CREATING MAGIC REALISM IN SOLITUDE
While receiving Nobel Prize for literature in 1982 Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez told his audience ,” I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters. A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.” This ”outsized reality” that the author of The Hundred Years of Solitude referred to and which was termed by critics as Magic Realism catapulted this prolific Colombian writer to the position of the most outstanding fiction writer of the present times. His hallmark is exaggerated realism interpersed by doses of fantasy that provides a metaphysical flavor to his writings. He is a story-teller par excellance and no wonder that by many he is considered as the greatest living writer.
Gabo, as he is popularly known among his Spanish compatriots was born in the Colombian coastal village of Aracataca in 1928. Situated at the northren most tip of the South America known as banana area this small town of his childhood was always called by him as “a wonderful place of ‘bandits and dancers’. Of those days he says,”My parents were poor. My father worked as a telegraphist. When my father wanted to marry the daughter of Col. Nicolas Marquez her family opposed it. After the wedding my father took a job in another town far from Aracataca…When my mother became pregnant with me in a gesture of reconciliation my grandparents said,’Come have the baby in our house.’Which she gladly did. After a while my mother returned to the village my father was working in and so my grandparents said,’Leave Gabriel with us to raise.’ The family was poor. Later on when my parents returned to Aracataca I went on living with my grandparents—where I was mostly very happy. I did that till I was eight when my grandfather died.”
For formal schooling he was sent to a boarding school in Barranquilla, a port city at the mouth of the Magdalena River. After winning a scholarship later he went to a school near Bogota but he did not like Bogota finding it “dismal and oppressive.” H e was good at his studies but at the same time he was drawn towards literature and wrote humorous poems and drew cartoons. Against his temperament Gabriel’s parents were interested in making him study law so he went back to Bogota. In his autobiography Living to Tell the Tale he writes about those days,” I just dropped out of the faculty of law after six semesters devoted almost entirely to reading whatever I could get my hands on, and reciting from memory the unrepeatable poetry of the Spanish Golden Age. I already had read in translation and in borrowed editions all the books I would have needed to learn the novelist’s craft and had published six stories in newspaper supplements winning the attention of critics.”
When he was twenty three he adopted a lifestyle wherein he smoked sixty cigarettes a day of “most barbaric tobacco.” He writes,” For reasons of poverty rather than taste I anticipated what would be the style in twenty year’s time: untrimmed moustache, tousled hair, jeans, flowered shirts and pilgrim’s sandals.” His friends especially the girls thought him to be a “lost cause”. It was earlier when he had just finished his school and was preparing to go to Law School in Bogota he was introduced to a 13 year old girl named Mercedes Barcha Pardo. Dark and silent, of Egyptian decent, she was "the most interesting person" he had ever met. After he graduated from the Liceo Nacional, he took a small vacation with his parents before leaving for the University. During that time, he proposed to her. Agreeing, but first wishing to finish school, she put off the engagement. Although they wouldn't be married for another fourteen years, Mercedes promised to stay true to him. About this once he talked to journalist Claudia Dreifus ,”We became engaged in 1952 when I was working for Bogota newspaper El Espectador. Before the wedding the paper gave me the opportunity to go to Europe as its foreign correspondent. So I had to choose between doing something that I always wanted to do and the wedding. When I discussed it with Mercedes she said,’ It is better for you to go to Europe.’….However it was not very long before the dictator Rojas Pinilla shut down El Spectador leaving me stranded in Paris and broke. So I cashed the return part of my air ticket and used the money to continue living in Europe. I stayed there three years. She was absolutely certain I’d return. Everyone told her she was crazy….From Paris I wrote to Mercedes every week And after we were married to force her argument she would always say that you wrote such and such thing in your letters.” Settling in the Latin Quarter, he lived off credit, the kindness of his landlady, and money scraped up returning bottles for their deposits. Those days, influenced by the writings of Hemingway, he typed out eleven drafts of No One Writes to the Colonel. But he always acknowledged the major influence of Faulkner on his writings.
Subsequently he returned to Columbia to marry Mercedes and moved to Venezuela for a few years and then arrived in New York as the correspondent of Cuba’s news agency Prensa Latina. Having been associated with Fidel Castro of Cuba his entry was banned in his home country and USA. However the ban to enter his home country was lifted when he became a Nobel Laureate and Bill Clinton an ardent fan of Gabriel’s fiction removed restrictions on his entry to USA when he became the president. In the meantime he had moved to Mexico since 1961.The most interesting thing is that majority of his books were published because of his friends. He began his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude when he was 18. Only in 1967 after many years of struggle and frustration in writing it was published in Argentina and famous Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa wrote,” a literary earthquake has shaken Latin America.” The critics regarded the book as a masterpiece of the art of fiction. Again it were his friends who took the manuscript of Leaf Storm (1955) to the printer when they found it on his desk after he was gone to Italy in1954. Llosa remarked that,” the truth is that without the obstinacy of his friends Garcia Marquez would perhaps still today be an unknown writer.” Autumn of the Patriarch considered to be the best modern portrait of a tyrant was published in 1975, and it was a drastic departure from both the subject and tone of One Hundred Years of Solitude. The book was initially considered a disappointment by the critics, who were most likely expecting another book of A Hundred Years of Solitude type. Opinion has changed over the years, however, and many now consider this novel of shifting realities to be a minor masterpiece all in its own right.
Having leftist leanings Garcia Marquez was upset when Pinochet took over control of Chile in a coup de tat in which Salvador Allende was assassinated. He decided that he would write no more fiction until the American-supported Pinochet stepped down from his control of Chile, a decision he later rescinded. Now a famous writer, he was becoming more aware of his own political power and his increased clout and financial security enabled him to pursue his interests in political activism. Returning to Mexico City, he purchased a new house and stepped up his personal campaign to influence the world around him. Building on his actions of the last few years, he continued to divert some of his money into political and social causes. Politics, however, was not the subject of his next novel. Rather it was a love story. Turning again to his rich past for inspiration and material, he reworked his parent's strange courtship into the form of a decades-spanning narrative. In 1986 Love in the Time of Cholera was published which was well received.By now one of the most famous writers in the world, he bought residences in Mexico City, Cartagena, Cuernavaca, Paris, Barcelona, and Barranquilla and took part in the fields of his choice i.e. teaching, political activism and writing. In 1990 he wrote The General in his Labyrinth and two years later Strange Pilgrims. In 1994 he published his work of fiction, Love and Other Demons. This was followed in 1996 by News of a Kidnapping, a journalistic work detailing the atrocities of the Colombian drug trade. In 1999 he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer and currently he is steadfastly fighting against this treacherous disease. Still he has not abandoned his first love i.e. writing. The first volume of his memoirs was published in 2001 as Living to Tell the Tale. The epitaph of the book reads,” Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” In 2004 appeared his last novel Memories of My Sad Whores. The second part of his memoirs is in the pipeline.(End)