00 / 00

Discussing the books "Burnt water" and "Distant relations" with the author Carlos Fuentes

BROADCAST: Jun. 6, 1982 | DURATION: 00:49:52

Synopsis

Discussing the books "Burnt water" and "Distant relations" with the author Carlos Fuentes.

Transcript

Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.

OK

Studs Terkel Seated well. I think one of the remarkable writers of our time, more than that creative spirits Carlos Fuentes. How do you describe him? He's a novelist, a short story writer, essayist, now playwright, as well as diplomat. We think of Carlos Fuentes whose 2 most recent books a Distant Relations, a novel of which we perhaps can talk about as well as short stories called Burnt Water, Farrar, Straus, Giroux the publishers and he tells me of his new play, but first of all I got to ask about you.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Studs Terkel Car- which is the last time we met? To me you represent 2 cultures in 1. You were the Mexican ambassador to Paris to France. You come from a legacy of such richness the Hispanic legacy.

Carlos Fuentes Yes.

Studs Terkel See yourself? Is this, I sense in Distant Relations, your most recent novel what some call Proustian in nature and delicate and very gripping, almost as you're in it throughout. And that, as though the word is not conflict, conflict yeah, and fusion at the same time, of the 2, of 2 cultures: European and New World.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah of course we've been fighting this out since the beginning of our, of our lives. The old world and the New World that has been in conflict for you as Americans as North Americans, and witness Hawthorne and Henry James and Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald. It's been a constant problem for your identity. It certainly has been for us and for the very simple reason that we were the utopian of the old world. We were the utopia of Europe. That's why we were discovered cause we're desired. And the then the very people who decide this utopia with its good savage and it's golden age promptly destroyed it, made it impossible, reduced to ashes, to slavery. And when we reach independence from our utopianists, we in turn, transform Europe into our utopian.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Carlos Fuentes No- now we want to be like you, we're free. We want to be like you, we want to become Europeans. That was another failure. A double failure.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Carlos Fuentes We were not the u- utopia of Europe. Europe could not be our utopia. We must be ourselves they must be themselves. Yet, the cultures must be open to one another and they can give a lot to one another on the condition that we do not idealize ourselves, that we do not convert each one of ourselves in the utopia of the other then we fail, we fail miserably.

Studs Terkel As you're talking this very time we're talking, perhaps it'll be resolved one way or another by the time this is on the air but I, though I doubt it.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Studs Terkel Something ridiculous, absurd, and tragic is going on involving the 2 worlds.

Carlos Fuentes Yes,

Studs Terkel An old empire Britain, Britannia rules the waves and some vestigial remainder of an empire called the Falklands, Argentina run by a fascist junta called Malvinas and young men are dying both English speaking and Spanish speaking.

Carlos Fuentes Yes, yes. Well, thi- this ties in very well with your first question Studs because we're witnessing in a way one of the final skirmishes of one of the oldest running wars in history which is the war between the Spanish Empire and the British Empire, the English Empire. This began with Philip the second and Elizabeth the virgin queen and the invinsible armada. It's been going on ever since. It's something very deeply felt especially on the sides of the losers which have been the, the Hispanic, Hispanic peoples. The many questions to ponder about this tragicomic affair because it is tragicomic in some ways. We, we think in Latin America that the Malvinas are, belong to Argentina because the territory's inherited by the Spanish speaking republics from the Spanish Empire naturally belong to them. And after all, they were under Argentinian rule unti- until the British took them away in 1833. That's all very good. But what has been revealed here is most extraordinary. It is the depth of Latin American nationalism beyond ideologies. The fact that the great, great supporters of Argentina which is as you have just said a fascist regime and one of the most brutal, repressive, horrendous regimes we have ever seen in Latin America, is supported by a democracy such as Venezuela. And by 2 of the left socialist regimes of the hemisphere, Cuba and Nicaragua. They're all for this blessed junta. It makes you wonder. It makes you understand something the United States has trouble and understanding. I think it's time it understood it. That the deepest seeded ideology in Latin America is conservative nationalism. Nationalism by its very nature is not socialist. Socialism means internationalism. We are nationalists, conservative nationalists who sometimes dress up as Marxists, in other, to frighten the United States, to make faces, to play the bogeyman. But if we could play it with a Catholic mask we would do it also you see. The important thing is to affirm our profound sense of nationalism. This is the, the, the profoundest reality of Latin America and it is surface so evidently in the conflict of the South Atlantic. Here you have [throat clears] a repressive regime in Argentina and the head of the junta General Galtieri, shedding tears for the young men who have tragically fallen in the, in the skirmishes in the, in the in the South Atlantic and also the famous tango singer Libertad Lamarque, whom I saw on television a few days

Studs Terkel Libertad?

Carlos Fuentes Libertad Lamarque. She is the most famous tango singer crying also, singing the tango, oh my little sister Malvina come back to me you belong to me et cetera. And I'm saying several things to myself. Here are the tango singer and the dictator both shedding tears for the dead soldiers but forgetting the 20,000 Argentinians who have been killed by the junta, who have disappeared, tortured been thrown to the ocean butchered. Who cries for them? Here are the Argentinian military demanding sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands which I'm willing to grant to Argentina but on the condition that Argentina also has sovereignty over itself. That the people have a sovereignty over their own country which they don't have in Argentina you see. It is a, a terrible mix up, a, a tragedy and a comedy at the same time. As it hurts my feelings as a Latin American very, very much. There's so many things to add to this, Stud, if I may go on for

Studs Terkel Oh, I hope so.

Carlos Fuentes Which is simply the, the outrageous stupidity and blunders of American foreign policy in the region. How the Malvinas affair has revealed that in effect, American foreign policy everywhere, but especially in Latin America is no policy at all. That it reacts on day to day happenings and circumstances. Think Studs. What were the Argentinian military to think when Jeane Kirkpatrick says she adores them they are the beloved children of the Reagan administration? And Undersecretary Enders goes down there to repeat the message. And when Secretary Haig is questioned in the Senate about foreign aid to Argentina and asks, "what do we have in common with the Argentinian regime Mister Secretary." He answers, "the belief in God, Mister Senator." The belief in God. They are inducted the Argentine military, by the United States into invading Nicaragua. They were going to be the mercenaries for the invasion of Nicaragua and also for the invasion of El Salvador if it was needed so that American troops would not be there but Latin troops. With all this, with all these green lights these signals, the Argentinian military, suffering from a profound internal crisis: inflation, unemployment, the total failure of the Milton Friedman economic plan in Argentina.

Studs Terkel Pardon me, was the Milton Friedman plan tried in Argentina? As it was in Chili.

Carlos Fuentes Oh yes, yes with tre-, ter- tremendous effects. With an absolute failure. It is one of the reasons of the economic crisis Argentina is suffering. And these are all the reasons why the Argentine military felt impelled to distract the attention of the people in Argentina and to profit from what they believed was a favora- favorable international situation to invade the Faulkland Islands, the, the Malvinas. And the United States was as usual caught with its pants down and forced to, to choose in public between 2 alliances. This shouldn't happen to Uganda, Studs. To have to be forced to choose between the Rio Treaty and the NATO treaty in public, and to have to sacrifice one of these alliances one of these treaties which in this case is the Latin American alliance is, is is is i- tremendous. I mean, thi- this this wouldn't happen to this wouldn't happen to a second year, second grade pupil in international relations.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Carlos Fuentes It is astounding that it should happen to the most powerful country in the world. I can't believe it. I can't believe that it has come about because many things are unsure about the South Atlantic crisis. I think what is sure is that the Monroe Doctrine is dead and good riddance I say. That Latin America has fallen into a profoundly anti-American, anti-North American stance. That it will take years for the United States to rebuild the minimum of the consensus in Latin America that its much proclaimed policy in Central America to thwart Soviet and Cuban intervention has gone down the drain. I don't know for how long. That the military are saddled in power the extreme reactionary military right is

Studs Terkel That our government has helped.

Carlos Fuentes In El Salvador, in

Studs Terkel And Chile.

Carlos Fuentes And in Chile and in Argentina. And the United States faces a horrendous failure of policy throughout

Studs Terkel And then the other side of this, you say tragicomic situation, it would be certainly wildly comic in Gilbert and Sullivan were not the tragic loss of young lives.

Carlos Fuentes Oh,

Studs Terkel You have the British. Then you have an old piece of comedy of errors as when Britannia ruled the waves. You have Mrs. Thatcher who some would describe as Ronald Reagan in drag. You have her, and you have a dilemma there. Unemployment as well.

Carlos Fuentes Yes.

Studs Terkel You have another side of it too don't you?

