Later, as the letters stopped coming from my Spanish-speaking friends, I read only two more of Garcia Marquez’s novels: Chronicle of a Death Foretold 1981 and Love in the Time of Cholera 1985. Of these, Chronicle was the bravest for the following reason. After García Márquez and his family moved to Mexico City in the late 1970s, the author decided not to publish again until the hideous Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet went into exile or died. Nonetheless he risked writing and publishing Chronicle of a Death Foretold while Pinochet was still in power. Apparently Garcia Marquez could no longer remain silent in the face of injustice and repression, telling the story of a good friend from his own childhood who died as a young man.
Two local factors stamped Garcia Marquez as deeply embedded in the South American experience, according to the author himself. Firstly he could trace his interest in magical realism directly to his beloved grandmother, the woman who raised him. Furthermore he believed that the magical strangeness emerging from South American fiction was a true reflection of South American history.
Secondly political chaos was everywhere. For a young, sensitive Colombian student, nothing said South American Tragedy like the assassination of the best President his country ever had in 1948. Garcia Marquez’s university was shut, his liberal newspaper was closed down and young socialists had to flee from their own country. In 1958 he left Europe and travelled to Venezuela when that country’s despised dictator General Perez Jimenez was defeated in a coup; Perez Jimenez was immediately sent to join General Franco, Spain’s despised dictator. In 1959 Fidel Castro had successfully entered Havana and young activists throughout the continent cheered.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, 1981
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Anglo world's misreading of magical realism led to "a very maudlin and sentimental idea of the invention of the fabulous. It led to an enormous amount of bad writing and bad books." But at home Garcia Marquez had reunited the great radical art of the novel with a popular audience. He understood magical realism as a true realism. He understood that conventional realism was insufficient to describe the dreams and nightmares and the ways people actually experienced life and the utterly extraordinary world of every day of Latin America. Magical realism had been a response to social realism, which socialists like Garcia Marquez felt had crippled them both artistically and politically.
Flanagan said "Unless you could acknowledge the fullness of human experience you couldn't actually achieve a true liberating and revolutionary politics. So the politics demanded a different art and the different art demanded a different politics. We were no different in Australia. We were obsessed with writing books that were death masks of fashions and ideas and experiences elsewhere. What you got from Garcia Marquez and the Latin Americans was that you had to go into your experience on its own terms."
Another Australian novelist, Peter Carey, agreed: "Garcia Marquez changed the way I wrote. He opened a door that I had just been hammering on. He wrote about his place in a way that was new and fresh and completely different. I was struggling to do the same thing about my own country and he was completely inspirational." Carey said he had originally misunderstood a lot of what Garcia Marquez did, thinking that he was inventing things that were actually firmly grounded in his life. But like many other people misunderstanding him and reading and being thrilled by – he changed how Australians wrote.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez in c2002
Gabriel Garcia Marquez died in Mexico City this year. RIP my friend.