In 1995 the Princeton University Library acquired the papers of the acclaimed Mexican author Carlos Fuentes (1928–2012), whose passing on May 15 has been marked internationally by all who admired his major contributions to modern literature and his role as a cultural and political commentator on Latin America, past and present. The Carlos Fuentes Papers contain more than 125 linear feet of materials, including notebooks, manuscripts of novels and novellas, short stories, plays, screenplays, nonfiction writings, speeches, translations, correspondence, drawings, documents, photographs, magnetic media, scrapbooks, correspondence, and other research materials dating from the 1940s to 1990s. When the acquisition of the papers was first announced, the Mexican political scientist Jorge Castañeda (Class of 1973) said, “Carlos Fuentes’s correspondence, manuscripts, and other papers read like a modern history of the region’s literature, politics, and personal relationships. The author’s involvement in all facets of Latin American life, his friendships with political and literary figures from all over the world, his travels, and nearly a half-century of writing make his personal papers a trove of information, opinions, stories, and history for literary critics, historians, and political scientists of all persuasions.”
Fuentes was the author of La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962), Aura (1962), Terra nostra (1975), and El gringo viejo (1985), as well as many other novels, plays, screenplays, short stories, essays, criticism, and works of journalism during his long literary career. He was a leading figure in the literary “Boom” of the 1960s, when previously unknown Latin American writers began attracting international audiences both in the original Spanish and in translation. Well documented in his papers is the story of how Latin American literature rose from its regional roots to acquire an international status, which has been recognized in part by the conferral of five Nobel Prizes in literature since 1967. The Chilean novelist José Donoso (Class of 1951) once called Fuentes “the first active and conscious agent of the internationalization of the Spanish American novel.” Frequently honored in Latin America and the United States, Fuentes received the prestigious Miguel de Cervantes Award from King Juan Carlos of Spain in 1988. Fuentes lived in Princeton from 1979 to 1980, when he was as a Fellow in the Humanities and worked on his novel Una familia lejana (1980). Like his father Rafael Fuentes Boettiger, Carlos Fuentes was a diplomat. He served in various capacities in Mexico during the 1950s and later as ambassador to France from 1975 to 1977. He was a member of Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights and was active in the search for peace in Central America. Politics and literature are inextricably intertwined in the life and work of Carlos Fuentes, as with so many other Latin American writers. Common themes emerging in the papers of Latin American authors since the 1960s are militarism and dictatorship, human rights and exile, left- and right-wing politics, and historical relations with the United States.
Carlos Fuentes had been been the subject of scores of monographs and dissertations, even before his papers became available for research at Princeton. Access to his papers has permitted hundreds of Princeton-based and visiting scholars to study the evolution of particular works from concept to published book, while shedding light on the development of Fuentes’s complex narrative style, the influence of popular culture, the transformation of prose into cinema, and other subjects. In addition to literature, major cultural and historical currents are documented in Fuentes’s extensive correspondence with leading authors, intellectuals, film directors, publishers, and political figures. Over the past fifteen years, the Carlos Fuentes Papers have been one of the most heavily used Latin American literary archives in the Manuscripts Division. Holdings have grown to more than sixty author archives and relation collections, including Reinaldo Arenas, José Bianco, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Julio Cortázar, José Donoso, Emir Rodríguez Monegal, Alejandra Pizarnik, and Mario Vargas Llosa (Nobel Prize in Literature, 2010). The acquisition of Carlos Fuentes’s papers opened the door to the acquisition of other major Mexican author archives, such as Juan García Ponce, Elena Garro, Margo Glantz, Jorge Ibargüengoitia, Vicente Leñero, Sergio Pitol, and Alejandro Rossi. For a listing, go to http://firestone.princeton.edu/latinam/literarymss.php. For reference assistance about Princeton’s holdings, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.