The much-loved writer and journalist Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away a bit over a week ago, on the 17th of April, after struggling for a long time with the ravages of a degenerative disease. I must confess that I was rather disappointed with the media coverage of this story: a few minutes after his passing, and major news hubs such as Times and BBC were already publishing very lengthy articles about his life and activity. That can only mean one thing: they had the story already prepared and waiting for a go, since they knew he was in the hospital battling his illness. I have nothing against the immediate release of news such as this, but I would expect them to come in the form of a headline or just a few sentences announcing his passing. Therefore, I was a bit conflicted at first about publishing this piece, since I really didn’t want to add up to the long trail of people somehow profiting from his death or finding a good story in it. But since 10 days have passed from his departure, and since I genuinely was – and am – a huge admirer of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works, I decided to proceed with this tribute piece. Hat’s off to you, father of magic realism.
This photograph of Gabriel Garcia Marquez was taken by Richard Avedon. He already had a chance to take a portrait of the writer in 1976, on a rainy day, but he was dissatisfied with the result. He waited for another opportunity and in 2004 it was presented to him again. This is the second photograph he took of Marquez, in Mexico City, the early spring of 2004. This one was deemed good enough by its author, and while I couldn’t find the one resulting from the first try, I think we can all agree that it’s indeed a fine portrait.
I won’t waste space with brief introductions of who Gabriel Garcia Marquez was or what he is most known for; if you’re here reading this article you probably know already. I will merely name a few of the reasons I enjoyed his works or point out a few less known-facts about him. For example, I always found it heart-warmingly nice of him to be a Shakira fan. I hate the often large gap between high culture and the so-called “low culture” (which is basically low culture) that comes along with elitist tendencies. Therefore, I loved how a Nobel prize-awarded writer advocates as a sincere fan of a commercially successful pop music star. It’s refreshing and puts a new light on Shakira’s music as well. Since it has come up, did you notice how delicate and airy her voice was on the soundtrack of Love in the Time of the Cholera movie adaptation? Perhaps their friendship and mutual respect played a part in how well Shakira sang for that movie.
Another lovely fact about Gabriel Garcia Marquez is that he said all inspiration for his literature’s stories came from real life and cases, and that if he hadn’t been a journalist first and foremost, he wouldn’t have been able to find the right stories to write about. In this respect, he reminds me of Dostoyevsky, who also took the inspiration for his novels from the papers and the news of the day – he studied the obituaries, the scandals, the trials, and made beautiful things out of that which others saw only as plain dirt.
And last, but not least, what really stuck with me permanently after reading Marquez was a sense of tender nostalgia for all things passed, even before they pass, as if you can see it in places you love even before they disappear. Some critics claimed the main theme of his writings was solitude, I’d say that Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote first and foremost about nostalgia. He lived a relatively long life, but I refuse to believe that he was ever old. “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez).