The Freedom of Political Fiction: This Prominent Mexican Novelist Explores Power, Passion, and Tragedy in Stories That Reveal Another Side of Reality

By Cabrera, Enriqueta | Americas (English Edition), May-June 2006 | Go to article overview

The Freedom of Political Fiction: This Prominent Mexican Novelist Explores Power, Passion, and Tragedy in Stories That Reveal Another Side of Reality


Cabrera, Enriqueta, Americas (English Edition)


With La conspiracion de la fortuna, Mexican writer, political analyst, and historian Hector Aguilar Camin has returned to the political novel, one that appears to join the family of Morir en el golfo and La guerra de Galio. The settings have changed but the subject is the same: politics and power, tragedy and passions, in a country where great ambitions are being played out.

Narrated by a journalist who is friend, witness, and accomplice, and set in an unnamed country, La conspiracion de la fortuna is the tragic account of the impassioned life of Santos Rodriguez, who, after having reached the pinnacle of political power, suffers a reversal of fortune. The second chance he seeks never materializes, and he sets his sights instead on reaching his goals through his son. Sebastian is a young technocrat who has come in on the coattails of change and wants to impose modernization in the hopes of gaining the power necessary to transform the corrupt world in which his father once ruled. But Santos Rodriguez is defeated once again. During the half-century spanned by the novel, the "mafia republic" remains intact, in spite of all the changes, whether in the hands of uneducated men or in the hands of those whose children studied in prestigious foreign universities. Is it misfortune or a curse?

Aguilar Camin defends the political novel as a valid medium but warns against trying to find in it an exact map of reality. He once said, "We novelists can be much more irresponsible and invent much more than any analyst or historian can. And that's why I write novels.... The names aren't real, the situations are fictitious, but the spirit of what is narrated may be truer than what can be found in a sociology book."

Hector Aguilar Camin was born in Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico, in 1946. With a bachelor's degree in communications from the Universidad Iberoamericana and a doctorate in history from El Colegio de Mexico, he has been a research historian at the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, the chief of information at UnoMasUno, the assistant director of La Jornada (1984-87), and director of Nexos magazine (1982-94). The author of numerous historical works and political essays, he co-authored, with Lorenzo Meyer, A la sombra de la revolucion mexicana (1989) [In the Shadow of the Mexican Revolution, 1993], a contemporary Mexican history classic. He also has published two collections of short stories, Con el filtro azul (1979) and La decadencia del dragon (1983), as well as six novels: Morir en el golfo (1985), La guerra de Galio (1990), Un soplo en el rio (1997), El resplandor de la madera (1999), Las mujeres de Adriano (2002), and La conspiracion de la f ortuna (2005).

Hector Aguilar Camin

Enriqueta Cabrera: La conspiracion de la fortuna is a political novel, and it is literature of course, but it also contains a great deal of realism. Which prevails, literature or politics? Or how are the two related?

Aguilar Camin: I hope that literature prevails in La conspiracion de la fortuna. The first test of a novel as literature--whether it is a political novel, a love story, or a book about customs or ideas--is whether or not what happens seems credible to us and whether it moves us to keep reading. The final test is whether something about the book remains deeply within our memory and emotions when we close the cover. Does it stay with us for a long time? Perhaps our whole life? In La conspiracion de la fortuna, I wanted to write a novel with a political setting, but it was definitely meant to be a novel. If the power of the book is not found in its characters, its story line, and its writing, it would be of small consolation to me whether it was found to be a good or bad portrayal of the politics in my country. Politics in this case is the marinade on the food; it can be a sauce or a flavor, but never the dish itself. I'm interested in bringing the reader to that space of intimacy where a close friend becomes a faithful and uncompromising mirror of the biggest character in his life, his friend Santos Rodriguez.

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