The news of the death of Gabriel José García Márquez is not tragic, but it is immeasurably sad. Somewhere in the world, a rainstorm has lasted four years, eleven months, and two days, and is only now giving way to heat and dust, now that this reporter of solitude has left the building.
Reportage and solitude are never far from García Márquez. His entire art is mired in the surreal meditation of the solitude of life, and especially, as he put it in his Nobel lecture of 1982, of the solitude of Latin America. From his writings emerge the violent, magical, buffoonish and romantic identities to an entire continent. In his pages you will find the ghosts of everyday life doing the dishes with mad generalisimos and 130-year-old matriarchs, countries and babies weeping and laughing, and women so beautiful they ascend into the sky one afternoon in the 4 pm sun while folding white sheets.
In García Márquez, decaying worlds of dictators and doomed lovers burst like pomegranate seeds from realities where the bizarre and the sublime exist together with the cosmic and the commonplace. But, as the writer himself admitted, his fictional worlds are merely the literary expression of the “outsized reality” of Latin America. “There have been five wars and seventeen military coups,” he said in 1982, in that Nobel lecture. “In the meantime, twenty million Latin American children died before the age of one — more than have been born in Europe since 1970. Those missing because of repression number nearly one hundred and twenty thousand, which is as if no one could account for all the inhabitants of Uppsala. Numerous women arrested while pregnant have given birth in Argentine prisons, yet nobody knows the whereabouts and identity of their children who were furtively adopted or sent to an orphanage by order of the military authorities.”
Clearly, this is a continent whose cobblestones are wet with blood and history, and this exorbitant history mingles with the sense of wonder in the everyday — what the Cuban writer and musicologist Alejo Carpentier called “lo real maravilloso (the marvellous reality)”, which Latin America inhabits because of the fantastic nature of its culture and history. It is this easy access to the marvellous, along with his prior, and perhaps eternal, vocation as journalist, that García Márquez credited for his ability to hammer into place his cornucopian narratives. “All creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”
And so this continent of fateful coincidences and incidental absurdities bleeds its mysteries, willing to be scooped into any imagination. This is the land of the puzzle of “the eleven thousand mules, each loaded with one hundred pounds of gold, continued…