Carlos Fuentes Well yes, yes you have the, the, the side of the remnants of British, of British colonialism. Cause it is colonialism. When they say no but the Kelpers the Kelpers have their own institutions and the, the Argentinians are goin- going to submit them to a military dictatorship. The fact is that the Kelpers are not British citizens. They have not been granted the status of citizens by the Crown in England so they are colonial subjects. There is also that aspect and one finds it difficult also to sympathize with the government that has not been shy in shooting at the Irish [coughing].

Studs Terkel Is so I suppose [coughing] the, the, the obvious [coughing] answer replied or would have been of course sitting down at the table and discussing.

Carlos Fuentes The only solution is a diplomatic solution a negotiated solution basically at the UN and through the good offices of the Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar. That is the only solution I found on more or less on the basis of what has been discussed that is still fire and an interim administration by the United Nations and negotiations. It's the only solution I have.

Studs Terkel Yeah, [unintelligible].

Carlos Fuentes It would have been [bang] mu-, much more easy or convenient and cheaper for everyone concerned, if Great Britain had been paid a million dollars, a million dollars for each of the Kelpers. To send them back to Britain to resettle them in the United Kingdom. It would have come to less of a cost than the cost of a war Studs, where I'm afraid that more people are going to be killed. More soldiers are going to be killed than inhabitants the Falkland Islands have.

Studs Terkel There's a poem by Bertolt Brecht that directly connects with the absurd situation. It's about the anonymous of history those who who pay the whoever it is whenever Piper there is. And he asked who built the seven gates Thebes. And then he says, "Where did the Masons go when the Chinese wall was built. When Caesar conquered Gaul was not even a cook in the army. And finally closer to home when the Armada sank." And of course every school child in the United States knows the year 1588. Sir Francis Drake leading and conquering the Spanish Armada thus Britannia ruled the waves. When the Armada sank, we read that King Philip wept and then asked Brecht, "Were are there no other tears?"

Carlos Fuentes He also said, "I did not send my men to fight the elements."

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Carlos Fuentes That might be ironically reversed and Margaret Thatcher might have to say that today I did had not send my men to fight the elements, the waves, and the cold in the South, in the South Atlantic. But you know that the the-, the-, the- these historical rankers die so hard. Let me tell you tell you small anecdote Studs. The Sunday Times back in the early sixties sent a photographer down to Mexico to help me in doing a piece on Mexico for the London Sunday Times. He was a very good looking young man in his twenties with long, long blonde hair which was something new in Mexico at the time. We used to go around villages and mountains of Mexico and the Indians would do one or two things. They would throw stones at him, at the English boy or they would sing Christ, Christ, Christ at him. In any case, he fell in love with a Spanish girl. And told me one day, "Listen I want to marry her but I don't dare go near her father who is a terrible man a Spaniard who growls at me. Would you intercede and ask him for the hand of his daughter?" Which I did and the father said, "What! That daughter of mine, the daughter of a Spaniard marry the son, a son of the perfidious Albion that sunk our Armada in 1588? Never!"

Studs Terkel My God!

Carlos Fuentes I said, "Oh my God but this happened [laughing]."

Studs Terkel That's incredible.

Carlos Fuentes This happened 4 centuries ago okay.

Studs Terkel These memories, memories historic memories

Carlos Fuentes Die hard. They die hard. They die hard. You know, you know I think one of the best definitions of the war in the South Atlantic was given by the London Observer and said, "This is like

Studs Terkel Two bald men fighting over a comb. Of course.

Carlos Fuentes It's so useless, finally.

Studs Terkel So this leads to.

Carlos Fuentes So useless.

Studs Terkel Big questions you speak of how strong nationalism is. Well apparently you say strong on the Latin American countries. Isn't is so? Anyw- you know Einstein, before he died was saying the human race would jump, to quantum leap technologically, scientifically unless we can overcome whatever these barriers separate people mostly through nations race of cou- but from nations. He says there will be catastrophe. So how does one. I guess nationalism is needed when a country discovers itself an ex-colony.

Carlos Fuentes Yes, you, you, you are you're very intelligent. That is the problem because I am against nationalism and I see how terrible it is in today's world how useless, how anachronistic, how absurd because nations are so interlocked. It is so difficult to do anything against any other nation because by hurting it you're hurting yourself. [Unitelligble] Poland and the Soviet Union and Argentina. Everywhere you look it is the same problem. Yet as a Mexican, as a man of the Third World, I have to say yes it's all very good for an American, a Frenchman, an Englishman to say this because their nationhood is something acquired, achieved. They go to bed every night without worrying about the fact am I, or am I not? Do I have or do I not have a national identity? But for countries that are forming themselves, that are haf- half-baked countries that are countries assailed by military menaces by transnational corporations by a million things that make it impossible for them to decide their own destiny, think nationalism of course comes forward as a valuable asset as an ideology you must consider. And it's very conflictive for far sighted, intelligent, liberal people in these countries to sort out this conflict. Studs it's a it's a great dilemma for us.

Studs Terkel Yeah, yeah. So we when speak of one world you know and the world federalism.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Studs Terkel It doesn't quite dig what you dig. What you experience a as as a man

Carlos Fuentes No because, we we think of world federalism. We think of a world dominated by the United States. Where the United States imposes its values, imposes its interests. It's another word for United States nationalism. Ram Panh gone amok. So we don't want this.

Studs Terkel Yeah, but there still.

Carlos Fuentes We have to have limit- I think the the future of the world the good future of the world for the time being are important regional blocks that transcend provincial nationalism and that also transcend the bipolar 2 power structure of the world today. I, I want to begin with, I want a world in which besides the Soviet Union and the United States, you have a multi-power structure that includes Latin America, Islam, black Africa, Japan, China, India and both Europes if possible. Both Europes.

Studs Terkel Why does that talk of that for the- I said the phrase third force for a moment. Third force you talking now about, cause we do have these 2 macho figures. You spoke of the 2 bald-headed men fighting over a comb the London Observer discussing Malvinas Falklands dash one.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Studs Terkel If it's English it's one if your Argentina the other.

Carlos Fuentes Let's go with the original French name. The Malouine.

Studs Terkel Yeah, The Malouine.

Carlos Fuentes The Malouine they were founded, you know they were named by sailors from San Malo in France and therefore called The Malouine.

Studs Terkel Oh, why not give it back to France?

Carlos Fuentes That's a good idea yeah socialist, socialist territory [laughing] of a French Republic [unintelligble] government [laughing].

Studs Terkel But, since you mentioned the 2 superpowers and you mentioned the, the London Observer analogy of the 2 bald-headed men fighting over a comb in the Falkland Malvinas

Carlos Fuentes [unintelligble]. Yes,

Studs Terkel Here is U.S. and U.S.S.R. and I have the analogy of 2 macho, muscular young men, not too bright, neither one too bright, going at each other in souped up cars playing the game of chicken. Hearing

Carlos Fuentes Oh

Studs Terkel Who will blink first? Neither blinks or one blinks, we have 2 dead dumb young men. But why should megamillions of innocents die along with them?

Carlos Fuentes Yes, yes, yes, who will blink? I agree, it's it's absolutely ridiculous. And first, although I repeat I consider the Malvinas to be part of Argentina and not an extension of the British Empire. I think that the, when the Argentines say yes we've been discussing this for 17 years. We've been negotiating with the British and it has got us nowhere. Well I, I sense an absolute lack of political imagination on the part of the Argentinian junta, something that does not surprise me. They have no political imagination. They think as thugs as murderers which is what they are and if they wanted to mobilize Latin American opinion and Third world opinion they could have done it without the need of the use of force. I think the results of the crisis show how deep the pro-Argentinian sentiment was in Latin America. And I think when that sentiment exists you could have probed it politically and diplomatically and mobilized it, instead of im-taking the solution of force and creating the situation in which young people are dying.

Carlos Fuentes You know, one of the interesting things about the, the, the crisis, it's violent aspect is that a certain colonel called [unintelligible] Astiz has been captured by the English in South Georgia Island. This man is one of the most nefarious torturers in Argentina. He's a sort of Argentinan Eichmann. He murdered a Swedish citizen taken up because of pure suspicion on the street. And then he murdered 2 French nuns whom he dubbed "the flying nuns" because after torturing them and killing them he threw them off a helicopter into the ocean. And it would be interesting if the Swedish and the French governments decided to ask for the return, I mean for the handing over of this criminal to be judged in, by French or Swedish courts and make people remember the nature of the Argentinian regime.

Studs Terkel What do you think may hap- this here. Asking you for a prognosis is difficult.

Carlos Fuentes No.

