Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Fake Farewell
Persistent rumours about Gabriel Garcia Marquez's failing health.had been around ever since he was treated for lymphatic cancer in the summer of 1999.
It was reported to be a farewell poem that Marquez had supposedly written and sent out to his closest friends on account of his worsening condition.
On May 30 it was reproduced in Mexico City dailies, with La Cronica publishing it superimposed on a photograph of Marquez on the front page with a headline that read "Gabriel Garcia Marquez sings a song to life."
The poem was also read on many radio stations and spread quickly throughout the world via the internet, its translation even eventually making it to Indian shores and filmmaker Mrinal Sen declaring to the Hindustan Times that upon reading the poem he was flooded with memories from his 20 years of acquaintance with the Nobel laureate.
It turned out that the real author of the poem was Mexican ventriloquist Johnny Welch, who had written it for his puppet sidekick "Mofles" and told Mexico's InfoRed radio station that he was nevertheless "feeling the disappointment of someone who has written something and is not getting credit."
If for a moment God would forget that I am a rag doll and give me a scrap of life, possibly I would not say everything that I think, but I would definitely think everything that I say.
I would value things not for how much they are worth but rather for what they mean.
I would sleep little, dream more. I know that for each minute that we close our eyes we lose sixty seconds of light.
I would walk when the others loiter; I would awaken when the others sleep.
I would listen when the others speak, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream.
If God would bestow on me a scrap of life, I would dress simply, I would throw myself flat under the sun, exposing not only my body but also my soul.
My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hatred on ice and wait for the sun to come out. With a dream of Van Gogh I would paint on the stars a poem by Benedetti, and a song by Serrat would be my serenade to the moon.
With my tears I would water the roses, to feel the pain of their thorns and the incarnated kiss of their petals...My God, if I only had a scrap of life...
I wouldn't let a single day go by without saying to people I love, that I love them.
I would convince each woman or man that they are my favourites and I would live in love with love.
I would prove to the men how mistaken they are in thinking that they no longer fall in love when they grow old--not knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love. To a child I would give wings, but I would let him learn how to fly by himself. To the old I would teach that death comes not with old age but with forgetting. I have learned so much from you men....
I have learned that everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain without realizing that true happiness lies in the way we climb the slope.
I have learned that when a newborn first squeezes his father's finger in his tiny fist, he has caught him forever.
I have learned that a man only has the right to look down on another man when it is to help him to stand up. I have learned so many things from you, but in the end most of it will be no use because when they put me inside that suitcase, unfortunately I will be dying.
Ruchir Joshi on Gabo da in the Telegraph: A concert of magics:
Gabriel García Márquez has written about many things, love, memory, nostalgia, landscapes devastated by human greed, workers massacred by murderous corporations, memories of planned massacres wiped out by the rain of amnesia, whole seas belonging to a country sold off to other countries, and we can remember with pleasure or terror some image or insight of his. Today, two days after the laundry line of time flies him up and away from us, I keep thinking of the simple observation that is at the core of his fiction, the one he makes after spending time with a lot of power-hungry men: “A very powerful person, a dictator, is surrounded by interests and people whose final aim is to isolate him from reality; everything is in concert to isolate him.”
Kavita Panjabi in the TOI has a lovely tribute: Salaams Gabo:
What has made us love Gabo? In the heyday of anti-imperialism, when Che and Fidel had become cult figures amongst the young and the fiery, when the more literary types had begun to quote to each other the love poems and existential musings from the newly published yellow bilingual edition of Neruda, Garcia Marquez brought to us the lived struggles and resilience of ordinary people in a world as beleaguered as ours. His novels and novellas, stories, journalistic writings and memoirs opened up for us another world in which we could see ourselves, as we had never been able to in the pages of any western novel. We understood the seriousness of the loss of cultural memory under colonialism as stylized by him in the mock-hilarious amnesia plague, when people in Macondo begin marking all objects and animals with their respective names, to a point when the cow has a sign hanging on it, indicating that it was a cow and had to be milked every morning to get the milk to be mixed with coffee to make cafe con leche! We thrilled, amidst our own struggles for worker's rights, at the fact that his depiction of the banana company massacre in One Hundred Years of Solitude actually served to restore to Colombian history books the suppressed knowledge of the 1928 United Fruit Company massacre of over a thousand workers. We saw Apu's wonderment at the train in Pather Panchali reflected in the washerwoman of Macondo, who, seeing a steam engine pulling a train for the first time in her life, exclaimed that it was "Something frightful, like a kitchen dragging a village behind it." The political intrigues, cycles of violence, labour strikes, joint family disputes, delightful bonds between grandparents and grandchildren, surreptitious passions and passionate activists jumped out of the pages of his books and echoed the realities of our own lives.
