sin riesgo no hay arte / without risk there is no art

Carlos Fuentes just died.  Carlos Fuentes acaba de morir.

Many people are writing many things about him.

My friend, poet and professor and all around cool human being Lex Runciman, met Fuentes in the late 1990’s on the occasion of a visit he made to the campus of Linfield College in Oregon. Like myself, Lex was (and still is) a fan; he told me today that he found Fuentes ‘deeply impressive’; then he went on to say, ‘he seemed to me to carry in his thinking an appreciation of the Americas (North, Latin, South) and of Europe — all at once, all as part of one reality, one intellectual construct.

Good words to remember the man by.

In English we leave words in memorian for those who have died, passed on, or gone.  A Latin expression which means, literally, “in the memory of.”  We also say RIP, rest in peace. In Spanish the expression is QDEP, que descanse en paz.  Though I wonder to myself about resting in peace: Fuentes, a man who often used words and ideas to provoke and affect, not merely to entertain but also to rile up, to, as the French say, épater la bourgeoisie (or shock the mainstream), might be happier knowing that, though his body has died, his words will continue to stir folks up. In his last published article, which appeared on the 15th of May, 2012, the day he died, Fuentes deplores the fact that the current Mexican presidential candidates seem more interested in petty bickering than in tackling what he calls los grandes temas de la actualidad – the truly big questions which affect all of us today.

Me preocupa e impacienta que estos grandes temas de la actualidad estén fuera del debate de los candidatos a la presidencia de México, dedicados a encontrarse defectos unos a otros y dejar de lado la agenda del porvenir.

But I am remembering Fuentes the writer, Fuentes the thinker.  Fuentes the coiner of brief aphorisms which, though self-evident to some, contain a lot of truth for me in my daily battles, tiny and large, to translate my ideas and feelings onto the metaphorical printed page….to be a writer.

My friend, the Mexican writer and journalist Adriana Degetau, once wrote, para aprender a escribir lo único que se requiere es: escribir, escribir y escribir.  Rough translation — in order to write, the one and only thing that is necessary is: to write, and write – and write.

I agree with those words.  But Carlos Fuentes has a few others which also seem appropriate and real today, as I sit at my keyboard, about to begin writing.  He said –

Sin riesgo no hay arte. Uno siempre debe estar en el borde de un acantilado a punto de caerse y romperse el cuello.

Or, in English –

Without risk there is no art. You should always be on the edge of a cliff about to fall down and break your neck.

Standing on the edge of my own cliff, I wonder about other people’s cliffs.  I wonder about my own neck.  I wonder if breaking it will hurt.  And I wonder what it will feel like….falling.

And is it really falling….if you jump?

Fuentes also said, no me clasifiquen; léanme.  Or – don’t classify me, read me.

I’m going to read more Fuentes.

But I can’t help one tiny last act of classification in memoriam for Señor Fuentes:  you weren’t just a great writer, Carlos.  You were a great jumper.

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