Happened to be in Colombia when I learned Gabriel Garcia Marquez died. I had just finished reading One Hundred Years Of Solitude. It was a bit of a slog to read, I felt, although impressive as a human achievement. Possibly its greatness had already been absorbed into later stuff I’ve consumed; always important to view these things in context. In the supplementary material in my edition there’s a story that GGM sent the first eighty pages to Octavio Paz, who declared (I’m picturing this at a dinner party) “I have just read eighty pages by a master.”
I liked this story, from Wiki:
Since García Márquez was eighteen, he had wanted to write a novel based on his grandparents’ house where he grew up. However, he struggled with finding an appropriate tone and put off the idea until one day the answer hit him while driving his family to Acapulco. He turned the car around and the family returned home so he could begin writing. He sold his car so his family would have money to live on while he wrote, but writing the novel took far longer than he expected, and he wrote every day for eighteen months. His wife had to ask for food on credit from their butcher and their baker as well as nine months of rent on credit from their landlord. Fortunately, when the book was finally published in 1967 it became his most commercially successful novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, which sold more than 30 million copies.
I bet his kids are still pissed about that vacation.
A couple nights later I was drinking with two Colombian university students, and I asked them about Marquez. They both expressed the same opinion. They were disappointed in him. They said that his hometown was one of the poorest places in Colombia. That with all his wealth and success he’s done very little for Colombia, “fucking off to Mexico” as they put it.
My own favorite Marquez short story is called “The Earless One.” It has kind of a Twilight Zone feel.
What happens is a gambler in Mexico City meets an adventurer heading to the Amazon. He offers him a wager of one hundred thousand pesos if he can travel through Latin America overland without once hearing the song “Chan Chan” as recorded by the Buena Vista Social Club. The adventurer accepts.
A week later the gambler received a postcard: “I have not heard it.” He’s surprised: it’s nearly impossible not to hear this song every single day. But he remains calm. A week later another postcard: “Still I have not heard it.” The gambler begins to be concerned. Another week, another card: “I have not heard it still.” The gambler is shocked – how can this be?
Finally, he receives a package. He finds inside a note: “I have not heard it, nor will I.” And inside? The adventurer’s bloody ears.
It turns out he deafened himself – the only way to win this absurd bet.
I’m told this is a metaphor for Colombian politics.
Important work has taken us on the road. Can you guess where?
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