Studs Terkel Assuming that it seems to be the case, the Argentinian junta they will lose at least militarily [unintelligible]. And the news it seems the Argentine people are getting is not is not that close to the truth. What will happen when after the deaths of so many young Argentinians, will the Argentinian people still back Galtieri?

Carlos Fuentes No, no, I don't think anybody backs Galtieri they back the patriotic Malvinas issue. I think the junta will fall in that case. I think that the finally both Galtieri and Thatcher are going to fall as a matter of fact. But I think Galtieri will fall. The majoritary political movement in the country which is the Peronist movement will come to power and they wouldn't open their arms to the Soviet Union and the United States will have achieved its principal purpose which is of course given the Soviet Union a foothold in the southern cone of the Americas. There we are.

Studs Terkel You're talking about a, a really a self-defeating policy per

Carlos Fuentes Oh yes, yes, yes. Terribly self-defeating and incredibly dumb. Incredibly dumb, there's no other way to qualify

Studs Terkel Yeah, yeah. By the wa-you've been a dip-, he we now we, we. There's the other aspect of Carlos Fuentes, the novelist and diplomat and you and 2 cultures in this novel. I found very haunting indeed, Distant Relations some described as a Jamesian novel. That, there is a narrator, an old aristocratic French count telling a story to, and he's not the narrator, he's telling a story to the narrator.

Carlos Fuentes To the narrator yeah.

Studs Terkel Who the narrator turns out to be,no I'm not betraying a secret, Carlos

Carlos Fuentes Yes.

Studs Terkel Now you're ther- you, you are of, you yourself are of a sense of 2 cultures. You are of a Hispanic culture and in wi- talked to a couple of wonderful short stories in Burnt Water, dealing with legacy and background and heritage and nostalgia.

Carlos Fuentes Yes,

Studs Terkel At the same time you are the highly sophisticated European too. Has this been a, a conflict in you Carlos?

Carlos Fuentes Not to a great degree in me. I don't think it has been. No, no, no, I've been able to participate in my several worlds for the simple reason that I grew up that way because my father was a diplomat, because I was made to feel at ease in the United States, in Europe, and Latin America, the 3, the 3 regions the 3 cultures where I grew up. No, for me it is not been a conflict but I think it is, it is a conflict. It is a conflict in historical, cultural, social terms. And therefore I try to deal with it. But of course I reinvent my destiny, my personal destiny in the novel because after all what is a novel for if not to invent destinies. We invent destinies including our own. Why should not we reinvent our own destiny in a novel which is what I do in Distant Relations.

Studs Terkel Yeah, yeah, yes. In that one part- throughout there, there is someone Branly, who is telling a story to the narrator.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Studs Terkel Meets the father and son, the father an archaeologist. Hugo Heredias and his son spoiled young and this brutish kid, in a sense too. And the boy haunts the Count Branly.

Carlos Fuentes Yes,

Studs Terkel It's not Death in Venice, I don't mean that. The boy

Carlos Fuentes No, no, no. There is no

Studs Terkel The boy haunts him. And because the old man is looking for a youth that he no longer, somewhere along the line is missed.

Carlos Fuentes There are many things that want to accomplished that have not been accomplished because of lack of love or lack of will or lack of imagination or pure accident in time, in history. This young boy this terrifying diabolical little boy, Victor Heredias, is indeed haunting the Count because he's reminding him of his youth and of the fact that when he was playing in the park Mosso in Paris as a little boy there was another little boy behind, behind some bi-leveled windows in the house overlooking the park. Demanding to be admitted, demanding to play with the Branly and with his friends and he refused to take that little step we so often refuse to take, which is offering your hand to someone, sending the ball back to someone and therefore admitting him into your circle and giving a sense to his life and breaking the shell of his solitude. He was not able to do this and the young boy reminds him of this, and he is grateful for this because he realizes, a man of 84, that he could have died before the young boy was born and that the young boy also realizes that he could have been born after the old man died and that magical meeting might not have taken place.

Studs Terkel Yeah,

Carlos Fuentes But he also there for another reason and that is to recapture the other half of something that is lost too symbolized by an object from the Mexican pyramid and only half of it is found. And the little boy is in a mysterious pilgrima-. This is not spelled out in the novel at all. It is very implicit and mysterious to recover the other half of a sacred object and to recover the other half of another little boy who is a little boy who is half monstrous, who is an angel from the waist up but is a sort of, beast or fallen from the waist down yes. So there are many implications of the dream of hunting that.

Studs Terkel [Outcry],yes. Which also leads to a New World and the European world we come to the other half of Heredias family, Heredias family. And the book we're talking about is Distant Relations. A novel very haunting, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. In fact the publisher of his previous ones too. The Count now tells the narrator the man you're talking to, you, he tells him also about another, another half of the family. The father's son, the boy who haunts him are Mexican, there the father the archaeologist.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Studs Terkel Whereas now he's talking about another family in France named Heredias, the, the older man bears the boy's name Victor is [unintelligible]. Here is another wholly different aspect. He's not the thoughtful, elegant, archaeologist, thoughtful man. Someone wholly different, someone who's made a lot of money.

Carlos Fuentes Yes, he has the whole history of European colonialism in the Caribbean behind him. He has been an exploiter. He is engaged in the slave trade in white trade. He has furnished armies of French and Spanish and English invaders with women and booze and, and now he has behind him this terrible, this terrible history which somehow has to be redeemed. And here's again when the little boy comes in because the twist of the novel as against the traditional, the traditional stance of the innocence of the New World being corrupted by the old world. Here finally you have that under the guise of innocence the New World returns to corrupt the old world.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Carlos Fuentes The old world is nothing but a, a mass of half digested memories, of fears of lies. The novel historically, you know was constructed through a series of non sequiturs because nothing fits chronologically. All the stories the old Heredias in Paris tells cannot of be true in the sense that they don't fit together. The, the, the mother was living at the time of Napoleon the first inaugurating the fashions of the first empire in the, in in the colony of Venezuela. She was an old whore during the empire of Maximilian of Austria in Mexico. Wha- what what is this world? What is this pack of indigested history, this ignorance of the New World? I mean to say this profound ignorance of the other, in which you lump things together? You know this is really an illustration of that famous thing that happens to you in, in European countries, in France or in Britain in which somebody knows you're Mexican and they say, "Oh, you're Mexican. Listen, I have a cousin living in Buenos Aires. Would you, would you, would you send her this box of chocolates when you go by would you give it to her?"

Studs Terkel Yes,

Carlos Fuentes They ignore everything

Studs Terkel You know, as you say to extend even a step further, using Africa an extreme case. Whenever I meet many young Africans whether it be Nigerians, or Ghanian's or Tanza- Tanzanians and invariably they say, "Oh I say, [African]." They say, mostly cabdrivers say, "How you know that? How do you know that?"

Carlos Fuentes Yeah,

Studs Terkel I said where you live or do, or you [African]. He says,[laugh] "You're the first one. They all say. "Oh, Africa." They think it's all one, instead of a thousand dialects 150 cultures in diff-. And so this ignorance is it not of

Carlos Fuentes All, one. Several dozen nations yes yes.

Studs Terkel Now this

Carlos Fuentes It is. It's equally true. And that's in a way illustrated in this. It's just a jumble for, for the French Heredias. It is a tremendous jumble.

Studs Terkel So it.

Carlos Fuentes So it is the profound unity, the cultural but also the carnal unity that unity and insensibility the union in the flesh that the 2 young boys.

Studs Terkel Boys.

Carlos Fuentes Victor and Andre are mysteriously, very mysteriously looking for but I, cause I don't think they're conscious.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Carlos Fuentes Of what they're doing but they're looking for some sort of reunion. And what is born of this reunion is something that might perhaps be seen as monstrous by our eyes.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Carlos Fuentes By the eyes of the narrator and perhaps by the eyes of Branly, the French aristocrat, and by the eyes of Hugo Heredias the Mexican archaeologist but maybe simply it's different.

Studs Terkel You know,

Carlos Fuentes It is something we dare not name. I don't know what, I don't know what

Studs Terkel it It occurs to me that you wrote this novel it appears in the in the year 1982. And something you said a moment ago you said things no longer fit as though yo- we know we live in a time of almost a random moment unless there is a sense of history.

Carlos Fuentes Yes,

Studs Terkel Unless there is a sense of past we're not going to make it.

Carlos Fuentes No, no of course not. I think with that if you have a dead past you have a dead future and a dead present. You are not in possession of the present then you cannot be in possession of a future unless you are in possession of your past. Yeah.

Studs Terkel Which leads to one of the stories I read in Burnt Water. This is a yo- collection of short stories called Mother's Day. And here it deals with, through the eyes of this boy, his grandfather and his father a contrast of an old Mexico and a new industrial. And, but you mention a song in there, "La Llorona", The Weeping

Carlos Fuentes La Llorona, Yes.

Studs Terkel Suppose we hear the song now, see. We have a record Cynthia Gooding is singing this song, you know it. And I want to ask you about songs in the Mexican Revolution and how that ties into this nostalgia and past truth and lies.

Carlos Fuentes Good,

Studs Terkel We hear the song [music playing]. In listening to this Carlos Fuentes, your first reaction in hearing The Weeping One. The meaning of this in Mexican history to as well as lore.

Carlos Fuentes Myths are the common language of the tribe and they are universal. They travel they are known everywhere. I understood the song of "La Llorona" when a Mexican stage director decided to stage an old classical tragedy by Seneca in a small village in Mexico because it had a beautiful atrium and a beautiful atrium at church. At night he decided to stage Seneca's Medea. And the people from the city, the elegant people from the city went to see it were there quite blasé you know seeing this tragedy, but the local people in the village were moaning, crying. The women were biting their ribosos, their shawls. The men were destroying their, their ripping their shirts open and say, "This is exactly the, what happened to [Spanish]you know." Who killed her children and cried and cried throughout the years for her deed were for what she had done. This is the story of La Llorona it is the old myth of Medea.

Studs Terkel It's a Medea theme.

Carlos Fuentes It's Medea, it's a Medea theme. It's the wailing mother who has murdered her children, who cries for her lost children. It is the theme you find in Moby Dick. You remember the Rachel looking for her lost children again weeping. It was one of the great myths of humanity. The woman who has lost or children or has murdered her children who in any way, bemoans the loss of her children and cries throughout the ages becomes a ghost, and her wail can be heard throughout the ages because her children are gone.

Studs Terkel And so this song as many I suppose bu- also became part of Mexican myth and it's also, were they songs that were part of the revolution as well?

Carlos Fuentes Well, the, the revolution you know didn't have newspapers what it had it ha- had songs. The Corrillos as they were called were the newspapers of the revolution. They all begin by saying, "On the year on the year 1914 you remember well, the bright morning of February the thirteenth, the assassin Huerta killed Pancho Modero our good, beloved president. Bear this in mind et cetera." So that it was really like olays and the the old romances of Europe the epic song.

Studs Terkel And was just that very point have you remembered. In this short story Mother's Day.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Studs Terkel There's the old grandfather the 2 of them with the one who is the general and he remembers Villa and he speaks of Zapata the lively speaks of a the others hu- hu- and later on Cardenas and the reform movement. What is the boy, he- the boys got the father who was rather dull sort of guy.

Carlos Fuentes The father i-, the father is a, is a social climber and a and a businessman and a crook. He's a man that doesn't have this past. There's a great poem of Octavio Paz the Mexican poet says, "My grandfather used to talk of Juarez and Porfirio and the tablecloth would smell of gunpowder. My father used to speak of Pancho Villa and Zapata and the tablecloth would smell of gunpowder. But I, Who am I to speak of. The heroes are dead. Heros are gone."

Studs Terkel Yeah. But then also you're also as you do, you yourself, cou- you- you're showing that the nostalgia for the past. Also other aspects too, that weren't so great too. It's a combination isn't it?

Carlos Fuentes It always is si-. It always is. So no, no I wouldn't talk of nostalgia no. This is, this is not the problem. The problem is that times change. I'm not doing more than Balzac did of course. When you remember the great novel Colonel Chabert, whom everybody thought had died at the Battle of Eylau the great Napoleonic battle of Eylau. And so his wife has remarried. She has a good position in the financial and aristocratic world of Paris and suddenly the old Colonel reappears with those battered hat in his broken epaulets. There he is he didn't die of Eylau. So the wife has to convince him that he must die all over again, that he must disappear.

Studs Terkel Yeah,

Carlos Fuentes That he is a ghost from the past. That he becom- belongs to a heroic age. He has nothing to do in the salons and the banks of, of postrevolutionary France yes.

Studs Terkel Yeah, yeah. Remember Waltz of the Toreadors?

Carlos Fuentes Also,

Studs Terkel To some extent.

Carlos Fuentes To some extent there is that great theme, yes.

Studs Terkel But there is something in this story got me cause it deals with a certain moment in American history that is. But isn't that funny I said American history. I meant North

Carlos Fuentes North

Studs Terkel We gotta get that straight. I remember once

Carlos Fuentes Let's say American history

Studs Terkel And I was once before a Hispanic group you'd like this and I said, "I'm going to take that back. I mean North American and my case not including Canada just United States history because there is in other America, and Mexico an-," The applause was deafening [laughing]. So deep down there is this resentment of U.S. calling itself America.

Carlos Fuentes There is there is. Yes. Daniel Cosio Villegas, a Mexican historian said that the United States was a country without a name. To be called the United States of America was like being called the the drunkard coming out of the, of of of the bar. It meant absolutely nothing because there were many United States in the Americas. And the United States of course has usurped the name of the continent. This would be solved if we all called ourselves Colombians I guess or.

Studs Terkel Or, well?

Carlos Fuentes If we change the name of the, of the him- of res- Vespuccians.

Studs Terkel Yeah, ves-

Carlos Fuentes Now,could be called Vespuccians or Kris Kristofferings.

Studs Terkel Or some people would say and the Indians say, "Pre-Columbians."

Carlos Fuentes Pre-Columbians.

Studs Terkel But there's, no the reason I wandered a moment because.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Studs Terkel At the time there was a reform president of Mexico, Lazaro Cardenas.

Carlos Fuentes Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel And he was.

Carlos Fuentes The greatest president, its, in our history.

Studs Terkel Yes, he was. When he was president same time Franklin D. Roosevelt was

Carlos Fuentes That's one of the greatest strokes of political luck that have ever happened in the Americas. The coincidence of FDR and Cardenas.

Studs Terkel So Cardenas was trying to institute a New Deal only there.

Carlos Fuentes Yes. And basically he did something very, very important of course that you see how important it is today which was to nationalize Mexican oil. The holdings in the hands of British, Dutch and American companies. And the British and the Dutch broke relations with Mexico, declared a boycott of Mexico. Whereas Roosevelt resisted the calls to sanctions even to the invasion of Mexico that came from many quarters of this country the harsh press for example and Cordell Hull himself. And he rather listen to, 2 very far sighted Naval statesmen Josephus Daniels was the minin- the ambassador to Mexico and.

Studs Terkel He

Carlos Fuentes Sumner Welles was the Under Secretary of State who said, "No, let's respect the Mexican decision to nationalize oil because the important thing is to have Mexico as an ally in the coming conflagration the World War that is coming with the axis, that is the important thing." And they were right.

Studs Terkel Are you aware that, I'm coming to

Carlos Fuentes When you see how different from what is happening today.

Studs Terkel I know, I'm going to contrast to your short story but a parenthetical comment since you speak of Cardenas nationalizing it go.

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Studs Terkel Are you aware that Harold Ickes, Secretary of Interior and of Roosevelt in his diary says, "At the time U.S. had the Great Depression here, companies came to Roosevelt."

Carlos Fuentes Yeah.

Studs Terkel Oil companies came to Roosev- and asked to be nationalized. They were so scared

