A senior statesman of the Latin American Boom, Carlos Fuentes, 79, has never rested on his laurels. The author of such classics as Terra Nostra, The Death of Artemio Cruz, and Christopher Unborn, Fuentes has spent a half century obsessively examining and reimagining his homeland of Mexico. In Happy Families, a collection of linked stories out this month from Random House, families—doomed, divided, and abandoned—serve as a prism through which to see Mexico City, from its government palaces to its shiny new condos and mariachi dive bars.
Q: Why write a book about families?
A: I’ve focused on everything else: cities, revolutions, Mexican history. I wanted to take Tolstoy’s comment about happy families and explore how very unhappy families can be.
Q: These stories also add up to a powerful portrait of modern Mexico City.
A: I’ve been using this method since my first book, Where the Air Is Clear . And throughout my career the city has changed and grown dramatically. Imagine, when I started writing there were two million inhabitants and now there are more than 20 million.
Q: Where do you spend your time?
A: Usually half the year in Mexico and the other half in Europe. I don’t get much writing done in Mexico—too many friends, tequilas, and enchiladas! For me, London is the perfect place for a writer. I do my most serious work there.
Q: Have you considered writing a memoir about your own family?
A: Actually, I have one in progress right now. You’re the first to know.