New Internationalist

The Years with Laura Díaz

August 2001

‘We are more than calendars. We know that nothing has an absolute beginning or an absolute end,’ wrote Carlos Fuentes in his essay Mexican Tempi. His new novel, the long and richly complex The Years with Laura Díaz, is a dazzling affirmation of this philosophy and a magisterial summation of the 20th century from a Mexican perspective. At the book’s centre is the photographer Laura Díaz. Her story is told by her grandson who, as the novel begins, is in Detroit making a documentary on Diego Rivera’s famous Institute of Arts mural. Photographing the vast painting, he realizes that one of the faces in the picture is that of his great-grandmother, Laura Díaz. We then loop back to 1898 and the beginning of this woman’s life, and the sweeping narrative takes in both tumultuous historical events and small personal details. Laura escapes a life of domesticity in her native state of Veracruz, taking refuge in cosmopolitan Mexico City, befriending Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and moving among communists, anarchists and trade unionists.

Fuentes clearly sees Laura as ‘everywoman’ and, perhaps rather implausibly, she is active in most of her country’s major historical events. However, the characterization is so strong and the writing so charged that this is a forgivable fault.

At a time when we are told that history is over and varieties of managerialism are all that are available, it is good to welcome a novel that celebrates idealism and individual commitment, rooted in history and with an abiding faith in the ultimate strength of the people.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 337 This column was published in the August 2001 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Never miss another story! Get our FREE fortnightly eNews

Comments on The Years with Laura Díaz

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

The Years with Laura Díaz Fact File
Product information by Carlos Fuentes
Star rating4
Publisher Bloomsbury
Product number ISBN 0 7475 5211 8

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Books

All Books

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 337

New Internationalist Magazine issue 337
Issue 337

More articles from this issue

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.