FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Garcia Marquez is Gone, But Not the World He Described

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

More articles by:

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
November 14, 2019
Laura Carlsen
Mexico’s LeBaron Massacre and the War That Will Not Cease
Joe Emersberger
Oppose the Military Coup in Bolivia. Spare Us Your “Critiques”
Ron Jacobs
Trump’s Drug Deal Goes to Congress: Impeachment, Day One
Paul Edwards
Peak Hubris
Tamara Pearson
US and Corporations Key Factors Behind Most Violent Year Yet in Mexico
Jonah Raskin
Love and Death in the Age of Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Climate Confusion, Angst, and Sleeplessness
W. T. Whitney
To Confront Climate Change Humanity Needs Socialism
John Feffer
Examining Trump World’s Fantastic Claims About Ukraine
Nicky Reid
“What About the Children?” Youth Rights Before Parental Police States
Binoy Kampmark
Incinerating Logic: Bush Fires and Climate Change
John Horning
The Joshua Tree is Us
Andrew Stewart
Noel Ignatiev and the Great Divide
Cesar Chelala
Soap Operas as Teaching Tools
Chelli Stanley
In O’odham Land
November 13, 2019
Vijay Prashad
After Evo, the Lithium Question Looms Large in Bolivia
Charles Pierson
How Not to End a Forever War
Kenneth Surin
“We’ll See You on the Barricades”: Bojo Johnson’s Poundshop Churchill Imitation
Nick Alexandrov
Murder Like It’s 1495: U.S.-Backed Counterinsurgency in the Philippines
George Ochenski
Montana’s Radioactive Waste Legacy
Brian Terrell
A Doubtful Proposition: a Reflection on the Trial of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7
Nick Pemberton
Assange, Zuckerberg and Free Speech
James Bovard
The “Officer Friendly” Police Fantasy
Dean Baker
The Logic of Medical Co-Payments
Jeff Mackler
Chicago Teachers Divided Over Strike Settlement
Binoy Kampmark
The ISC Report: Russian Connections in Albion?
Norman Solomon
Biden and Bloomberg Want Uncle Sam to Defer to Uncle Scrooge
Jesse Jackson
Risking Lives in Endless Wars is Morally Wrong and a Strategic Failure
Manuel García, Jr.
Criminalated Warmongers
November 12, 2019
Nino Pagliccia
Bolivia and Venezuela: Two Countries, But Same Hybrid War
Patrick Cockburn
How Iran-Backed Forces Are Taking Over Iraq
Jonathan Cook
Israel is Silencing the Last Voices Trying to Stop Abuses Against Palestinians
Jim Kavanagh
Trump’s Syrian See-Saw: From Pullout to Pillage
Susan Babbitt
Fidel, Three Years Later
Dean Baker
A Bold Plan to Strengthen and Improve Social Security is What America Needs
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Trump’s Crime Against Humanity
Victor Grossman
The Wall and General Pyrrhus
Yoko Liriano
De Facto Martial Law in the Philippines
Ana Paula Vargas – Vijay Prashad
Lula is Free: Can Socialism Be Restored?
Thomas Knapp
Explainer: No, House Democrats Aren’t Violating Trump’s Rights
Wim Laven
Serve With Honor, Honor Those Who Serve; or Support Trump?
Colin Todhunter
Agrarian Crisis and Malnutrition: GM Agriculture Is Not the Answer
Binoy Kampmark
Walls in the Head: “Ostalgia” and the Berlin Wall Three Decades Later
Akio Tanaka
Response to Pete Dolack Articles on WBAI and Pacifica
Nyla Ali Khan
Bigotry and Ideology in India and Kashmir: the Legacy of the Babri Masjid Mosque
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail