How can the life and work of two great intellectual figures, the recently deceased Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012) – one of Mexico’s most famous writers – and the recently deceased Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012) – one of the world’s most famous Marxists – be correlated? In his autobiography Interesting Times (2002), Eric Hobsbawm described Carlos Fuentes as one of his ‘dear friends’, among many others, in Latin America, a region in which the historian always commanded a strong following and interest. Hobsbawm’s autobiography also carries a significant chapter that addresses the distance between Latin American intellectuals as members of an elite social class and those constituting the majority of everyday life in civil society. But how can one assess the social function of intellectuals such as Carlos Fuentes caught between the relations of state and civil society? My research and interviews with Carlos Fuentes, as well as personal correspondence with Eric Hobsbawm himself on this topic, reveal something significant about how to situate the role of the intellectual within the shadow of the state in Latin America.

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