Carlos Fuentes

Studs Terkel Seated well. I think one of the remarkable writers of our time, more than that creative spirits Carlos Fuentes. How do you describe him? He's a novelist, a short story writer, essayist, now playwright, as well as diplomat. We think of Carlos Fuentes whose 2 most recent books a Distant Relations, a novel of which we perhaps can talk about as well as short stories called Burnt Water, Farrar, Straus, Giroux the publishers and he tells me of his new play, but first of all I got to ask about you. Yeah. Car- which is the last time we met? To me you represent 2 cultures in 1. You were the Mexican ambassador to Paris to France. You come from a legacy of such richness the Hispanic legacy. Yes. See yourself? Is this, I sense in Distant Relations, your most recent novel what some call Proustian in nature and delicate and very gripping, almost as you're in it throughout. And that, as though the word is not conflict, conflict yeah, and fusion at the same time, of the 2, of 2 cultures: European and New World. Yeah of course we've been fighting this out since the beginning of our, of our lives. The old world and the New World that has been in conflict for you as Americans as North Americans, and witness Hawthorne and Henry James and Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald. It's been a constant problem for your identity. It certainly has been for us and for the very simple reason that we were the utopian of the old world. We were the utopia of Europe. That's why we were discovered cause we're desired. And the then the very people who decide this utopia with its good savage and it's golden age promptly destroyed it, made it impossible, reduced to ashes, to slavery. And when we reach independence from our utopianists, we in turn, transform Europe into our utopian. Yeah. No- now we want to be like you, we're free. We want to be like you, we want to become Europeans. That was another failure. A double failure. Yeah. We were not the u- utopia of Europe. Europe could not be our utopia. We must be ourselves they must be themselves. Yet, the cultures must be open to one another and they can give a lot to one another on the condition that we do not idealize ourselves, that we do not convert each one of ourselves in the utopia of the other then we fail, we fail miserably. As you're talking this very time we're talking, perhaps it'll be resolved one way or another by the time this is on the air but I, though I doubt it. Yeah. Something ridiculous, absurd, and tragic is going on involving the 2 worlds. Yes, An old empire Britain, Britannia rules the waves and some vestigial remainder of an empire called the Falklands, Argentina run by a fascist junta called Malvinas and young men are dying both English speaking and Spanish speaking. Yes, yes. Well, thi- this ties in very well with your first question Studs because we're witnessing in a way one of the final skirmishes of one of the oldest running wars in history which is the war between the Spanish Empire and the British Empire, the English Empire. This began with Philip the second and Elizabeth the virgin queen and the invinsible armada. It's been going on ever since. It's something very deeply felt especially on the sides of the losers which have been the, the Hispanic, Hispanic peoples. The many questions to ponder about this tragicomic affair because it is tragicomic in some ways. We, we think in Latin America that the Malvinas are, belong to Argentina because the territory's inherited by the Spanish speaking republics from the Spanish Empire naturally belong to them. And after all, they were under Argentinian rule unti- until the British took them away in 1833. That's all very good. But what has been revealed here is most extraordinary. It is the depth of Latin American nationalism beyond ideologies. The fact that the great, great supporters of Argentina which is as you have just said a fascist regime and one of the most brutal, repressive, horrendous regimes we have ever seen in Latin America, is supported by a democracy such as Venezuela. And by 2 of the left socialist regimes of the hemisphere, Cuba and Nicaragua. They're all for this blessed junta. It makes you wonder. It makes you understand something the United States has trouble and understanding. I think it's time it understood it. That the deepest seeded ideology in Latin America is conservative nationalism. Nationalism by its very nature is not socialist. Socialism means internationalism. We are nationalists, conservative nationalists who sometimes dress up as Marxists, in other, to frighten the United States, to make faces, to play the bogeyman. But if we could play it with a Catholic mask we would do it also you see. The important thing is to affirm our profound sense of nationalism. This is the, the, the profoundest reality of Latin America and it is surface so evidently in the conflict of the South Atlantic. Here you have [throat clears] a repressive regime in Argentina and the head of the junta General Galtieri, shedding tears for the young men who have tragically fallen in the, in the skirmishes in the, in the in the South Atlantic and also the famous tango singer Libertad Lamarque, whom I saw on television a few days ago. Libertad? Libertad Lamarque. She is the most famous tango singer crying also, singing the tango, oh my little sister Malvina come back to me you belong to me et cetera. And I'm saying several things to myself. Here are the tango singer and the dictator both shedding tears for the dead soldiers but forgetting the 20,000 Argentinians who have been killed by the junta, who have disappeared, tortured been thrown to the ocean butchered. Who cries for them? Here are the Argentinian military demanding sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands which I'm willing to grant to Argentina but on the condition that Argentina also has sovereignty over itself. That the people have a sovereignty over their own country which they don't have in Argentina you see. It is a, a terrible mix up, a, a tragedy and a comedy at the same time. As it hurts my feelings as a Latin American very, very much. There's so many things to add to this, Stud, if I may go on for a Oh, I hope so. Which is simply the, the outrageous stupidity and blunders of American foreign policy in the region. How the Malvinas affair has revealed that in effect, American foreign policy everywhere, but especially in Latin America is no policy at all. That it reacts on day to day happenings and circumstances. Think Studs. What were the Argentinian military to think when Jeane Kirkpatrick says she adores them they are the beloved children of the Reagan administration? And Undersecretary Enders goes down there to repeat the message. And when Secretary Haig is questioned in the Senate about foreign aid to Argentina and asks, "what do we have in common with the Argentinian regime Mister Secretary." He answers, "the belief in God, Mister Senator." The belief in God. They are inducted the Argentine military, by the United States into invading Nicaragua. They were going to be the mercenaries for the invasion of Nicaragua and also for the invasion of El Salvador if it was needed so that American troops would not be there but Latin troops. With all this, with all these green lights these signals, the Argentinian military, suffering from a profound internal crisis: inflation, unemployment, the total failure of the Milton Friedman economic plan in Argentina. Pardon me, was the Milton Friedman plan tried in Argentina? As it was in Chili. Oh yes, yes with tre-, ter- tremendous effects. With an absolute failure. It is one of the reasons of the economic crisis Argentina is suffering. And these are all the reasons why the Argentine military felt impelled to distract the attention of the people in Argentina and to profit from what they believed was a favora- favorable international situation to invade the Faulkland Islands, the, the Malvinas. And the United States was as usual caught with its pants down and forced to, to choose in public between 2 alliances. This shouldn't happen to Uganda, Studs. To have to be forced to choose between the Rio Treaty and the NATO treaty in public, and to have to sacrifice one of these alliances one of these treaties which in this case is the Latin American alliance is, is is is i- tremendous. I mean, thi- this this wouldn't happen to this wouldn't happen to a second year, second grade pupil in international relations. Yeah. It is astounding that it should happen to the most powerful country in the world. I can't believe it. I can't believe that it has come about because many things are unsure about the South Atlantic crisis. I think what is sure is that the Monroe Doctrine is dead and good riddance I say. That Latin America has fallen into a profoundly anti-American, anti-North American stance. That it will take years for the United States to rebuild the minimum of the consensus in Latin America that its much proclaimed policy in Central America to thwart Soviet and Cuban intervention has gone down the drain. I don't know for how long. That the military are saddled in power the extreme reactionary military right is saddled That our government has helped. In El Salvador, in El And Chile. And in Chile and in Argentina. And the United States faces a horrendous failure of policy throughout Latin And then the other side of this, you say tragicomic situation, it would be certainly wildly comic in Gilbert and Sullivan were not the tragic loss of young lives. Oh, You have the British. Then you have an old piece of comedy of errors as when Britannia ruled the waves. You have Mrs. Thatcher who some would describe as Ronald Reagan in drag. You have her, and you have a dilemma there. Unemployment as well. Yes. You have another side of it too don't you? Well yes, yes you have the, the, the side of the remnants of British, of British colonialism. Cause it is colonialism. When they say no but the Kelpers the Kelpers have their own institutions and the, the Argentinians are goin- going to submit them to a military dictatorship. The fact is that the Kelpers are not British citizens. They have not been granted the status of citizens by the Crown in England so they are colonial subjects. There is also that aspect and one finds it difficult also to sympathize with the government that has not been shy in shooting at the Irish [coughing]. Is so I suppose [coughing] the, the, the obvious [coughing] answer replied or would have been of course sitting down at the table and discussing. The only solution is a diplomatic solution a negotiated solution basically at the UN and through the good offices of the Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar. That is the only solution I found on more or less on the basis of what has been discussed that is still fire and an interim administration by the United Nations and negotiations. It's the only solution I have. Yeah, [unintelligible]. It would have been [bang] mu-, much more easy or convenient and cheaper for everyone concerned, if Great Britain had been paid a million dollars, a million dollars for each of the Kelpers. To send them back to Britain to resettle them in the United Kingdom. It would have come to less of a cost than the cost of a war Studs, where I'm afraid that more people are going to be killed. More soldiers are going to be killed than inhabitants the Falkland Islands have. There's a poem by Bertolt Brecht that directly connects with the absurd situation. It's about the anonymous of history those who who pay the whoever it is whenever Piper there is. And he asked who built the seven gates Thebes. And then he says, "Where did the Masons go when the Chinese wall was built. When Caesar conquered Gaul was not even a cook in the army. And finally closer to home when the Armada sank." And of course every school child in the United States knows the year 1588. Sir Francis Drake leading and conquering the Spanish Armada thus Britannia ruled the waves. When the Armada sank, we read that King Philip wept and then asked Brecht, "Were are there no other tears?" He also said, "I did not send my men to fight the elements." Yeah. That might be ironically reversed and Margaret Thatcher might have to say that today I did had not send my men to fight the elements, the waves, and the cold in the South, in the South Atlantic. But