On Writing and Literature

Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Literary Collossus

Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the creator of a style known as magical realism, remains Latin America’s best-known writer. He was born in 1927 in the Colombian coastal town of Aracataca. He once said his writing was forever shaped by the grandparents who raised him as a young child:

“There was a real dichotomy in me because, on one hand … there was the world of my grandfather; a world of stark reality, of civil wars he told me about, since he had been a colonel in the last civil war. And then, on the other hand, there was the world of my grandmother, which was full of fantasy, completely outside of reality.”

Garcia Marquez’s grandfather, grandmother, their stories and their town became the raw material for his most famous work (A Hundred Years Of Solitude). He was close to 40 years old when it was published and his fame, celebrity and status as a literary giant exploded right after that book was published.

Perhaps you had to be there to understand it ? In the 1960’s, I mean. To be there and aware of the import of those times ? To be in the world of the Beatles and flower power; Third World revolutions; Paris communes; LSD and psychedelia to understand the power of that first page.

He was to me the writer I was waiting for, although I didn’t know it – I didn’t discover him until the 1980’s, when I read that first page, I knew I had finally found the writer I wanted to read:

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time, Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.”

The Colombian got his political leanings from his grandfather, just as My grandfather had inadvertently shaped mine, and they fed and nurtured his writing:

“I write mostly about the reality I know, about the reality of Latin America. Any interpretation of this reality in literature must be political. I cannot escape my own ideology when I interpret reality in my books; it’s inseparable.”

He was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in literature “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts”.

His 10 novels include The Autumn of the Patriarch, about a Latin American dictator, but they also include a love story about two elderly people married to other people, Love in the Time of Cholera, which was made into a film in 2007.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes about all the people who are marginalised, who are part of, but not included in history. He gave a voice to those all those who, in the times of their lives, had no voice. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he spoke about Latin America’s wars, military coups, dictatorships and ethnocide:

“We, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of a new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.”


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