& occasionally about other things, too...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014)
Generally speaking Nobel Prize for Literature is granted to three kinds of writers – the first is the category of writers who have earned global fame for their creation, and the Nobel recognition serves as an ultimate endorsement of their creative genius. Alice Munro and Vidya Naipaul belongs to this category.

Then there are writers who are known only to a select few connoisseurs of literature, and the Nobel momentarily widens their appeal, but then they revert to obscurity – Tomas Transtomer, the Swedish poet who won the Nobel in 2011, and Rabindranath Tagore who won it in 1913, are in this category. They remain largely unknown outside their own cultures, and ignored within. I’d say a majority of Nobel Prize winners belong to this category.

The third category is of writers who attain global fame because of Nobel Prize, and enrich the lives of millions of readers in different parts of the world with their creation. Gabriel Garcia Marquez belongs to this category. 

His Nobel in 1982 introduced the world to magic realism and the power of Spanish literature – the Latin American boom that included besides the Colombian Marquez, Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa, Argentina’s Julio Cortazar, and Mexico’s Carlos Fuentes.  All four deserved the Nobel, only Marquez and Llosa actually won it.

For readers of a certain age, Gabriel Garcia Marquez epitomizes everything that is truly exquisite in literature. Almost everyone who’s over 40-years-old and reads books would have read One Hundred Years of Solitude sometime in the early 1980s.

Many of us who read it with great enthusiasm didn’t actually get it. All that we liked about it was its similarity to Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children – the same sweeping canvas, the multiplicity of characters, the amazing twists and turns in the story, and ghosts thrown in for good measure.

It was only many years later upon reading it the second time, and knowing a bit more of the region’s tortured history did the magnificence and the depth of Marquez’s masterpiece really begin to sink in, and yet it wasn’t as if we completely understood everything we read.

However, by then (in the mid-1990s) Marquez’s significance was known to all – One Hundred Years was considered one of the most important pieces of literature of the last century, with Pablo Neruda (another iconic Latin American litterateur with a huge fan following in India) proclaiming that One Hundred Years was “the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quixote of Cervantes.”

I'm well and truly old. Whenever someone who was integral to my youth dies, I'm reminded of Pink Floyd's line from the masterpiece Time: Shorter of breath, one day closer to death...

Portrait by Alejandro Cabeza (from http://www.artvipgallery.com/profile/AlejandroCabeza)

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