you know that the the-, the-, the- these historical rankers die so hard. Let me tell you tell you small anecdote Studs. The Sunday Times back in the early sixties sent a photographer down to Mexico to help me in doing a piece on Mexico for the London Sunday Times. He was a very good looking young man in his twenties with long, long blonde hair which was something new in Mexico at the time. We used to go around villages and mountains of Mexico and the Indians would do one or two things. They would throw stones at him, at the English boy or they would sing Christ, Christ, Christ at him. In any case, he fell in love with a Spanish girl. And told me one day, "Listen I want to marry her but I don't dare go near her father who is a terrible man a Spaniard who growls at me. Would you intercede and ask him for the hand of his daughter?" Which I did and the father said, "What! That daughter of mine, the daughter of a Spaniard marry the son, a son of the perfidious Albion that sunk our Armada in 1588? Never!" My God! I said, "Oh my God but this happened [laughing]." That's incredible. This happened 4 centuries ago okay. These memories, memories historic memories die Die hard. They die hard. They die hard. You know, you know I think one of the best definitions of the war in the South Atlantic was given by the London Observer and said, "This is like 2 Two bald men fighting over a comb. Of course. It's so useless, finally. So this leads to. So useless. Big questions you speak of how strong nationalism is. Well apparently you say strong on the Latin American countries. Isn't is so? Anyw- you know Einstein, before he died was saying the human race would jump, to quantum leap technologically, scientifically unless we can overcome whatever these barriers separate people mostly through nations race of cou- but from nations. He says there will be catastrophe. So how does one. I guess nationalism is needed when a country discovers itself an ex-colony. Yes, you, you, you are you're very intelligent. That is the problem because I am against nationalism and I see how terrible it is in today's world how useless, how anachronistic, how absurd because nations are so interlocked. It is so difficult to do anything against any other nation because by hurting it you're hurting yourself. [Unitelligble] Poland and the Soviet Union and Argentina. Everywhere you look it is the same problem. Yet as a Mexican, as a man of the Third World, I have to say yes it's all very good for an American, a Frenchman, an Englishman to say this because their nationhood is something acquired, achieved. They go to bed every night without worrying about the fact am I, or am I not? Do I have or do I not have a national identity? But for countries that are forming themselves, that are haf- half-baked countries that are countries assailed by military menaces by transnational corporations by a million things that make it impossible for them to decide their own destiny, think nationalism of course comes forward as a valuable asset as an ideology you must consider. And it's very conflictive for far sighted, intelligent, liberal people in these countries to sort out this conflict. Studs it's a it's a great dilemma for us. Yeah, yeah. So we when speak of one world you know and the world federalism. Yeah. It doesn't quite dig what you dig. What you experience a as as a man of No because, we we think of world federalism. We think of a world dominated by the United States. Where the United States imposes its values, imposes its interests. It's another word for United States nationalism. Ram Panh gone amok. So we don't want this. Yeah, but there still. We have to have limit- I think the the future of the world the good future of the world for the time being are important regional blocks that transcend provincial nationalism and that also transcend the bipolar 2 power structure of the world today. I, I want to begin with, I want a world in which besides the Soviet Union and the United States, you have a multi-power structure that includes Latin America, Islam, black Africa, Japan, China, India and both Europes if possible. Both Europes. Why does that talk of that for the- I said the phrase third force for a moment. Third force you talking now about, cause we do have these 2 macho figures. You spoke of the 2 bald-headed men fighting over a comb the London Observer discussing Malvinas Falklands dash one. Yeah. If it's English it's one if your Argentina the other. Let's go with the original French name. The Malouine. Yeah, The Malouine. The Malouine they were founded, you know they were named by sailors from San Malo in France and therefore called The Malouine. Oh, why not give it back to France? That's a good idea yeah socialist, socialist territory [laughing] of a French Republic [unintelligble] government [laughing]. But, since you mentioned the 2 superpowers and you mentioned the, the London Observer analogy of the 2 bald-headed men fighting over a comb in the Falkland Malvinas [unintelligble]. Yes, Here is U.S. and U.S.S.R. and I have the analogy of 2 macho, muscular young men, not too bright, neither one too bright, going at each other in souped up cars playing the game of chicken. Hearing me? Oh Who will blink first? Neither blinks or one blinks, we have 2 dead dumb young men. But why should megamillions of innocents die along with them? Yes, yes, yes, who will blink? I agree, it's it's absolutely ridiculous. And first, although I repeat I consider the Malvinas to be part of Argentina and not an extension of the British Empire. I think that the, when the Argentines say yes we've been discussing this for 17 years. We've been negotiating with the British and it has got us nowhere. Well I, I sense an absolute lack of political imagination on the part of the Argentinian junta, something that does not surprise me. They have no political imagination. They think as thugs as murderers which is what they are and if they wanted to mobilize Latin American opinion and Third world opinion they could have done it without the need of the use of force. I think the results of the crisis show how deep the pro-Argentinian sentiment was in Latin America. And I think when that sentiment exists you could have probed it politically and diplomatically and mobilized it, instead of im-taking the solution of force and creating the situation in which young people are dying. You know, one of the interesting things about the, the, the crisis, it's violent aspect is that a certain colonel called [unintelligible] Astiz has been captured by the English in South Georgia Island. This man is one of the most nefarious torturers in Argentina. He's a sort of Argentinan Eichmann. He murdered a Swedish citizen taken up because of pure suspicion on the street. And then he murdered 2 French nuns whom he dubbed "the flying nuns" because after torturing them and killing them he threw them off a helicopter into the ocean. And it would be interesting if the Swedish and the French governments decided to ask for the return, I mean for the handing over of this criminal to be judged in, by French or Swedish courts and make people remember the nature of the Argentinian regime. What do you think may hap- this here. Asking you for a prognosis is difficult. No. Assuming that it seems to be the case, the Argentinian junta they will lose at least militarily [unintelligible]. And the news it seems the Argentine people are getting is not is not that close to the truth. What will happen when after the deaths of so many young Argentinians, will the Argentinian people still back Galtieri? No, no, I don't think anybody backs Galtieri they back the patriotic Malvinas issue. I think the junta will fall in that case. I think that the finally both Galtieri and Thatcher are going to fall as a matter of fact. But I think Galtieri will fall. The majoritary political movement in the country which is the Peronist movement will come to power and they wouldn't open their arms to the Soviet Union and the United States will have achieved its principal purpose which is of course given the Soviet Union a foothold in the southern cone of the Americas. There we are. You're talking about a, a really a self-defeating policy per se. Oh yes, yes, yes. Terribly self-defeating and incredibly dumb. Incredibly dumb, there's no other way to qualify it. Yeah, yeah. By the wa-you've been a dip-, he we now we, we. There's the other aspect of Carlos Fuentes, the novelist and diplomat and you and 2 cultures in this novel. I found very haunting indeed, Distant Relations some described as a Jamesian novel. That, there is a narrator, an old aristocratic French count telling a story to, and he's not the narrator, he's telling a story to the narrator. To the narrator yeah. Who the narrator turns out to be,no I'm not betraying a secret, Carlos Fuentes. Yes. Now you're ther- you, you are of, you yourself are of a sense of 2 cultures. You are of a Hispanic culture and in wi- talked to a couple of wonderful short stories in Burnt Water, dealing with legacy and background and heritage and nostalgia. Yes, At the same time you are the highly sophisticated European too. Has this been a, a conflict in you Carlos? Not to a great degree in me. I don't think it has been. No, no, no, I've been able to participate in my several worlds for the simple reason that I grew up that way because my father was a diplomat, because I was made to feel at ease in the United States, in Europe, and Latin America, the 3, the 3 regions the 3 cultures where I grew up. No, for me it is not been a conflict but I think it is, it is a conflict. It is a conflict in historical, cultural, social terms. And therefore I try to deal with it. But of course I reinvent my destiny, my personal destiny in the novel because after all what is a novel for if not to invent destinies. We invent destinies including our own. Why should not we reinvent our own destiny in a novel which is what I do in Distant Relations. Yeah, yeah, yes. In that one part- throughout there, there is someone Branly, who is telling a story to the narrator. Yeah. Meets the father and son, the father an archaeologist. Hugo Heredias and his son spoiled young and this brutish kid, in a sense too. And the boy haunts the Count Branly. Yes, It's not Death in Venice, I don't mean that. The boy haunts No, no, no. There is no The boy haunts him. And because the old man is looking for a youth that he no longer, somewhere along the line is missed. There are many things that want to accomplished that have not been accomplished because of lack of love or lack of will or lack of imagination or pure accident in time, in history. This young boy this terrifying diabolical little boy, Victor Heredias, is indeed haunting the Count because he's reminding him of his youth and of the fact that when he was playing in the park Mosso in Paris as a little boy there was another little boy behind, behind some bi-leveled windows in the house overlooking the park. Demanding to be admitted, demanding to play with the Branly and with his friends and he refused to take that little step we so often refuse to take, which is offering your hand to someone, sending the ball back to someone and therefore admitting him into your circle and giving a sense to his life and breaking the shell of his solitude. He was not able to do this and the young boy reminds him of this, and he is grateful for this because he realizes, a man of 84, that he could have died before the young boy was born and that the young boy also realizes that he could have been born after the old man died and that magical meeting might not have taken place. Yeah, But he also there for another reason and that is to recapture the other half of something that is lost too symbolized by an object from the Mexican pyramid and only half of it is found. And the little boy is in a mysterious pilgrima-. This is not spelled out in the novel at all. It is very implicit and mysterious to recover the other half of a sacred object and to recover the other half of another little boy who is a little boy who is half monstrous, who is an angel from the waist up but is a sort of, beast or fallen from the waist down yes. So there are many implications of the dream of hunting that. [Outcry],yes. Which also leads to a New World and the European world we come to the other half of Heredias family, Heredias