From a 2007 piece in the Hindu, Kochi: Found in translation:
the translation of “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, published in 1984, is into the 13th edition, selling over 25,000 copies, and Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera”, published in 1997, is running into the sixth edition.
Explaining the success of these translations, Georgey Thomas, Editor, DC Books, says, “Keralites have a great fascination for South American Literature. That’s why there is an array of South American books written by Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa.”
Back to Rushdie's 1982 review (before the Nobel) for the LRB: Angel Gabriel:
In Marquez’s experience, truth has been controlled to the point at which it has ceased to be possible to find out what it is. The only truth is that you are being lied to all the time. Garcia Marquez (whose support of the Castro Government in Cuba may prevent him from getting his Nobel) has always been an intensely political creature: but his books are only obliquely to do with politics, dealing with public affairs only in terms of grand metaphors like Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s military career, or the colossally overblown figure of the Patriarch, who has one of his rivals served up as the main course at a banquet, and who, having overslept one day, decides that the afternoon is really the morning, so that people have to stand outside his windows at night holding up cardboard cut-outs of the sun.
Back to the The Paris Review Interview in 1981: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Art of Fiction No. 69:
What about a country giving up its sea for its foreign debt, as in The Autumn of the Patriarch?
Yes, but that actually happened. It’s happened and will happen many times more. The Autumn of the Patriarch is a completely historical book. To find probabilities out of real facts is the work of the journalist and the novelist, and it is also the work of the prophet. The trouble is that many people believe that I’m a writer of fantastic fiction, when actually I’m a very realistic person and write what I believe is the true socialist realism.
Salman Rushdie, reviewing Chronicle of a Death Foretold in 1982 for the LRB: Angel Gabriel:
It seems that the greatest force at work on the imagination of Marquez himself is the memory of his grandmother. Many, more formal antecedents have been suggested for his art: he has himself admitted the influence of Faulkner, and the world of his fabulous Macondo is at least partly Yoknapatawpha County transported into the Colombian jungles. Then there’s Borges, and behind Borges the fons and origo of it all, Machado de Assis, whose three great novels, Epitaph of a Small Winner, Quincas Borba and Dom Casmurro, were so far ahead of their times (1880, 1892 and 1900), so light in touch, so clearly the product of a fantasticating imagination (see, for example, the use Machado makes of an ‘anti-melancholy plaster’ in Epitaph), as to make one suspect that he had descended into the South American literary wilderness of that period from some Dänikenian chariot of gods. And Garcia Marquez’s genius for the unforgettable visual hyperbole – for instance, the Americans forcing a Latin dictator to give them the sea in payment of his debts, in The Autumn of the Patriarch: ‘they took away the Caribbean in April, Ambassador Ewing’s nautical engineers carried it off in numbered pieces to plant it far from the hurricanes in the blood-red dawns of Arizona’ – may well have been sharpened by his years of writing for the movies. But the grandmother is more important than any of these. She is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s voice.
The Paris Review Interview in 1981: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Art of Fiction No. 69:
Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry.
Can you explain that analogy a little more?
Both are very hard work. Writing something is almost as hard as making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques. Basically very little magic and a lot of hard work are involved. And as Proust, I think, said, it takes ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. I never have done any carpentry but it’s the job I admire most, especially because you can never find anyone to do it for you.
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