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Carlos Fuentes, Latin American literary giant, dies in Mexico

May 15, 2012 |  2:03 pm

Carlos Fuentes of Mexico

MEXICO CITY -- The prize-winning writer Carlos Fuentes, modern Mexico’s greatest novelist and indefatigable author of screenplays, stories and often-scolding commentaries, died Tuesday at a hospital in Mexico City. He was 83.

The national culture council announced Fuentes' death. Although it did not immediately specify a cause, some Mexican news reports said he had checked in a night earlier with heart problems. But the prolific Fuentes, who said he had begun a new novel on the heels of another recently completed one, was not publicly known to be ailing.

"I deeply lament the death of our beloved and admired Carlos Fuentes, a writer and Mexican of the world," read a message posted on President Felipe Calderon’s Twitter account.

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Fuentes, who also served as a Mexican diplomat, gained wide acclaim for novels such as "Aura" and "The Death of Artemio Cruz," part of a generation of world-class writers from Latin America. U.S. movie audiences may recall the film based on the Fuentes novel "The Old Gringo," which starred Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.

He won numerous literary prizes and was perennially mentioned as a possible candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature, but never won it. 

At home, Fuentes remained until the end outspoken on issues of the day. His most recent column — about the presidential election in France — was published Tuesday in the daily Reforma newspaper. Disdainful of many Mexican politicians, he tacked a note at the end taking aim at the tone of Mexico’s own presidential race, which he said sacrificed discussion of big issues for candidates’ petty attempts to knock each other down.

Fuentes said he found elixir in work. "My system of youth is to work a lot, to always have a project pending," he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais in an interview published Monday. He said he had just completed a novel called "Federico on his Balcony" and had begun a new one.

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-- Ken Ellingwood

Photo: Carlos Fuentes signs a book in Bogota, Colombia, on Feb. 1, 2012. Credit: Eitan Abramovich / AFP/Getty Images

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