family. And the book we're talking about is Distant Relations. A novel very haunting, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. In fact the publisher of his previous ones too. The Count now tells the narrator the man you're talking to, you, he tells him also about another, another half of the family. The father's son, the boy who haunts him are Mexican, there the father the archaeologist. Yeah. Whereas now he's talking about another family in France named Heredias, the, the older man bears the boy's name Victor is [unintelligible]. Here is another wholly different aspect. He's not the thoughtful, elegant, archaeologist, thoughtful man. Someone wholly different, someone who's made a lot of money. Yes, he has the whole history of European colonialism in the Caribbean behind him. He has been an exploiter. He is engaged in the slave trade in white trade. He has furnished armies of French and Spanish and English invaders with women and booze and, and now he has behind him this terrible, this terrible history which somehow has to be redeemed. And here's again when the little boy comes in because the twist of the novel as against the traditional, the traditional stance of the innocence of the New World being corrupted by the old world. Here finally you have that under the guise of innocence the New World returns to corrupt the old world. Yeah. The old world is nothing but a, a mass of half digested memories, of fears of lies. The novel historically, you know was constructed through a series of non sequiturs because nothing fits chronologically. All the stories the old Heredias in Paris tells cannot of be true in the sense that they don't fit together. The, the, the mother was living at the time of Napoleon the first inaugurating the fashions of the first empire in the, in in the colony of Venezuela. She was an old whore during the empire of Maximilian of Austria in Mexico. Wha- what what is this world? What is this pack of indigested history, this ignorance of the New World? I mean to say this profound ignorance of the other, in which you lump things together? You know this is really an illustration of that famous thing that happens to you in, in European countries, in France or in Britain in which somebody knows you're Mexican and they say, "Oh, you're Mexican. Listen, I have a cousin living in Buenos Aires. Would you, would you, would you send her this box of chocolates when you go by would you give it to her?" Yes, They ignore everything [laughing] You know, as you say to extend even a step further, using Africa an extreme case. Whenever I meet many young Africans whether it be Nigerians, or Ghanian's or Tanza- Tanzanians and invariably they say, "Oh I say, [African]." They say, mostly cabdrivers say, "How you know that? How do you know that?" Yeah, I said where you live or do, or you [African]. He says,[laugh] "You're the first one. They all say. "Oh, Africa." They think it's all one, instead of a thousand dialects 150 cultures in diff-. And so this ignorance is it not of another All, one. Several dozen nations yes yes. Now this is It is. It's equally true. And that's in a way illustrated in this. It's just a jumble for, for the French Heredias. It is a tremendous jumble. So it. So it is the profound unity, the cultural but also the carnal unity that unity and insensibility the union in the flesh that the 2 young boys. Boys. Victor and Andre are mysteriously, very mysteriously looking for but I, cause I don't think they're conscious. Yeah. Of what they're doing but they're looking for some sort of reunion. And what is born of this reunion is something that might perhaps be seen as monstrous by our eyes. Yeah. By the eyes of the narrator and perhaps by the eyes of Branly, the French aristocrat, and by the eyes of Hugo Heredias the Mexican archaeologist but maybe simply it's different. You know, yeah. It is something we dare not name. I don't know what, I don't know what it It occurs to me that you wrote this novel it appears in the in the year 1982. And something you said a moment ago you said things no longer fit as though yo- we know we live in a time of almost a random moment unless there is a sense of history. Yes, Unless there is a sense of past we're not going to make it. No, no of course not. I think with that if you have a dead past you have a dead future and a dead present. You are not in possession of the present then you cannot be in possession of a future unless you are in possession of your past. Yeah. Which leads to one of the stories I read in Burnt Water. This is a yo- collection of short stories called Mother's Day. And here it deals with, through the eyes of this boy, his grandfather and his father a contrast of an old Mexico and a new industrial. And, but you mention a song in there, "La Llorona", The Weeping Woman. La Llorona, Yes. Suppose we hear the song now, see. We have a record Cynthia Gooding is singing this song, you know it. And I want to ask you about songs in the Mexican Revolution and how that ties into this nostalgia and past truth and lies. Good, We hear the song [music playing]. In listening to this Carlos Fuentes, your first reaction in hearing The Weeping One. The meaning of this in Mexican history to as well as lore. Myths are the common language of the tribe and they are universal. They travel they are known everywhere. I understood the song of "La Llorona" when a Mexican stage director decided to stage an old classical tragedy by Seneca in a small village in Mexico because it had a beautiful atrium and a beautiful atrium at church. At night he decided to stage Seneca's Medea. And the people from the city, the elegant people from the city went to see it were there quite blasé you know seeing this tragedy, but the local people in the village were moaning, crying. The women were biting their ribosos, their shawls. The men were destroying their, their ripping their shirts open and say, "This is exactly the, what happened to [Spanish]you know." Who killed her children and cried and cried throughout the years for her deed were for what she had done. This is the story of La Llorona it is the old myth of Medea. It's a Medea theme. It's Medea, it's a Medea theme. It's the wailing mother who has murdered her children, who cries for her lost children. It is the theme you find in Moby Dick. You remember the Rachel looking for her lost children again weeping. It was one of the great myths of humanity. The woman who has lost or children or has murdered her children who in any way, bemoans the loss of her children and cries throughout the ages becomes a ghost, and her wail can be heard throughout the ages because her children are gone. And so this song as many I suppose bu- also became part of Mexican myth and it's also, were they songs that were part of the revolution as well? Well, the, the revolution you know didn't have newspapers what it had it ha- had songs. The Corrillos as they were called were the newspapers of the revolution. They all begin by saying, "On the year on the year 1914 you remember well, the bright morning of February the thirteenth, the assassin Huerta killed Pancho Modero our good, beloved president. Bear this in mind et cetera." So that it was really like olays and the the old romances of Europe the epic song. And was just that very point have you remembered. In this short story Mother's Day. Yeah. There's the old grandfather the 2 of them with the one who is the general and he remembers Villa and he speaks of Zapata the lively speaks of a the others hu- hu- and later on Cardenas and the reform movement. What is the boy, he- the boys got the father who was rather dull sort of guy. The father i-, the father is a, is a social climber and a and a businessman and a crook. He's a man that doesn't have this past. There's a great poem of Octavio Paz the Mexican poet says, "My grandfather used to talk of Juarez and Porfirio and the tablecloth would smell of gunpowder. My father used to speak of Pancho Villa and Zapata and the tablecloth would smell of gunpowder. But I, Who am I to speak of. The heroes are dead. Heros are gone." Yeah. But then also you're also as you do, you yourself, cou- you- you're showing that the nostalgia for the past. Also other aspects too, that weren't so great too. It's a combination isn't it? It always is si-. It always is. So no, no I wouldn't talk of nostalgia no. This is, this is not the problem. The problem is that times change. I'm not doing more than Balzac did of course. When you remember the great novel Colonel Chabert, whom everybody thought had died at the Battle of Eylau the great Napoleonic battle of Eylau. And so his wife has remarried. She has a good position in the financial and aristocratic world of Paris and suddenly the old Colonel reappears with those battered hat in his broken epaulets. There he is he didn't die of Eylau. So the wife has to convince him that he must die all over again, that he must disappear. Yeah, That he is a ghost from the past. That he becom- belongs to a heroic age. He has nothing to do in the salons and the banks of, of postrevolutionary France yes. Yeah, yeah. Remember Waltz of the Toreadors? Also, To some extent. To some extent there is that great theme, yes. But there is something in this story got me cause it deals with a certain moment in American history that is. But isn't that funny I said American history. I meant North American North We gotta get that straight. I remember once before. Let's say American history but And I was once before a Hispanic group you'd like this and I said, "I'm going to take that back. I mean North American and my case not including Canada just United States history because there is in other America, and Mexico an-," The applause was deafening [laughing]. So deep down there is this resentment of U.S. calling itself America. There is there is. Yes. Daniel Cosio Villegas, a Mexican historian said that the United States was a country without a name. To be called the United States of America was like being called the the drunkard coming out of the, of of of the bar. It meant absolutely nothing because there were many United States in the Americas. And the United States of course has usurped the name of the continent. This would be solved if we all called ourselves Colombians I guess or. Or, well? If we change the name of the, of the him- of res- Vespuccians. Yeah, ves- Now,could be called Vespuccians or Kris Kristofferings. Or some people would say and the Indians say, "Pre-Columbians." Pre-Columbians. But there's, no the reason I wandered a moment because. Yeah. At the time there was a reform president of Mexico, Lazaro Cardenas. Yes, yes. And he was. The greatest president, its, in our history. Yes, he was. When he was president same time Franklin D. Roosevelt was president That's one of the greatest strokes of political luck that have ever happened in the Americas. The coincidence of FDR and Cardenas. So Cardenas was trying to institute a New Deal only there. Yes. And basically he did something very, very important of course that you see how important it is today which was to nationalize Mexican oil. The holdings in the hands of British, Dutch and American companies. And the British and the Dutch broke relations with Mexico, declared a boycott of Mexico. Whereas Roosevelt resisted the calls to sanctions even to the invasion of Mexico that came from many quarters of this country the harsh press for example and Cordell Hull himself. And he rather listen to, 2 very far sighted Naval statesmen Josephus Daniels was the minin- the ambassador to Mexico and. He Sumner Welles was the Under Secretary of State who said, "No, let's respect the Mexican decision to nationalize oil because the important thing is to have Mexico as an ally in the coming conflagration the World War that is coming with the axis, that is the important thing." And they were right. Are you aware that, I'm coming to it. When you see how different from what is happening today. I know, I'm going to contrast to your short story but a parenthetical comment since you speak of Cardenas nationalizing it go. Yeah. Are you aware that Harold Ickes, Secretary of Interior and of Roosevelt in his diary says, "At the time U.S. had the Great Depression here, companies came to Roosevelt." Yeah. Oil companies came to Roosev- and asked to be nationalized. They were so scared of We Would

