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Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
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A-ThisIBelieveMore of a credo than a memoir, this collection of 42 essays is a distillation of one of Mexico’s best-known and beloved writers. At 76, Fuentes has set down his ruminations on a myriad of life’s greatest subjects. Arranged in a somewhat contrived "A-Z" order by topic (perhaps to imply he is dealing with all of life’s issues, including xenophobia, for "x"), Fuentes’s musings on "Amor," "Freedom, "God," "Cinema," "Kafka," and "Mexico," to name a few, mesh reason, politics, and passion. Others, from "Children" to "Silvia," offer deeply personal views into Fuentes’s life. In each short essay, he reveals his strong convictions about universal concepts—love, politics, religion, sex, and more.
Random House. 331 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 1400062462

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"This I Believe is just the sort of book that mature readers like best—personal, idiosyncratic, packed with fresh anecdotes and illustrative quotations, digressive, lyrical, sexy, at once surprising and wise. … Again and again, there are sentences and paragraphs one reads, then rereads, then finally copies into a notebook." Michael Dirda

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[T]he book is built like a Russian doll. Each successive chapter either enlightens or expands what has been said before or demonstrates a feeling or idea playing itself out in the author’s own experience. … [P]ut down the page-turner and dare to drink these full-bodied, red, shining words." Gioconda Belli

San Antonio Exp-News 4 of 5 Stars
"… a thinker’s book, an intellectual’s treatise, a tome for closet philosophers." Steve Bennett

San Jose Mercury News 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s a book to be taken down and dipped into whenever you want to immerse yourself in the kind of wisdom, derived from reflection upon wide experience of the world, that’s all too rare these days." Charles Matthews

Providence Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Essays on ‘Christ’ and ‘Wittgenstein’ have a dialectical vigor worthy of Pascal. … This I Believe is a bracing self-portrait by a great man of letters, and it projects, with honesty and courage, a profound joy in the life of the mind." Tom D’Evelyn

Chicago Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"Unreliable in detail, This I Believe is nevertheless remarkable in toto as the artistic, political and personal credo of one of Latin America’s pre-eminent intellectuals. … Much of the book reads like a series of position papers, on how to reconcile economic development with human rights, strengthen public education and reconstruct the left …" Steven G. Kellman

Critical Summary

While critics praised the depth and breadth of Fuentes’s thinking, most acknowledged that This I Believe is a work for the serious reader, someone who has already considered deeply philosophical issues. At all turns, Fuentes challenges his readers—not only with personal inquiries into marriage, but also with forays into political topics including globalization and civic society. Many reviewers cited the essay titled "Urbanities," which recalls the distinctive roles cities played in Fuentes’s life (his father was a diplomat; he served as Mexican ambassador to France), as the loveliest in the volume. A few quibbled over some grandiloquent language and historical errors. Yet all agree that This I Believe is an intelligent, engaging work that warmly invites readers into Fuentes’s personal world of ideas.

Also by the Author

The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962): This masterpiece about modern Mexico and the lingering weight of its past established Fuentes as a key figure of the Latin American literary boom.