Mexican Author Carlos Fuentes
His New Novel Inez Weaves Music, Passion, Mystery
Listen to Bob Edwards' report.
Hear an extended version of the interview.
Read an excerpt from Carlos Fuentes' latest novel, Inez.
Photo: Copyright Miguel Gener
Photo: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Read an excerpt.
May 21, 2002 -- The characters in Carlos Fuentes' latest novel sweep through time in search of love and the origins of passion in music.
In an interview with Morning Edition host Bob Edwards, Fuentes describes the novella, Inez, and its three protagonists. One, world-famous orchestra director Gabriel Atlan-Ferrara, is "modeled on one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, the Romanian Sergiu Celibidache." The love of his life is a young Mexican soprano, Inez, a character Fuentes says was inspired by the legendary Maria Callas.
A mysterious third character "is absent from the present," Fuentes says. "Inez discovers him in a photograph with Gabriel and since she cannot find him in the present, she tries to find him in another time -- a past time, a future time, we don't precisely know. She wants to go beyond the discipline of music to the passionate cry of love to the first passion, which is implicit in the root of music itself."
A crystal seal that seems to give Gabriel powers over Inez adds a supernatural element to the story:
Inez. It rhymed with 'regress,' Ee-ness, and in the crystal seal the maestro hoped to find the impossible reflection of both: Inez and a return to a time before the years prohibiting his love. Inez. Regress.
Gabriel and Inez meet just a few times over several decades. And each time they're performing Berlioz's opera, The Damnation of Faust. It is "the opera that permits me to travel in time...," Fuentes says. "It is Berlioz who invents this original dissonance, this extraordinary mystery of the origin of music and the origin of voice."
The Panamanian-born Fuentes has lived most of his life in Mexico and is that country's most celebrated novelist. He won Mexico's National Award for Literature for Orchids in the Moonlight. Fourteen of his novels have been published in the United States. One of his best-known books, The Old Gringo, was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck, Jane Fonda and Jimmy Smits.
In most of his novels and essays, Fuentes has explored the history and cultural identity of Latin America, especially that of Mexico. But he says that the search for national identity no longer permeates his work, nor that of the latest generation of Mexican novelists.
"There are now 30-year-old Mexican writers who do great novels in which Mexico isn't even mentioned... " Fuentes says. "You have an absolute freedom in Mexican writing today in which you don't necessarily have to deal with the Mexican identity. You know why? Because we have an identity... We know who we are. We know what it means to be a Mexican. Now the problem is to discover difference -- not identity but difference: sexual difference, religious difference, political difference, moral differences, aesthetical differences..."
Previous NPR Coverage
Listen to a Nov. 28, 2000, review of Fuentes' The Years with Laura Diaz.
Information about Carlos Fuentes' latest book, Inez.
New York Times reviews of books by Fuentes.
An excerpt from Fuentes' The Years with Laura Diaz.
A November 2000 interview with Fuentes in the Austin Chronicle.
Notes on Berlioz' La Damnation de Faust.