Carlos Fuentes Look liked we bailed out. No, no, that happens always when

Studs Terkel So there [unintelligible]. But here's, here's an interesting passage. You spoke how strong nationalism is all over Latin America and many national. Here's the thing. This is from Carlos Fuentes short story Mother's Day, part of the collection called Burnt Water which is what you call? Burnt Water is what the river was called?

Carlos Fuentes No,the lake.

Studs Terkel The lake.

Carlos Fuentes The great lake on which Mexico City was found. This paradox of the burning water [Aztec language] in the Aztec language.

Studs Terkel Now, that was it but here, "we sowed," someone is saying here. The general is telling about Cardenas, and the reapportionment of land. "We sold cane in Morelos, tomatoes in Sinaloa, and cotton in Coahuila. The country could eat and clothe itself while Cardenas were setting up communal landholdings which never caught on because what every man wants is his own plot of land registered in his own name." See? Well, it ha-. When I read that I always jumped with recognition.

Carlos Fuentes Yes.

Studs Terkel Because in doing the book about the American Depression, Hard Times.

Carlos Fuentes Hard

Studs Terkel The Roosevelt New Deal is the Farm Security Administration to help the poor sharecroppers and the farmers and there was communal land, land reform. But everybody wanted a piece of land of his own. That is the basic thing isn-, ev-. The thing, the F, FSA Farm Security Administration didn't reas-. Every wants a piece of land of his own. And that's what Cardenas.

Carlos Fuentes You know, you know, I won't say what date we are in so as not to date or interview but today Studs, the assembly in El Salvador, headed by this reactionary goon called Major D'Aubuisson has annulled the land to the Tiller Program of the agrarian reform in El Salvador, which means that no, no tenant farmer will ever be able to get the plot of land that was promised him. And that means that all these people are going to join the revolution in El Salvador and the country will be more polarized than ever. So there you have a contemporary illustration of the whole problem all over again.

Studs Terkel Hear all over again. Now we've got to try, now we got to try another string in the bow of Carlos Fuentes the playwright.

Carlos Fuentes Oh yeah.

Studs Terkel This one. I know yo- Harvard, Robert Brustein and Harvard are doing a new play of yours.

Carlos Fuentes Yes.

Studs Terkel Before we hear that we gotta hear a song you first heard on this program by the singer Amalia Mendoza, La Tariacuri meaning she of an Indian group. Tore-, Tariacuri.

Carlos Fuentes Tariacuri, yes.

Studs Terkel Who is known to many immigrants who came to the country and the songs of longing and tears and audience crashi- cra-. We'll hear part of the song. And then perhaps, a word about your play.

Studs Terkel In hearing La Tariacuri, what came to mind?

Carlos Fuentes Well you know, we had heard La Tariacuri before Studs and, and I should give you some sort of an acknowledgement, because this is one of the things that set me to writing the the play that is now opening the American Repertory Theater at Harvard called Orchid's in the Moonlight and which has in the many ways to do nostalgia of Mexico through the hearing of old songs such as the one we've just heard sung by these voices and heard by the 2 characters are 2 women feminine characters in my play who are 2 Mexican ladies exiled.

Studs Terkel What, wha, could get touch on the theme of it perhaps?

Carlos Fuentes Yeah, yeah certainly, yeah well the, the, the 2 women offer themselves, announce themselves as 2 very famous Mexican actresses of the thirties and forties: Dolores del Rio and Maria Felix. We, we are not sure if they're they. And they tell us they're living out their final years, they have retired they're living out their final years in Venice. Venice, Italy and they hear gondolier singing and it finally turns out they're in Venice, California. That is not the Compania San Marco but a Howard Johnson's tower they they see from a.

Studs Terkel [laughing]

Carlos Fuentes Its not gondoliers but the Pasadena freeway or something [laughing] honking. It's all a grand illusion which is finally shattered really by the appearance of a fan who knows the full filmography of these women and no one wants to know his full filmography. You don't want anybody to know more about your life and you even know yourself, right? And it has to do with the, with the archetypes and with asking yourself yes, there are archetypes and the movie stars represent this, and they, they feed the need for identity of the modern tribe. But then who is the archetype of the archetype? Who is the model of the model? Who is the star of the the star? Well, that has to do with many things along those lines.

Studs Terkel But is has also to do with a theme that I noticed is a recurring one in all your works: illusion and reality.

Carlos Fuentes Oh yes, of course. It is the great, great philosophical problem of the cave and the shadow or the substance. The great myth first expressed by Plato of course. And then commented upon by Erasmus of Rotterdam in his praise of folly when he says, one of the men in the cave who always thought that the shadows were reality finally went out of the cave and discovered that they were nothing but shadows that the reality was outside so he came back to the cave to inform his friends, his comrades. The- these are nothing but shadows. The substance is outside and they thought he was mad because he told them that this. And he thought they were mad because they would not believe him. And we will always, we will always have this, this enigma before us.

Studs Terkel Do your remember this conversation almost an hour ago as we near the end and you have to lecture in a moment here during the day of this conversation at the University of Illinois, Circle Campus? It began, where the Falklands Malvinas, slash between the 2 words crisis, that is tragicomic, that will cost lives for no reason at all. Illusion. Reality.

Carlos Fuentes Yes.

Studs Terkel The illusion of power is both the illusion of empire of and the reality that is stupid and tragic. And so basically this is a theme that is in almost all your writings. So, where does it leave us? The obvious question: where does that leave us now? Since you've been a diplomat too. And you've been in Washington and Paris.

Carlos Fuentes God, I wish I really wish it leaves us on the border of a consciousness. The consciousness of the need for a world where we can be ourselves Stud. Where everybody can be himself and be himself to the highest degree, to the fullest. That is nothing more I can decide than that each man, woman, and child in this world can be him, herself, to the fullest degree without the menace of death, of murder, of hunger, of injustice, of poverty, and with a full capacity for expression, for expansion of his personality, for giving to others, and receiving from others. But thi- this is perhaps a utopia. This a world I would wish for.

Studs Terkel Carlos Fuentes. We're both guests right now at the University. And perhaps just to comment on his last book to let you know about Distant Relations the one that haunts me. Farrar, Straus Giroux the publishers, and many of his other books: The Death of Artemio Cruz and Where the Air Is Clear ov- a variety of his novels and short stories and richness of imagination. Thank you very much.

Carlos Fuentes Thank you Studs.