Friday, April 18, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1927 - 2014

Some recollections of a literary titan.

When he arrived in Mexico City (in 1961), García Márquez had few friends and no prospects of work. He aimed for the movie industry, but when his family ran out of food, he took a job editing a women’s magazine and a crime magazine on the condition that his name would never appear in either. Later he landed jobs as a scriptwriter and as an advertising copywriter.

In his mid-30s, his ability to write fiction appeared to have dried up. His previous novel had been written in Paris, and he couldn’t seem to finish another. According to the Uruguayan critic Emir Rodríguez Monegal, who first met García Márquez around this time, he was “a tortured soul, an inhabitant of the most exquisite hell: that of literary sterility.”

One day in 1965, as García Márquez drove from Mexico City to Acapulco for a holiday weekend, everything changed. According to legend, he was navigating a twisting highway when the first sentence of “(One Hundred Years of) Solitude” suddenly formed in his mind:

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” 

 The practitioner of magical realism was at his best in my favorite, Love in the Time of Cholera.

The lives García Márquez next made "believable" were those of his parents, whose extended courtship was rendered into Love in the Time of Cholera, first published in 1985. The novel tells how a secret relationship between Florentino Arizo and Fermina Daza is thwarted by Fermina's marriage to a doctor trying to eradicate cholera, only to be rekindled more than 60 years later.

After the doctor died... not from cholera, but from the rescue of a parrot in a mango tree.  A bit more about "Solitude", his masterwork, to whet the appetite of those who may be unfamiliar:

It’s often said that the works of Colombian novelist and short-story writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez are quintessential examples of “magic realism”: fiction that integrates elements of fantasy into otherwise realistic settings. In his 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which ambles through a century in the lives of one family in the enchanted Latin American hamlet of Macondo, magic carpets fly, ghosts haunt villagers, and trickles of blood from a killing climb stairs and turn corners to find the victim’s mother in her kitchen.

And how prose like that came about.

He believes that (fellow author William) Faulkner differs from him on this matter in that Faulkner's outlandishness is disguised as reality.

"Faulkner was surprised at certain things that happened in life," García said, 'but he writes of them not as surprises but as things that happen every day."

García feels less surprised. "In Mexico," he says, "surrealism runs through the streets. Surrealism comes from the reality of Latin America."

Now if you will excuse me, I have some reading to do.

No comments: