Gabo, Synonym for Magic Realism
Gabo, Synonym For Magic Realism. Last week, a brilliant storyteller and novelist who is known for bringing the world of the human mind closer to the world of phenomena, the epic figure who ended the clash between imagination and existence, disappeared from the world literary landscape.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a man who changed the face of modern literature and left the world of letters, making it wonder if his magic realism included any formula to bring him back to life
Last week, a brilliant storyteller and novelist who is known for bringing the world of the human mind closer to the world of phenomena, the epic figure who ended the clash between imagination and existence, disappeared from the world literary landscape. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is Latin America’s Kohinoor who created the epic of the twentieth century ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ that won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. He changed the face of modern literature using adroitly magic realism of which he had become the lawful owner. The world of letters may not see another writer like him in the next one hundred years.
Gabo, as Marquez was known fondly by his people, was born in 1927 in Arcataca in Colombia that he had fictionalised as Macondo in ‘One Hundred Years’. The eldest son of twelve children of a postmaster, Gabo changed midstream from a study of law to journalism. He started writing his classic to immortalise the town where lived his grandfather who raised him in his early years. He loved his Latin American descent and nostalgia for his place of birth where he found raw material for his works in the relationship between reality and nostalgia.
A story of our own here about the origins of magic realism: Magic realism in India is as old as ‘Ramayana’ or ‘Srimad Bhagavatham’. Ravana has ten heads and as Rama chops off each, a new head appears in its place. Balakrishna shows the Universe in his mouth to his mother. In ‘Panchatantra’ birds, rodents and animals speak like human beings and deliver a lot of wisdom. Among the leading practitioners of this art today is our own Salman Rushdie. He is believed to be indebted to Gabo, whose influence is visible in almost every aspect of ‘Midnight’s Children’, populated by persons who can turn base metals into gold, travel in time, enchant strangers with their preternatural beauty, and perform a host of other miracles.
Back to Gabo. In his days Latin America witnessed a lot of violence and oppression by dictators and Gabo’s sympathies were naturally with his people. The civil war in ‘One Hundred Years’ alludes to the Latin people’s war for liberation. He spent time in post-liberation Cuba and was a close friend of Cuban hero Fidel Castro to whom he sent drafts of his books. Two writers who influenced Gabo most were Franz Kafka and Latin America’s another Nobel Prize winner Luis Jose Borges.
The Nobel Prize citation read, “In his novels and short stories we are led into this peculiar place where the miraculous and the real converge. The extravagant flight of his own fantasy combines with traditional folk tales and facts, literary allusions and tangible – at times obtrusively graphic – descriptions approaching the matter of factness of reportage.” Edwidge Danticat, writing for The New Yorker, recalled Gabo’s “famously unbridled imagination” and said, “Of course a woman can live inside her cat, as the character Eva does, in García Márquez’s 1948 short story ‘Eva Is Inside Her Cat’. And remember that neighbor who died but kept growing in his coffin, as in the 1947 story ‘The Third Resignation’?
‘One Hundred Years’ is both the history of Macondo, a fictional town like R.K.Narayan’s Malgudi, and seven generations of its founding family, the Buendias. Since the founder Jose Arcadio Buendio and his wife Ursula Iguaran are cousins, they fear they may beget children with pig's tails. Jose Arcadio Buendia in one of his scientific quests loses his senses. One of his two sons Jose Arcadio dies mysteriously after usurping family lands. The other son Aureliano becomes a great rebel who jumps into the country’s civil war. Macondo is devastated.
Apart from children with pig tails, Macondo witnesses five years of incessant rains symbolising the fall of the dynasty. In the anarchy that follows the family resorts to incest, leading to the birth of a child with a pig tail. There is also the ascension of a woman to the heavens as she does the laundry. Even as the people accept ascension as a natural phenomenon they distrust the modern things like trains, automobiles etc. Despite its ingredients of fantasy in the Argentine literary tradition ‘One Hundred Years’ looks like a mirror image of reality.
Gabo used the magic realism technique in his short stories too. It shows itself in the story ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ where an angel falls to the Earth and fails to excite the people. Instead, according to Marquez, they show true human nature by exploiting the angel for financial gain.. An incredible being falls to the Earth and the humans use it to make a fast buck.
As The New York Times says, “in his fiction can be seen plagues of insomnia and forgetfulness, a cluster of magical grapes containing the secret of death, an all-night rain of yellow blossoms, a swamp of lilies oozing blood, a Spanish galleon marooned in a Latin American jungle, cattle born bearing the brand of their owner.”
In a tribute to Gabo, another magic realist writer of Latin America Isabel Allende says, “Very few books can withstand the implacable test of time, very few authors are remembered, but Garcia Marquez belongs among the classics of universal literature. He is the voice of magic realism. I owe him the impulse and the freedom to plunge into literature. I will not mourn him because I have not lost him.”
Marquez’s equally popular novels are ‘Love In The Time Of Cholera’ and ‘Autumn of the Patriarch’. His literary inventory consists of six novels, five short story collections, four novellas and seven works of non-fiction. Gabo left the world of letters, making it wonder if his magic realism included any formula to bring him back to life.
(The writer is a senior Indian journalist who now lives in the US. firstname.lastname@example.org)