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Novelist Carlos Fuentes speaks on literature and law

Last Wednesday, renowned Mexican author Carlos Fuentes delivered a lecture at the McGill Faculty of Law. His talk covered a broad range of topics in an equally broad range of languages, employing English, French, and Spanish.

Fuentes’s talk was titled “Literature and Law,” but it ranged over numerous subjects, including details from his personal life. Fuentes has a law degree from the University of Mexico and worked as a diplomat during part of his literary career. In an effort to directly connect with his audience, Fuentes recounted his own struggles in choosing a career path and encouraged students to follow their dreams.

“If you are doing what you do not like, you’re not happy,” he said. “If you do what you like, you have a measure of happiness. So I urge everyone in this room tonight to do what they want to do. Don’t let parents and obligations deter you from doing what you want to do.”

Fuentes also spoke of the world’s changing power dynamics.

“The countries that used to be called ‘third world’ countries are suddenly the great countries of the world,” he said. “They are Brazil, they are China, they are India. You could not believe this 50 years ago. They are the protagonists of the world order. So what do we say when the world is changing so quickly, when the conditions that we thought were secure and stable are no longer there?”

After the lecture, Fuentes said that he enjoyed speaking at McGill. “It was a good audience and a great response. I was delighted to be here.”

When asked about the message he hoped students drew from his lecture, Fuentes said, “I hope they understood that we’re in a big change of civilization. We’re going into the unknown, into something absolutely new and it’s up to them to see that whatever happens is good. It’s unforeseen but it is good.”

Fuentes seemed to have made his point well. Carolina Millan Ronchetti, a U1 economics and international development studies student, said, “As a student with Hispanic-American heritage, I really respect Carlos Fuentes as an author and as a lawyer. I was really interested to hear his insight about the state of the world today. The world is changing and he made some insightful comments about Mexico, Latin America, and the world as a whole.”

The McGill Law Journal was responsible for bringing Carlos Fuentes to speak at the Faculty of Law. The journal’s editor, Sara Ross, described how she chose him.

“I thought, ‘If I could have anybody come to give our annual lecture, who could I pick?’ And it was Carlos Fuentes,” she said.

Ross indicated that there had been some difficulties in arranging the lecture. It was originally scheduled for January but then had to be postponed. Throughout the process, however, Ross said that Fuentes remained very “receptive” to speaking at McGill.

Ross added that she was happy Fuentes spoke because of what his personal story meant for students at the Faculty of Law.

“McGill Law has this reputation for alternative legal careers and going into law school and not becoming a strict by-the-books lawyer … I think that it’s so important to hear from people who have used their legal education to great ends and used it in different ways as Fuentes has.”

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