On Gabo


On Pablo Escobar’s influence on Colombian culture: Easy money … was injected into the national culture. The idea prospered: The law is the greatest obstacle to happiness, it is a waste of time learning how to read and write, you can live a better, more secure life as a criminal than as a law-abiding citizen — this was the social breakdown typical of all undeclared wars.

On the relationship between journalism and literatureThat supposedly bad influence that journalism has on literature isn’t so certain. First of all, because I don’t think anything destroys the writer, not even hunger. Secondly, because journalism helps you stay in touch with reality, which is essential for working in literature.

On writing and realityIt always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality… That’s a journalistic trick which you can also apply to literature. For example, if you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you. But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky, people will probably believe you… The problem for every writer is credibility. Anybody can write anything so long as it’s believed. [There’s also lots of good quotes in this article about the writing process itself]

On the traditional conception of his so-called “magical realism“: The safe and pretty version of magical realism—Magical Realism Lite—has little to do with the more vigorous Garcíamarquian version in which skulls sprout hair and sunflowers grow out of sores… The true texture of Colombia’s beauty comes not by pretending its problems are wholly over, but in seeing how darkness is interwoven with the light. García Márquez knows this. There’s no denying that for all its hyperfabulism, his fiction is stained with the ink of Colombia’s most despairing headlines.

On reality, history & subjectivityPoetry, Auden said, makes nothing happen. It is not a revolution, not an election, not even a platform. García Márquez understood that the highest service literature can perform is to give people an image of their historical reality, especially the way that reality has shaped their souls. One Hundred Years of Solitude is political for the same reason neorealism is: it shows us not only the lives of ordinary people but also the political context that creates them and the historical context that creates that.

Me, reading in Nuevo Laredo and Campeche.

And hanging out with Julio Cortázar.


Top moments of my childhood:

  • The diorama of “100 Years of Solitude” that my sister made in Art Class–the figures she made of Rebecca (eating dirt) and Jose Arcadio (the patriarch, tied to the tree) were particularly impressive.
  • Watching the movie Milagro en Roma for Spanish class and being FREAKED OUT BEYOND BELIEF by that creepy toy monkey, let alone the girl’s non-decomposing body. Gah, what was the teacher THINKING?
  • The way we get to calculate what grade we’re in by what García Márquez novel/short story we read that year: sixth grade, short stories like “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” and “Eyes of a Blue Dog.” Eighth grade, “Crónica de una muerte anunciada.” And of course, EVERYBODY looked forward to senior year, because that’s when we finally, finally, finally got to spend an entire semester focusing on “Cien años de soledad.” That’s how you really KNEW you were finally a Young Adult. Thank God for Ms. Aguirre and that family tree she drew us that I still have sketched in on the first page of my copy.

And finally from “One Hundred Years of Solitude”:

“The world must be all fucked up… when men travel first class and literature goes as freight.”

“Wherever they might be they always remember that the past was a lie, that memory has no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and that the wildest and most tenacious love was an ephemeral truth in the end.”

“Things have a life of their own… it’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.”

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Filed under colombia, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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