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Carlos Fuentes Interview (page: 5 / 5)
Author, Scholar & Diplomat
At the time, in the wake of the Castro revolution, when you were denied a visa to America, you were quoted as saying, "Books are my bombs." What did you mean by that?
You have done so many things. You have won prizes. You have been given honorary degrees. You are a celebrated figure. What gives you the most satisfaction? What gives you your greatest sense of achievement?
Carlos Fuentes: It is personal things, always. The love of my wife, the love of my children. My parents. It is personal things that give you the greatest satisfaction even if you have never written a book.
Is there anything you haven't done that you would like to do?
Carlos Fuentes: Yes, but I wouldn't tell you.
As we look ahead into the 21st Century, what most concerns you?
Carlos Fuentes: The list of concerns is so great, I wouldn't know where to begin. I think the future of the globe, the future of the Earth as such would be my prime concern. What we are doing to devastate our habitat, the place we live in, the air, the sea, the animals -- we're destroying everything.
We have heard news today about the possible devastation of Alaska with a petroleum pipeline, instead of conserving that nature, which is the air we breathe and the food we eat, the water we drink. This is amazing -- a planet bent on suicide if it is not stopped, and I don't know how to stop it. There are all the good voices we have heard here in the Academy pleading for attention to save the planet.
That is probably the greatest concern we have, because if we don't save the planet, goodbye Michelangelo, goodbye Rembrandt, goodbye Walt Disney, goodbye everything. There will be desolation. It will be like Mars. Do we want that? Can we do anything about it? I think this is the great concern right now.
If one of the bright young people who read this came to you seeking advice, what would you say to them?
Carlos Fuentes: Precisely that. In your own life, in your own career, be very much aware that you are here for the next 50 years. Be sure you're here for the next 50 years. Maybe there won't be a planet in the next 50 years. Do the utmost to preserve our habitat.
If you had it to do all over again, is there anything you would do differently? Any regrets?
Carlos Fuentes: I don't think so, no. I don't have regrets, not real regrets, no.
In so many words, what's most important to you? What is really important to you?
Carlos Fuentes: Life and love. The quality of love around me. Yes. And the quality of your life.
How would you like to be remembered?
Carlos Fuentes: In what world would I be remembered is the question? It depends on what world. I don't want to be put on the wall of infamy by a dictatorship, no. Maybe our destiny is dust and anonymity and who survives, yes.
It is astonishing how people are forgotten. How many people of the past do we remember? Remember great artists, remember great writers, famous statesmen, warriors. But these are not the majority. The majority are the people who go to an unknown grave. It is very sad to think of it. You cannot think back -- if you're a normal citizen, not a prince or a king -- you can't go back more than three, four generations. Then your past is lost. You can't go further back than that. I can go back to my great-grandparents. After that, I don't know who they were. They're lost forever. So we write books in order to remember that past, to give it some semblance of reality, some possibility of survival through fictional characters. Anna Karenina will go on living, and Don Quixote. They will go on living, I'm sure of that.
There is a question that's very much at issue in the United States today. Everyone's talking about the immigration issue and what to do about our border with Mexico. We'd love to hear your views about that.
Carlos Fuentes: Listen, there are two sides to that. One is the fact that the United States needs workers. They happen to be Mexican workers because that's the neighboring country. But let us imagine that Mexico had full employment one day. The workers would still be needed. Who would pick the fruit? Who would cook? Who would serve at tables? Who would take care of the children? Who would drive the buses? Who would do the catering and work in the hotels? You have to get them from somewhere. Or generate those jobs for Americans who don't want to take them, obviously. So you are profiting from our labor.
This has always been a country of immigrants.
Carlos Fuentes: Of course it is. Besides, I don't want to be nasty about that, but for many Mexicans who come here, they say, "Hey, this used to be our land! We are now foreigners here."
Now, is there any other question that you wished we had asked?
Carlos Fuentes: No. No. You have asked everything. I can't think of anything you could ask.
Thank you very much.
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This page last revised on Sep 13, 2006 18:48 EDT