Well, I intended this post to be about something else, but as usual events intervened.
As I’ve noted on this blog before, I’ve enjoyed my trips down to South America. Last year I was in Peru and the year before that, Argentina. I have to say the Argentina trip was partially motivated by my (unhealthy?) obsession with Jorge Luis Borges and other Argentine writers. But as I dove further into Borges and the Argentines I realized there were many talented writers in Latin America outside Argentina. And that there was that whole Latin Boom thing, which my liberal arts degree somehow seemed to skip.
Anyway, we lost one of the great writers of the Boom, Gabriel García Márquez yesterday. First, a confession from this writer: I’ve never read one of his works. I have bought a couple, sure, but I never got around to reading them.
So, why write about a guy you’ve never read? That’s a good question. Because some writers—and I think Marquez qualifies—are such giants that even if you’ve never read them, they have an impact on literature and on anyone who is writing fiction. I feel the influence of Marquez and the other Latin Boom writers every day. I like the things they let loose in literature. They ventured into the depths and knocked on the giant assumptions of literature. Finding them hollow, they reemerged and started afresh. They knocked down linear narrative, packed their prose thick with style and even played with notions of reality itself. It was a kick that literature needed and was based on certain precedents, but they took it all in new directions.
I’m still trying to learn and absorb all the stuff from Latin American writers, whether they’re from the Boom or not. It’s a huge and massive literary heritage that keeps growing every day as younger Latin American writers emerge. But that’s a post for another day.
Almost every daily newspaper in Latin America has Marquez, “Gabo” as they endearingly call him, on its cover today. Here’s El Comercio and La Republica in Peru, Clarin in Argentina, El Mercurio in Chile. And here’s El Tiempo and El Espactador (where he worked as a young journalist) in Colombia, Marquez’s birthplace. It’s nice to see a writer get some front page coverage, even if it is only after they pass. It’s hard to imagine any writer from the USA receiving such a homage and makes me a little wistfully jealous for the esteem in which writers are held throughout Latin America.
As for me, I’m going to finally crack open that old copy of 100 Years of Solitude on my shelf and get ready to learn. That’ll be my tribute to the passing of a great master of fiction. I hope you’ll join me.
On final thing. In the English-language press, I enjoyed the NY Times and Guardian tributes to Gabo the best.