Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rque
The Scandal of the Century & Other Writings
In the Spanish world, his novels apart, reporter and Editor Gabriel García Márquez, was feverishly read and discussed. His journalism now appears in translation...
A few years before his death in 2014, a farewell letter to the world appeared in the name of "Gabriel García Márquez" which flouted the only rule Márquez had assiduously followed over his five-decade career: it was badly written. Nevertheless, reading it, filmmaker Mrinal Sen, among others, reminisced nostalgically to the press of their days together at Cannes and Havana. But like all great festivities of public sentimentalism, truth played spoilsport when it was discovered that the real author was a Mexican ventriloquist. If Márquez wouldn't speak publicly of his final days, about the immensity of his bonds to his readers, it was as if they would take it upon themselves to speak as him, however hackneyed the expression.
In much of the non-Spanish world, Márquez was known for his novels and short stories - those capacious arks built out of words into which humanity trundled in pairs of two: generosity and cruelty, the extravagant and the minutiae. In much of the Spanish world, however, Márquez is more than that. He was also a luminous presence as a reporter and an editor.
Read feverishly and discussed widely without the artifice of social media, his columns became mini cultural events in themselves. In the mid-1980s, French scholar Jacques Gilard took it upon himself to organise Márquez's vast oeuvre from 1950 to 1984 - a task he went about with the patience of a butterfly hunter, tracking down forgotten pieces and lost essays. From these, Márquez's recent editor Cristobal Pera chose a few pieces which now appear in translation as a collection with an artful hyperbole for a title: The Scandal of the Century and Other Writings.
Given the prodigious career Márquez had, where his words became sentinels guiding other people's minds, it is not surprising to learn of the other "Gabriel Garcia Márquezes" who presented themselves to unsuspecting admirers. Despite his efforts to explain this disconcerting comedy of doppelgängers run amok, it still retains mystery. What one does realise eventually is that these harmless con jobs were not born out of malice but rather from that least understood of places in our culture: an unrequited love for a writer. Márquez wrote about semi-urban societies where an agrarian past, in which grandmothers spoke about women who ascend to the heavens while doing laundry, jostled and sometimes sharply elbowed the present marked by politicians, erectile dysfunction, and drug cartels. The result of this intimate struggle between the sensuous and the commonplace was his recognition that what is blandly described as reality is merely life sheared of the fantastic. His writings, particularly his novels, restored life to its fulsomeness. That he succeeded at doing so spoke to some deep human intuition, which in turn has endeared him in ways greater literary intelligences don't.
Genius of translation
This collection ends in 1984, two years after Márquez was bestowed with literary immortality courtesy the Nobel Prize, which in turn cursed with him celebrity which took him into the antechambers of power, where Communist dictators, corrupt Archbishops, and libertine Presidents sought to dust away their sins by soaking in Márquez's literary sunshine and anodyne socialism. Amidst all this global renown, often forgotten are the genius of Gregory Rabassa and Edith Grossman - his translators - who transmuted his flighty but carefully composed Spanish into the pragmatic ecstasies of English. This anthology is no different. Under Anne McLean's expert guidance, the sentences here crackle with a young writer's ambition to describe the world.
An advantage, among others, of seeing such a long span of writings in one volume is the evolution of his literary bag of tricks: the use of contradictions, his sly exaggerations, and a journalist's suspicion of literary criticism that baptizes his work with the holy waters of their interpretive liturgy. Alongside, we also see the crystallization of an aesthetic that exalts the profane in the world as worthy of understanding, which allows him to endow the conceits of spurned lovers and the loneliness of deposed tyrants with empathy. It is this willingness to see the world, without sanctimony, with some bemusement, but most often an ambition to write in the most large-hearted manner he was able to, that made him among the most beloved of writers of 20th century.
The kind of writer who despite having been consecrated at birth with a name worthy of a conquistador - Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez - is still lovingly remembered, as if he were a family member who told tall tales at dinner, by his nickname: 'Gabo'.
Courtesy: THE HINDU