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Remembering The Magical Realism Of Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez and his spell of magical realism. We’ll cast it again, in remembrance.

In this 2003 photo released by the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (FNPI), Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, left, is seen in Monterrey, Mexico. Behind is Colombian journalist Jose Salgar. Garcia Marquez died on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at his home in Mexico City. (AP)

In this 2003 photo released by the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (FNPI), Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, left, is seen in Monterrey, Mexico. Behind is Colombian journalist Jose Salgar. Garcia Marquez died on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at his home in Mexico City. (AP)

There was magical realism in the world, in literature, before Gabriel García Márquez.  Plenty.  But in the twentieth century, nobody wielded magical realism like the literary giant out of Latin America, out of Colombia.  In “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “Love in the Time of Cholera” and more, “Gabo” – as the Latin world knew him – created worlds of interwoven fantasy and reality so rich and revealing that readers around the world were swept away.  He won the Nobel Prize.  Transfixed the world.  Last week he died.  This hour On Point:  Gabriel García Márquez and the spell of his magical realism.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Ilan Stavans, professor in Latin American and Latino culture at the Amherst College. Author of “Gabriel García Marquez: The Early Years.” Also author of “José Vaconcelos: The Prophet of Race” and “A Critic’s Journey.” (@IlanStavans)

Marcela Valdes, literature and culture critic. Founder of Criticas, an English-language magazine devoted to Spanish-language books. (@valdesmarcela)

Isabel Allende, author of “Ripper,” “City of the Beasts,” “The House Of The Spirits” and many more. (@isabelallende)

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel Prize-winning explorer of myth and reality, dies at 87 — “By fusing two seemingly disparate literary traditions — the realist and the fabulist — Mr. García Márquez advanced a dynamic literary form, magic realism, that seemed to capture both the mysterious and the mundane qualities of life in a decaying South American city. For many writers and readers, it opened up a new way of understanding their countries and themselves.”

The Paris Review: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Art of Fiction No. 69 — “When I’m writing I’m always aware that this friend is going to like this, or that another friend is going to like that paragraph or chapter, always thinking of specific people. In the end all books are written for your friends. The problem after writing ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ was that now I no longer know whom of the millions of readers I am writing for; this upsets and inhibits me. It’s like a million eyes are looking at you and you don’t really know what they think.has given it literary value. Journalism has helped my fiction because it has kept me in a close relationship with reality.”

The Atlantic: The Origins of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Magic Realism — “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.”

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  • Matt MC

    While he wasn’t the first magical realist, his work made the genre accessible to the entire world. Reading “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” was one of the most magical (pardon the pun) reading experiences in my life. Afterward, I moved on to “One Hundred Years…” “The Tin Drum” and my favorite magical realist book, “Men of Maize.”

    It is depressing to think that he will never pen another word, but then I think about all the people he inspired to write who might have done something else. At first, I was thinking I would read some short stories to honor him, but now I’m thinking I might read a book by someone who was inspired by him. I hope your guests can go through those he influenced.

    • No1backhand

      I hope the panel will talk about Edith Grossman and Gregory Rabassa, Marquez’ great translators who shared his gift with those of us who don’t read Spanish; I certainly owe them a great deal–they changed my life. Marquez was the William Faulkner of South America and I think he acknowledged his debt to Faulkner, but he can’t have been easy to translate. Marquez re-wired my brain. I read One Hundred Years of Solitude when I was in Mexico and immediately read it again because I couldn’t bear to leave that world. In some ways his most Faulkner-like book, the difficult but superb Autumn of the Patriarch, may have been just as influential as Solitude. I haven’t read much over the last few days about two of Marquez’ other masterpieces, his magisterial book about Bolivar,The General in his Labyrinth, and his memoir of his early days, Living to Tell the Tale, both astounding and powerfully evocative. What a gift his work has been to the world.

    • Boca Ratso

      Matt’s “Reading “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” experience made me think of my own with this short story. When my beloved sister was dying of cancer and I was helping with her in-home hospice care, the bones of her shoulders and back began to resemble wings to me. My sisters and I began calling her “Hawk Woman” and marveling instead of being revolted by her appearance. Having our lives touched with magical realism helped us usher her out of life. –Eileen Charbonneau

      • Matt MC

        I love this story so much. Thanks for sharing this.

