A great writer creates a world that seems to have always existed; like he is just describing a place everybody knows about – even if it’s brand new. At the same time it is a world that outlasts him; that lives on and starts to develop its own stories through the use of intertextuality. This is what separates the great writers from those who will be forgotten by time as the dust of oblivion layers itself over their life’s work.
Macondo, Gabo’s greatest creation from One Hundred Years of Solitude, has become the prototype of every Latin American village. Using his powerful prose and his infinite imagination he captured the story of a continent that was so complete that it stitched itself into the fabric of a society. Making use of Magical Realism, Garcia Marquez created an archetypal world that has been adapted for use over and over again. From de Bernières’ The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts to Allende’s Eva Luna; the descriptions and devices used to depict Latin American village life all have their seeds in Macondo.
Garcia Marquez was a product of his country’s turbulent history. His Colombia was a different place than it is today. He lived through ‘La Violencia’ when Colombia’s elites fought each other in a brutal civil war. Frustration at the perpetual exclusion of the majority under the oligarchy’s iron rule led to his misguided veneration of revolutionary Latin American ideas of equality; ideas which themselves have led to the perpetuation of much of the misery that he wrote against and inspired a new generation of writers – writers like myself. As a journalist he chronicled the desire of the poor to find prosperity and peace. As a man of letters he wrote down the stories, first in his mind and then on paper, eloquently capturing the agony and the bitterness of generations.
Above all, he gave a voice to the yearning of a people; and he put Latin American literary talent on the map. We all owe a great deal to Gabo, especially those of us who are also writers. We learn so much from his imagination; we allow his colorful characters to teach us in our art; and we re-read his works to remind us just how inadequate we really are.
Vivir Para Contarla (living to tell the tale) was the title of Gabo’s auto-biography. What a fitting title for a life. #GraciasGabo
Joel D. Hirst is a novelist, author of “The Lieutenant of San Porfirio” and its Spanish edition “El Teniente de San Porfirio: Cronica de una Revolucion Bolivariana”