Monday, April 21, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I need to acknowledge the career, and the death, of Colombian novelist and Nobel prizewinnerGarcia Marquez over the weekend, in Mexico City.  His work defines the use of the word "fabulous"--in both the literal sense and in its common usage (like, "awesome").

He burst on the global scene with "100 Years of Solitude" in 1967, though he was already a well-respected figure in local literary circles.  It created a whole new vista for the novel--the lives, and the culture, of South America--and a style of storytelling which combined passion, politics, and, above all, memory, both real and invented.

Garcia Marquez drew from his own experience growing up in a remote (at least, to us) part of Colombia, in the town with the musical name of Aracataca (say that out loud), which provided the basis for his fictional hometown of Macondo--a name that will live on forever in the annals of literature.  His family had direct experience with the endless wars of local secession/autonomy in his part of the country, which he drew heavily upon in "100 Years".  The remoteness of the region is not wholly my imagination, though; it is a part of the meaning of the "solitude"of the title (but not all of it!)

Besides "100 Years", I enjoyed "The Autumn of the Patriarch"--which is basically about the Peronist/Bolivarian mindset of the military/political rulers of the region, and--best of all--"Love in the Time of Cholera", which I think perfected the expression of his style.

I read him in English (although I've seen his work in Spanish--it's hardly impossible, though it contains a lot of vocabulary that will be unfamiliar), so I have to credit also his translators, Gregory Rabassa (for "100 Years") and Edith Grossman (for the later works)--they clearly knew how to present the rhythm and the beauty of his work.

Garcia Marquez wrote about rebellion in Colombia, and it was all too present continuing through his lifetime (and even until today).  This, and the fact that his fame made it possible, probably explains his expatriate status for the last 20 years or more--it was probably not safe personally for him to remain.  He was able to lend his fame to the support of progressive leaders in the region, and to Fidel Castro, too. He was truly a man of the people who achieved greatness.

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