FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Garcia Marquez is Gone, But Not the World He Described

by

Caracas.

One of the greatest Latin American authors, Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, died last Thursday. As with any writer whose work becomes a mass culture phenomenon, his work is also the focus of diverse readings. These readings in turn have a direct bearing on the understanding of our continent’s reality. For this reason putting pressure on the legacy of “Gabo” – as he was sometimes called – also exerts tectonic pressure on the reading we have of our lived reality.

According to one line of thought, García Márquez invented the genre of magical realism. This is false and politically dangerous. On the one hand, Alejo Carpentier, Juan Rulfo, Julio Cortázar and even William Faulker (as Gabo indicated in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech) collaborated in forging the literary genre. On the other hand, the “reality” of magical realism – like the reality of Guernica according to Picasso’s famous quip – was created by imperialism.

The United Fruit Company is behind some of the most “magical” elements of García Márquez’s imaginary Macondo – like the massacre of banana laborers that officially never happened and no one remembers – while colonialism and imperialism in general are behind the low cultural levels that define the kind of subjectivity in his most definitive novels (1967 forward). These are stories in which magic is fused with reality and people assume a noncritical, nondistanced, prescientific attitude towards their surroundings. For example, for the denizens of One Hundred Years of Solitude a block of ice or a magnet is treated as an object of wonder, yet a resurrection or levitation is considered normal.

Though Gabo’s pen was certainly endowed with demiurgic genius, it did not fail to register realities. The late author, who always supported the Cuban revolution and briefly worked in Prensa Latina, not only argued that the continent’s reality was stranger than fiction but took to proving it through creative journalism. After winning the Nobel, he took on such themes as the mysterious death of guerrillero Jaime Bateman for the magazine Semana, while the kidnapping of ten journalists by the cartel of larger-than-life Pablo Escobar became Noticia de un secuestro.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia FARC-EP, now in peace conversations with the Colombian government in Havana, has stated that Macondo – a denationalized country and surreal war – is not a fiction but rather a reality that Colombians have lived for more than 50 years. For this reason when rendering homage to Gabo in these very days, they did not hesitate to express the wish that the real Macondo (i.e. Colombia) would not end in a whirlwind of rubble and dust because of the country’s hawkish oligarchy. In a like manner, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez frequently voiced the desire that Latin America would leave behind its 100 years of solitude.

Here is where the Global North and Global South’s interpretations of Gabo’s work diverge. A century of solitude and a Macondo-like country cannot be simply a matter of curiosity as the North’s publishing business would perhaps like us to believe. Nor can the picturesque mode of magical realism be treated as a destiny or political program for Latin America any more than John Updike’s depiction of suburban alienation could be taken as the destiny of North America’s population.

A century ago Lenin wrote of Tolstoy that he was a great author but assigned his oeuvre to a specific period of Russia’s development: the moment embodied in the highly contradictory 1905 Revolution with its goal of democratization in an autocratic state, and yet in the last instance limited by its main actors’ peasant condition and religious mindset. Lenin may have been too mechanical in his argument, but was correct to put some limits on the mentality expressed in Tolstoy’s fiction. In a like manner, Gabo’s magical world should be placed not at the culmination of Latin American letters but rather at its beginning.

This is because the roots of the Latin American writing boom, on the crest of which García Márquez rode, are to be found in the coming-into-being of Latin America itself as a consequence of the Cuban revolution. That is to say – following the reflection of Roberto Fernández Retamar – the existence of Latin America as a political and sovereign entity is the precondition of there being a Latin American literature. A corollary is that the story of a Latin America that exists on the world stage and has Gabo as one of its first and best narrators, has only just begun to be told.

Chris Gilbert is professor of Political Science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela

Chris Gilbert is professor of political science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 23, 2017
Dave Brotherton
Trump, Moral Panics and Resistance
Jonathan Cook
One State: Trump Has Reminded Palestinians What It Was Always About
Bill Quigley
Ten Examples of Direct Resistance to Stop Government Raids
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigot Boy Business: Trump Exposes His Ignorance and Intolerance, Again
John W. Whitehead
The Illusion of Freedom: the Police State Is Alive and Well
Ralph Nader
Restricting People’s Use of Their Courts
David Macaray
Women As Labor Union Organizers
Kathy Kelly
Friendship in Defiance of War
Doug Weir
Why Did the US Use Depleted Uranium Weapons in Syria?
Steve Horn
Former GOP Congressional Staffer Follows Revolving Door, Now Latest Keystone XL Lobbyist
Binoy Kampmark
From Rights to Repentance: Norma McCorvey and Roe v Wade
Thomas Knapp
The Target of the “Border Adjustment Tax” is You
Chris Zinda
Open Letter to Neoliberal Environmentalists
February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail