Old GringoPosted: 2009/03/25
Fuentes, Carlos. The Old Gringo. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1985.
Everything about this story was deceiving. Despite the fact it was written in 1985 it has an old world language and culture to it. The time frame is supposed to take place in 1914 but to read it, it wasn’t full of new language trying to sound old, elderly, or even ancient. Despite the fact it is only 199 pages long it was packed with histories of places and people, cultures and religions. The language was both accessible and challenging. It reminded me of fun house mirrors. Not everything was as it seemed.
Ambrose Bierce is an American writer and soldier traveling to Mexico to die. He is known throughout the story as simply the Old Gringo. Once in Mexico he meets several characters with equally troubling, mysterious stories. Tomas Arroyo is a Villa general who gives the Old Gringo competition when vying for the attention of Harriet Winslow, another American who came to Mexico to teach English. All the characters have a past they can’t forget and a future they can’t escape. The Old Gringo tells the story of these personalities with the same passion used to describe the Mexican landscape. In the end, the Old Gringo does die, but it is worth the read because there is definitely more to the story than that.
Favorite lines: “But the old man wanted to make life difficult for himself” (p 10), and “If her soul was not different from her dreams, she could accept that both were instantaneous. Like a dream, her soul revealed itself in flashes” (p 48).
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, “Mexican Fiction” (p153).