America, and in general by its incapacity to understand the world or to accept a diminished place in the world, and since, whatever else we might think, we're going to live together for as far as we can forecast. Or as la Cuarraca, Damiana Cisneros, says to Juan Preciado in Pedro Paramo [the novel by Juan Rulfo] "Be quiet because we're going to be here buried in this tomb for a long, long time together, so hug me." The same is true between Mexico and the United States: we're going to be neighbors. Probably many Mexicans would like to sort of drift away to Polynesia, far from the United States, even if that means being further from God, but also maybe the United States would like to see Mexico go away. No, we're not going away. We're going to share problems, we're going to share labor, we're going to share diplomacy, we're going to be at odds. We don't have the same culture, we don't have the same conception of things, we don't pray to the same people, but we will have to live together. For me this is a paramount fact of our life, of our existence. It is an important sounding board also in the sense that I think it should make Mexico understand that we gain nothing by living culturally and politically and economically in isolation vis-a-vis the United States. We have to find many sources of support and identification in the world, notably in Europe and the Pacific Basin. Our work is cut out for us, but in the great measure it is determined by our vicinity to the most powerful nation in the world. It's the only case in the world where you have a highly developed military and industrial power living next to a developing country.

DC: I would like to ask you about another countersite. Gombrowicz remarked in an essay that "any artist who respects himself ought to be, and in every sense of the term, an emigre." How would you compare your sense of exile with Gombrowicz's?

CF: Listen, I've been traveling all my life because my father was a diplomat, so I've always had a sense of displacement. I think I can top Gombrowicz, who lived a long time in exile in Argentina and France and knew what he was talking about certainly. I think I have something to top that, and it's the quotation from the medieval academic transmigrant monk Hugo de San Victor, who is quoted by Edward Said in his reflections on exile. What San Victor says is that an individual who feels he is best, most comfortable, in his own homeland is a tender beginner. An individual who feels at home everywhere is a bit more interesting and complex, but only the individual who feels that he is an exile everywhere, including his own home, can call himself the perfect man. Right now I'm in stage two. I have not attained a state of perfection. I feel at home in many places. I feel at home in the United States, I feel at home in Brazil, in Argentina, Venezuela, France, England, Spain. I feel less at home in my home because I'm more in tension there. I feel more of an exile in Mexico. It's probably where I'm most perfect, then. I'm basically in stage two; I'm a man who is at ease in many places: imperfect, imperfect.

You can find the full interview here

Find Carlos Fuentes' Books at Amazon.com

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