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US writer honors Fuentes at the FIL

December 1, 2012

Acclaimed U.S. author Jonathan Franzen paid homage to the late Carlos Fuentes ahead of opening the literary salon at Guadalajara’s 26th International Book Fair (FIL) on Sunday.

The hall has been renamed in honor of Fuentes – arguably the nation’s most celebrated writer – who died aged 83 in May.

“As a writer, I admire his work, everyone should read ‘The Death of Artemio Cruz,’” Franzen told the press on the eve of the ceremony, before relaying a brief anecdote: “I met him shortly before his passing. I told him I wanted to know more about Mexico. ‘Well, don’t go there,’ he said.”

Franzen writes for The New Yorker but is best known for his novels “The Corrections” and “Freedom,” which earned him a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and a cover on TIME magazine alongside the headline “Great American Novelist.”

“Writing is a dirty job, you are overexposed and you must not think of yourself too highly,” Franzen said, during a 90-minute talk in which he accepted the first Carlos Fuentes Literary Salon prize.

“What interests me most are dreams, I write about what I dream,” Franzen said of his work. “I guess that what I tell you about writing may discredit the craft,” he had warned ahead of his talk, later revealing the surreal, schizophrenic inspiration behind his writing: “half of my characters emerge from my many different personalities. I am not uncomfortable writing a feminine character, as I myself may be a woman.”

In recent years, Franzen has become known for his frequent criticisms of social media and his disdain for e-books.

“I am concerned about technology and consumerism,” he said. “There’s no sense to it. Literature’s job is precisely to give sense to things, requiring honesty from the writer, and complicity and trust from the reader.”

“I am very sad about what Mexico is going through,” Franzen told the FIL, but he also said he felt a great responsibility toward readers and writers, explaining, “that’s why I came to Guadalajara.”

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