Carlos Fuentes Explores His ‘Dickensian’ Novel

By Maryann Yin 

A New York Times review once described Carlos Fuentes’ work as “Joycean in Christopher Unborn, Jamesian in Aura, Faulknerian in The Death of Artemio Cruz.” Now we can add “Dickensian” to that list of influences.

Before his 92Y reading tonight, the novelist explored the influence of Charles Dickens in his new novel. Fuentes (pictured, via) recently published the English version of his novel, Destiny and Desire (La Voluntad y la Fortuna in Spanish, translated by Edith Grossman).

Q: What can you tell me about your new book?

A: It’s called Destiny and Desire. It’s basically a Cain and Abel story; that is the larger frame of the book. It’s two brothers who love each other and hate each other in the end. They’re called Jericó and Josué. That is the larger frame of the book.

The setting is contemporary Mexico. These two young men come together in school; they run away because they’re brothers. Little by little it is revealed who is their father and who is their other brother. He’s in prison because he’s feels that if he leaves prison, he’ll kill his own father. They have a grandmother who is buried deep in the ground in a cemetery in Mexico and there’s a whole whirlwind of human psychological, political, social relatives of contemporary Mexico whirling around them.

Q: Being inspired by Cain and Abel, did you do any biblical research?

A: No, no, no; I knew that story very well. I mean, it’s part of your education. I just wrote the book without any consultation. I remembered things; I had a very deep sense of Dickens as I wrote this. Charles Dickens was very present when I wrote the novel especially because the young men do not know who their parents are. There is a go-between, he’s a mysterious lawyer who doesn’t tell the men who their parents are. He plays that ‘go-between’ role very commonly found in Dickens’ novels. So, it’s a very Dickensian novel in that sense.

Q: Is there anything in the works for you, right now?

A: You know something? One doesn’t talk about what’s in the works because then it becomes talked and it frustrates you. It doesn’t get written, it just gets talked. I’m being cautious about this. Well, I have a new book published in Spanish that has not been translated. But, I don’t like to talk about what’s in the works. It’s extremely dangerous; you lose it very easily.