GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ: MYTH AND THE FABULIST
Gabriel García Márquez, who died on April 17 at the age of 87, was one of the most important writers of the last decades disappears, and an author who represented many other things. The Colombian novelist, born in Aracataca in 1927 and winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize, wasn’t just a creator of legends and mythical landscapes –he was himself a myth, an author who embodied an idea of writing and who became the best known name in a movement that changed the history of Spanish-language literature.
He was above all a great storyteller, with a special gift to create atmospheres, to combine comic, magic, erotic and tragic elements, and a talent to forge rotund, unforgettable sentences. He declared that journalism was the best job in the world: his chronicle The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor is admirable, and his journalistic experience would be essential to Chronicle of a Death Foretold or News of a Kidnapping. He explained he was stunned by Kafka and the feeling of immediacy at the beginning of The Metamorphosis. He defended Simenon and was captivated by Oedipus Rex –the enquiry, fate, detective fiction before its time.As for so many others, Faulkner was a decisive author, and this influence is especially visible in his first novel, Leave Storm. He could produce dry and precise works, such as No One Writes to the Colonel. But the book that turned him into a myth was, apparently, the opposite: One Hundred Years of Solitude, where he told the story of the Buendía family, and of a mythical place, Macondo. This powerful and baroque work had an almost primitive quality, an inheritance of oral literature and the pleasure of telling stories. It is a family saga and a historical allegory, but also a book endowed with unlikely ambition which describes the creation and destruction of a world by merging modern techniques with Biblical undertones. (He said “the Bible is a fabulous [cojonudo] book, full of fantastic stories”, and he probably was one of the few writers one can imagine writing a blurb for God.)
One Hundred Years of Solitude’s unbelievable success makes it difficult to judge. Frequent imitation and its conversion into cliché might have undermined some of its wonderful moments and abundant virtues. Possibly there are better books written by authors belonging to the South American boom. Some of his contemporaries may have had more solid careers. One Hundred Years of Solitude had something different, exotic and appropriate for its time, and its narrative thrust made it more accessible than other works. In any case, it was a decisive book, and its influence exceeds the Spanish language. Ironically, the allegedly unique reality and causality of Latin America were understood and adapted in many other places of the world. It is hard to imagine a good part of English-language postcolonial literature without the inspiration and the feeling of freedom provided by One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Maybe García Márquez himself couldn’t escape his own myth. But he wrote admirable books after One Hundred Years of Solitude, such as Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of Cholera and some of the stories in Strange Pilgrims. More of a fabulist than a thinker, and sometimes more charming than profound, his interest in power was aesthetically fruitful but not always wholesome. It might have been, along with his friendship with Fidel Castro and a certain political and intellectual stagnation, one of the reasons that lead him to maintain his support for the Cuban regime beyond any reasonable justification.
With the passing of García Márquez, we lost the creator of an admirable and rich body of work, still alive for millions of readers –a formidable storyteller simultaneously ancient and modern, who has left a strong imprint in writers belonging to many languages and generations.
[Una versión de este texto se ha publicado esta noche en Heraldo.es.]