Millennium Post


A copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude – old, tattered if you’re old, tattered; spanking new, smelling of the cauldron of civilisation, if you’re young, airport-hopping – bookended bookshelves. For generations. Four, or five, now. Generations – people, men, women, others –who read and lost and found themselves in the phantasmagorical Macondo, the seedbed of future literatures, the burial ground of past imaginations. Across the world, over time and space and bustling entanglements, Garbriel Garcia Marquez spun webs and slinging bridges, of words, of stories, of sheer literary fecundity, that let millions, so many millions, travel back and forth from subterranean countries of love and pain to hanging gardens of memories and madness. We never could imagine a world without Marquez.

Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, barely a decade after the Anglophone world came to know and read Marquez, only testifies how intensely Gabo (as the Columbian author was fondly called) had affected the continents of literary imagination. Love in Times of Cholera, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The Autumn of Patriarch, The General in His Labyrinth, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, among others, have been read and reread in more languages than others have written in, infecting dreams and fantasies en masse. Scent of jasmines that lingered like invisible ghosts – that has been how Marquez impacted his readers, leaving them with the gift of a tingling sensation that comes from battling strange myths and handed down visions. Storms and torrential rains rage for years on end, flowers are showered from the skies, corpses live enchanted lives becoming undead and undecomposed, lovers vomit rabbits and get passionate after half a century, tyrants lock themselves up but live on for hundreds of years, alone, entombed in a gigantic and unfathomable solitude unbeknownst to humans.

‘Magical reality’ – critics wanted to label it thus. But it was grounded in a carefully observed reality, this world of mythologised Latin America fused with the miraculous and momentous in history and politics. Marquez drew from a bevy of writers –  Borges, Carlos Fuentes, among others, parodied them as much as situated himself in their midst, in the still uncertain Latin American canon, back in the 1970s, making critics and readers equally expectant of his next ventures. Impelled to speak up on the grueling political destinies that sprang from Latin American soils, the regime of cruel dictators, young and handsome revolutionaries who made hearts flutter, ravishing beauties and persistent lovers, epidemics of forgetfulness and chronic illness amidst sudden plague of bounty – Marquez weaved them all, laced with a kindness that touched the mind and soul alike.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Marquez made a revelation: ‘Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination.’ Such was his lifelong support of Fidel Castro and bitter opposition to Augusto Pinochet that his novels became unflinching critiques of the travails of South America. Whether it was the United Fruit Company in leafy Macondo, or the extensive family connections spanning centuries and generations in the Buendia clan, Marquez drew the pictures with a deft touch of the possible on the canvas of real. His childhood home in Aracataca, Columbia, was of course his inspiration, and in Macondo, it came alive in ways that compelled the readers to both revel in and reimagine the connections between the unaccustomed universes of Marquez’s fiction.

Memory, time, nostalgia, painful and passionate love, soul-wrenching screams of agony, demons of history, ghosts of personal pasts – all intermixed and interbred in Gabo’s galaxy. A recognition of human capacity to suffer, in myriad ways, to fertilise the pregnant wombs of trepid time and melancholic memory with remembering, to resurrect lost worlds and dance along the sinewy streets of Latin American cities, a sober but shameless sorcery of the mind and body, and so much more, the sheer violence of imagination, the everyday brutality and betrayal, chiefly among lovers and friends – what did Marquez not touch, still lingering in Aracataca? What did he forget, what did he leave out?

Grappling with Marquez, dueling with his unswerving yet undulating understanding of time, past and present, and space, here and there, and hearts and histories – have kept generations busy and happy and sad at once. There was a difference, however. Unlike Kafka, Camus, Sartre, Borges and a host of other writers who revolutionised literature, disemboweled its contents and stuffed it with multiverses of new meanings and metaphors, explained and questioned and defamiliarised the changing everyday, Marquez was alive. He lived in Mexico City with his wife, Mercedes Barcha.
Who knows, Mercedes might still keep on putting the yellow roses on Gabo’s writing table everyday, even though he is no more, mortally speaking. But the ghost of Gabo, that palpable sense of being one with the world, through capillaries of words and liquids of imagination, that will live on. The second death, that when you fall off the memory horizon, is not fated for Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In fact, this is his second innings, and like all great writers, it is posthumous.
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