Gabriel Garcia Marquez Special
"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía would recall that remote afternoon when his father took him to see ice for the first time.”
Few novels have had as great an impact on universal literature as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez’s masterpiece. To such an extent that many people know by heart those first few lines of the saga of the Buendía family.
And even more people remember the ending: “Because bloodlines condemned to a hundred years of solitude did not have a second chance on earth.”
These are magic sentences, like the magic displayed by the writer throughout his book, which gave birth to the so-called “magical realism,” a literary school that had adherents throughout the world, and still has many followers today.
In his speech accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he was awarded in 1982, García Márquez spoke at length about Latin America and its contradictions. He said, “I dare believe it is this disproportionate reality, and not just its literary expression, which has merited the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters this year.”
Latin America was always an obsession for García Márquez. In a speech presented at the opening session of the Forum on the Vision of the Next Generation - Latin America and the Caribbean at the Threshold of the New Millennium, held in Paris in 1999 (17 years later) he said: “The Italian writer Giovanni Papini infuriated our grandparents with a venomous phrase: ‘America is made of Europe’s rejects.’ Today, not only are we right to assume it is true, but something even sadder, to assume it is our fault.”
“Our greatest virtue is our creativity, and yet we have done little more than live out rehashed doctrines and other people’s wars, as heirs of a hapless Christopher Columbus who discovered us by chance while he was trying to find the Indies.”
He was always a direct man. He never kept his opinions to himself and firmly stood by his beliefs up until the very day of his death in Mexico City this past April 17th.
Gabriel García Márquez was born March 6, 1927 in Aracataca, a town on Colombia’s north coast, the son of Gabriel Egidio García, the town’s telegraph operator, and Luisa Santiaga Márquez Iguarán, whose background reportedly inspired the novel Love in the Time of Cholera.
His grandfather, Colonel Nicolás Márquez, a veteran of the War of the Thousand Days (a civil conflict that rocked Colombia between October 17, 1899 and November 21, 1902), used to tell young Gabriel countless stories of that war. Meanwhile, his grandmother, Tranquilina Iguarán, would recount family fables and legends to him.
His grandfather is given credit for having taken García Márquez to see ice for the first time, an episode that inspired the famous sentence at the beginning of his masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude. García Márquez’s childhood is told in detail in what many consider to be “the first part” of his biography: Living to Tell the Tale.
Gabo’s grandfather died in 1936, the year he moved away from Aracataca and went to live with his parents in the department of Sucre, also on the north coast of Colombia, where his father had found a job as a pharmacist.
In 1940 he went to live in Zipaquirá, in central Colombia, thanks to a scholarship from the National Lyceum in that city. In 1947, pressured by his parents, he went to live in Bogotá, a cold climate city up in the Andes, where he began to study law, but never finished his degree.
In the cold climate of Bogotá began what was to be one of García Márquez’s greatest passions: journalism. In the daily El Espectador he wrote some of his best chronicles, and years later he would be writing one of the most widely read columns in the country.
In Bogotá he also wrote his first novel, Leaf Storm, in which he already displayed the most characteristic features of his works of fiction. Nevertheless, it would be in Mexico where he would write his culminating work (One Hundred Years of Solitude).
In 1961 García Márquez moved to Mexico together with his wife, Mercedes Barcha, and their son Rodrigo. The economic hardships for the García Márquez family at that time were such that when they went to the post office to mail a manuscript consisting of 590 sheets of paper they did not have enough money to send it.
They decided to send just half of the novel. On the following day they went to pawn Mercedes’s jewels, which were of little value, and returned to mail the rest of the novel, only to realize, much to Mercedes’s anger, that they had mistakenly sent the final part of the novel first.
His wife then said to him, “All we need now is for it to be a bad novel,” according to how Gabo himself tells the story. Published in 1967, his novel sold out its first printing of 8,000 copies after one week, and it became his culminating work. After 45 years it remains on the lists of the most widely read books in the world. At age 40 he was already a renowned writer.
After One Hundred Years of Solitude, García Márquez published several books of short stories, the novel The Autumn of the Patriarch, through which he defied all literary canons (reducing punctuation marks down to a minimum) and another book that has resulted in hundreds of headlines: Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
Then the international prizes began to appear, such as the Rómulo Gallegos Prize and the Neustadt Prize in 1971, and his definitive recognition in 1982, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize.
As his literary popularity grew, García Márquez began to cultivate friendships with powerful world leaders, including Fidel Castro, something that years later earned him estrangement from some of his peers, especially from Mario Vargas Llosa, with whom he had maintained a long friendship.
Nevertheless, his leftist positions were no secret to anyone, and his criticism of the Colombian political system led him to establish the Alternativa magazine in association with other well-known Colombian journalists in the mid 1970’s.
In the early 1980’s, because of these stances, the Colombian government began to harass him, which is why he had to take up asylum in Mexico, a country where, with the exception of short stays in Spain and Cartagena, Colombia, he would establish his permanent residence, where he finally died this past April 17th.
García Marquez is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers of our time and of all time. But literature was not the only office to which he devoted his life. Among the things he always said he wanted more, was journalism. And in this field was also one of the best.
Enrique Santos Calderón, former director of the El Tiempo, the most important daily newspaper in Colombia, and also former director of the Alternativa magazine, which García Márquez diligently supported during the 1970’s, wrote a short article about El Gabo, as journalist, for the special digital edition dedicated to him by the Foundation for the New Latin American Journalism (FNPI), which supports the development of journalism throughout the entire region.
The following is Enrique Santos’s article titled “Exaltation of the Reporter”:
“About El Gabo, first of all, I give emphasis to his exaltation of the reporter. About the rookie journalist who goes out to cover the event of the day – tragic, festive, political, sports – and not only compiles the essential facts accurately, as to who, what, where, when, why, but also manages to narrate the story surrounded by these facts.
“I always remember his insistence that journalism consists of knowing how to tell a story well told. But watch out – he would often say to us at the Alternativa magazine – avoid the tasty chronicle that is not founded on rigorous reporting.
“When I met Gabo, in the early 70’s, I had already been in journalism for several years, but working with him – at a leftwing magazine in the 70’s and at an opposition-oriented television news program in the 90’s – meant learning everything that journalism draws from discipline, reading, dedication to the language, a sense of a smell for the unexpected, a quest for the personal and the human, a meticulous ascertainment of the facts and respect for what is truthful and just.
“Finally, I learned from him the deep love I have for this occupation that nourished him and made him great. Because he never disowned it, even though he knew when it was time to move on.”
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Text: José Fernando López with Noticias.univision.com. Video: Leonor Suárez. Title Page: Matilde Bonifaz. Developers: Caridad Tabares, Edmundo Hidalgo. Project Management: José Fernando López. Photos: Getty Images
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