In Carlos Fuentes y el pensamiento barroco, Reindert Dhondt accomplishes the first systematic study of the Baroque in much of the work of Carlos Fuentes. Through a rigorous analysis of Fuentes's essays, interviews, and novels such as Aura (1962) and En todas las familias felices (2006), Dhondt elucidates the Boom writer's particular vision of modernity. That is, he illustrates how Fuentes's idea of modernity in Latin America is filtered through a Baroque sensibility for disillusionment, melancholy, hybridity, and the ambiguous in the New World.
The first chapter delves into what the Baroque and Neo-Baroque mean in the New World. Dhondt outlines major points of interest in its conceptualization: as a transhistorical category in the work of Heinrich Wolfflin; as an export to the Americas, later to be shunned as a colonial tool; conversely, as an assimilated style subversive to imperialism; and lastly, as an aesthetic of the abject in the thought of Sarduy. The greater part of this chapter, however, examines Fuentes's interviews and historically-minded work, like El espejo enterrado (1993), to see the Baroque from his perspective as an inventive "language of mestizaje and uncertainty," in the New World (29). What Dhondt uncovers is an incredibly dynamic and politicized, if ambivalent, vision of the Baroque as a beacon of counterculture.
From the second chapter onwards, the book considers this more subversive expression of the Baroque in the novel Aura. Although traditionally considered a Gothic text, Dhondt persuasively signals its Baroque qualities. Through its themes of immortality and desire beyond death along with recurrent topoi of melancholy and ruins, Dhondt presents intertextualities that refer to the work of Quevedo and Walter Benjamin's theory of the Baroque. Additionally, Dhondt points out that, although Fuentes treats the Baroque as a transhistorical category, it is still fully historical. He joins other scholars like Emir Rodriguez Monegal in arguing that Aura supports an allegorical view of nineteenth-century Mexico facing its past and trying to determine its future as a nation. Indeed, this is a more politically engaged reading than has tended to be accorded to this mere "Gothic" tale. [End Page 469]
This political vision and the possibility of a future utopia are further explored in the third chapter, which deals with Constancia from the novel, Constancia y otras novelas para vírgenes (1989). A summary of the critical interpretations for this novel are given, along with an outline of formal internal aspects and themes. Most interesting however, is the continued dialogue between Benjamin's topoi—particularly of ruins—and Fuentes's vision of history and time. As in Benjamin's work on German Baroque drama, Fuentes's Constancia involves a skeptical vision of history as a ruin. Moreover, it is shown to signal the lost enterprise of Mexican nationalism, identity, progress, and modernity. These ruins and the fragmentation of time, according to Dhondt, also present a certain amount of conscience. In other words, the ruins serve to remind the present of the past, encouraging the reconstruction of history so as to right past wrongs and give voice to the voiceless, like the exiled characters of Constancia.
In the fourth chapter, Dhondt presents a reading of the Baroque qualities of La frontera de cristal (1995), a novel engaged with the issues of US-Mexican immigration and discrimination. In particular, Dhondt uses Bakhtin's cronotrope to explore the loss of time and place that the border provokes in this novel. After describing the socioeconomic and political context of Fuentes's "frontier novels," Dhondt delves into a discussion on the Baroque and frontier cronotropes that converge in the characters' sense of displacement, and above all, disillusionment in the immigrant experience.
In the last and fifth chapter of Carlos Fuentes y el pensamiento barroco, Dhondt analyzes the heavier Baroque effect of tragedy, where melancholy is communally shared in the novel, Todas las familias felices (2006). Fuentes's influences, such as Faulkner and Tolstoy, are further explained in this chapter. Dhondt also argues that, in this novel, Fuentes reclaims the genre of tragedy in order to provoke...