So long, Gabo

So long, Gabo

So long, Gabo
Gabriel Garcia Marquez has left the world with his words of magic based in reality, writes Shreekumar Varma.
So he’s gone. It took 87 years of often chaotic solitude to achieve a robust repository of romance and fantastic memory. 

Which is probably good for another hundred years or so. At least. And the going away isn’t too bad either because Gabriel Garcia Marquez (or Gabo) outlived his own expectations. 

“I did not care about glory, or money, or old age,” he said, “because I was sure I was going to die very young, and in the street.”

A life lived with that sort of an expectation is bound to yield rich dividends. 

There’s no greater imagination than the one with an assured footing on the rough seas! 

So there was glory, money and old age. And a world to mourn him.


The master of magic realism would forever insist that his magic was based on the real. Macondo, the fictional town of One Hundred Years Of Solitude, was based on his birthplace Aracataca in northern Colombia. 

The tumultuous history of his country rocked by civil wars filled his pages, brokered by his grandparents with whom he lived in a “haunted house”. 

His grandfather was a colonel who’d been in the War of a Thousand Days and his grandmother’s stories ranged from human passion to wild supernatural excess. 

In fact, both were exceptional storytellers who influenced and shaped Marquez and his writing.

However, the most important element of his creativity and how it played out was his experience of journalism. 

Both his fiction and non-fiction were charged with what he saw and heard. The ripples of New Journalism came from his part of the world as well. 

He even lived in a brothel once. 

His life witnessed a caravan of feelings and foibles that would energise and move his characters. 

It was Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis that startled him into knowing what could be. “I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that.” 

And William Faulkner showed him his muse: to write about things that were close to him.

The man who wrote One Hundred Years Of Solitude was, of course, a complex human being. 

A life that was always open to influences, that trembled on the edge of uncertainty, that had rollercoaster waves of history lapping greedily at its feet. 

Which is why his stories weren’t always about high, noble emotions that could stand like a wall through battering and bitterness. Relationships were complex and based on external ambiguities and internal ghosts, and yet, love could change into something else and outlive wars and lifetimes.

Here’s this rather long extract from One Hundred Years of Solitude:

“Then Colonel Aureliano Buendia realized, without surprise, that Ursula was the only human being who had succeeded in penetrating his misery, and for the first time in many years he looked her in the face. 

Her skin was leather, her teeth decayed, her hair faded and colorless, and her look frightened... 

In an instant he discovered the scratches, the welts, the sores, the ulcers, and the scars that had been left on her by more than half a century of daily life, and he saw that those damages did not even arouse a feeling of pity in him...

“The countless women he had known on the desert of love and who had spread his seed all along the coast had left no trace in his feelings. 

Most of them had come into his room in the dark and had left before dawn, and on the following day they were nothing but a touch of fatigue in his bodily memory. 

The only affection that prevailed against time and the war was that which he had felt for his brother José Arcadio when they both were children, and it was not based on love but on complicity.”

His protagonists
The craggy, storm-weathered rock-faces of his protagonists could outlast the trail of emotions in their wake, they could sidestep the gloomy, grieving madness of their women, and also enshrine themselves within the core of a relationship.
Without giving anything a name:

“It was as if they had leapt over the arduous calvary of conjugal love and gone straight to the heart of love. They were together in silence like an old married couple wary of life, beyond the pitfalls of passion, beyond the brutal mockery of hope and the phantoms of disillusion; beyond love. For they had lived together long enough to know that love was always love, anytime and anyplace, but it was more solid the closer it came to death.” 

(Love In The Time Of Cholera).

After a couple of years of unclouded privacy, Marquez has now disappeared from our lives through a brief announcement. 

Many of us have, right from our college days, gorged on the enchantment he conjured up.

Many writers have gulped in his magic, going on to become magicians themselves. 

His words often strike a personal chord: “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.”

He’s gone. 

The magic remains:

“Then he smiled for the first time in a long while and said in Spanish: ‘When I die, burn mercury in my room for three days.’ 

Arcadio told that to José Arcadio Buendia and the latter tried to get more explicit information, but he received only one answer: ‘I have found immortality.’ ”

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