        • Matt MC

          Your story, that is…

  • andrewgarrett

    “Love in the Time of Cholera” is one of my favorite books, although I wonder if when he was writing it he was already showing signs of dementia. But I hope they won’t have this conversation without discussing Jorge Luis Borges’s mirrors, tigers, the Book of Sands, etc.

  • ClimateDesperate

    Dear Tom and On Point crew,
    Thanks so much for doing this program and making the effort to pronounce his last name correctly with accent on the A: Márquez.

    Most of all thanks for bringing together such an interesting panel of Latin@ scholars/writers…what a thrill to have this as a BILINGUAL program!

    Gabo – Presente!!! John

  • Michiganjf

    I’ll disagree with one of your guests slightly about Marquez shunning the term Magic Realism…

    “Magic realism” also refers to the way local “legends” in Latin American cultures are often ultimately endowed with supernatural, or at least fantastical elements… these elements and traditions of legend are often borrowed from by many modern Latin American writers.

    Marquez wrote a wonderful short story (my favorite) which very intentionally illustrates the way the mundane is often embellished in such a way as to eventually become fantastic… a hallmark of Latin American story-telling and folklore. The story is called “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World.”

    This story is an excellent introduction to “magic realism,” and was written to sort of define the convention itself, showing that Marquez did indeed embrace the term somewhat.

    If this short story is an introduction, however, then One Hundred Years of Solitude is the doctoral course.

    • S David H de Lorge

      There’s another story I must have read and lost from the spontaneous recall brain banks. Thanks.

  • Candace Broughton

    I have shared Garcia Marquez using English translation with high school seniors. We especially enjoyed his short stories, “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” and “An Angel with Enormous Wings.” I love his film, “Miracle in Rome.”
    A huge thank you to his excellent translators, Gregory Rabassa and Edith Grossman.

  • J__o__h__n

    I don’t draw distinctions between religion and superstition.

  • S David H de Lorge

    Riding home from work in Fresno one day in 1970 or 71, I stopped off at one of those drug stores which sort of enlarged to handle dry goods of some kinds, and located at the point in town where it wasn’t quite sure if it spoke English or Spanish. Whatever I wanted there, I spotted one of those spinning wire bookracks on which one expected not very much but took a look anyway, thinking maybe of encountering one of my favorite upscale science fiction authors for the evening.

    Of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” I had never heard, nor of its author, but there it was in paperback (does that make it 1972?) among the bodice rippers and whatnot. I was not then in communication with any literary circles. The back cover blurb drew me in anyway, and, marveling at having discovered such a thing on that bookrack, I took it home to find myself – dazzled.

    At work at the welfare department, in a year’s hiatus from college to make a little money, having finished several semesters of the two years required for the job, I had made friends with one guy who still nursed an aspiration to be a writer, having come back from Portugal after a few months there finding himself lost in loneliness or depression instead of his novel. So I had somebody with whom to share my bedazzlement. He was familiar with the book, which was nice, and I had the magical realistic task of interviewing mostly ag laborers to try to discover why I should not qualify them for the food stamps for which they had come in need to apply.

    Sometime later I must have read that first novel, from 1955 was it, which I didn’t know I had until I recognized, vividly, the first several lines read aloud during the show. Last decade I got around to “The Time of Cholera,” but had been finding love disturbing enough myself those days that I also felt “Love” rather disturbingly, although still delirious to be immersed in.

    So now anyway, the main thing is to wonder with increasing interest about the process of dying. I wish Gabo could write back to give an impression.

  • Regular_Listener

    Thanks for this wonderful show. Garcia Marquez deserves to be remembered and read by everyone on earth. Like all great literature, “Cien Anos…” is both specific to a time and place and also universal. He connected folktales, dreams, and legends to ordinary reality – or rather connected them back, because that is where they came from to begin with. Perhaps he showed us that ordinary reality is not in fact ordinary at all. When I read the book I immediately felt its power, and it reminded me of stories I had heard as a child, old European folk tales. A true genius has passed.

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