“And the only thing I ever wanted to do in life was write” So declared the late 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature recipient Gabriel García Márquez of Columbia. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that in the man born on March 6 1927 is a man who knew his purpose and served it exceptionally well.
Widely regarded as the most refined expression of magical realism, Marquez was part of the literary boom of Latin America along with writers such as his one time friend and 2010 Nobel Literature recipient, Marios Vargas Llosa of Peru, Julio Cortázar of Argentina,Carlos Fuentes of Mexico. His work was a literary guide through a region of the world that had been known as nothing more than a hotbed for banana republics. Marquez and his contemporaries clothed and gave the Latin American world “a more human face”, to quote Biko, where the indignity of stereotyping sought to present a narrative of exotic native folk who needed to be taught how to make the most of their land as John Smith told Pocahontas in Disney’s Pocahontas.
Gabo, as García Márquez was affectionately known, depicted the Latin America experience with all its fallibility and greatness with equal measure much like the writers of the early years of post-colonial Africa. Addressing the political realities of his continent through his work wasn’t something to agonize over because, as he said in his acceptance speech of his Nobel Prize, “the interpretation our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary”. So as a writer and a person with a vested interest in the well being of his part of the globe Gabo through his lot with Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution and the greater left wing struggle of Latin America and by so doing was banned from entering the United States.
He criticized Europe and the US for falling over themselves in exaltation of the works of their not apolitical literary boom yet seemed hell bent in stemming the tide of social change sought by the people whose daily experiences informed their literary world. It was the American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who infamously said “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people” as the Washington-supported General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the socialist democracy of president Salvador Allende and unleash brutal dictatorship in Chile. As a way highlight the savagery of the post-coup Chile, García Márquez once vowed he wouldn’t publish any more fictional work until the Pinochet had been removed from high office.
When brave souls disappear amongst us for daring to speak out against injustices that poison once hopeful realities the writer’s work must see us through The Autumn of the Patriarch; when we’re told that No One Writes to the Colonel out of fear that the poet’s words do not praise his inept leadership quality then we shall know that The General in His Labyrinth will surely realize that those whose saviour he thought he was will not endure another moment of his unethical One Hundred Years of Solitude whose number is up like a Chronicle of a Death Foretold, it’s to the very writers and poets that people will look to for solace that their lives are meaningful even in the face of misery like one finding Love in the of Cholera. In his speech García Márquez further states that “to oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death.” Although García Márquez will never give us another literary, it’s important to know that to give his work our attention is essentially to “respond with life” where death may have thought it had triumphed. Viva Gabo!!!!!