THE DEATH OF ARTEMIO CRUZ by Carlos Fuentes was first published in English in 1964, translated from the Mexican Spanish by Sam Hileman. It follows the deathbed reflections of a former soldier of the Mexican revolution who has become a corrupt land baron and newspaper owner; the novel itself is a reflection on 20th century Mexican society and the abuse of power. Both story and style were influenced by the film CITIZEN KANE: Fuentes’ modernist prose deploys switches in narrative perspective and finds literary ways of imitating Orson Welles’ innovative cinematic techniques.
ARTEMIO CRUZ was a milestone in the celebrated Latin American Boom of the 1960s and ’70s, when the Cuban Revolution and political upheaval across the continent prompted a surge of interest in the region. Many Latin American novelists suddenly achieved worldwide popularity, including Carlos Fuentes in Mexico, Gabriel García Márquez in Colombia, Mario Vargas Llosa in Peru and Julio Cortázar in Argentina. Their huge international success was, of course, made possible because their works were championed by foreign publishers and widely translated.
The Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, who wrote in both English and French, is one of the best-known exponents of self-translation. His radio play CASCANDO premiered in the original French on France Culture, and was first broadcast in English on BBC Radio 3 in 1964. That year also saw the English debut of Beckett’s novel HOW IT IS, again self-translated from the French.