Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gabo and Castro

Enrique Krauze has a fascinating meditation (in Spanish) on the career and politics of Gabriel García Márquez in the latest Letras Libres, built around a review of the new biography of the Colombian from Gerald Martin. Much of the article focuses on García Márquez's relationship with Fidel Castro. García Márquez's support of Castro, according to Krauze, has been just short of unconditional, despite Castro's execution of erstwhile political allies (and friends of García Márquez) on trumped up charges, and everything else we know about him. In the mid-1970s, when Gabo was closing in on 50, he called witnessing Cuba under Castro "the most exciting and decisive experience of [his] life". Later, he said that he would never write another book without giving Castro a chance to read it before publication.

Krauze also digs into García Márquez's journalism, and chides Martin for largely ignoring it. Very little of it has been translated into English, but Krauze argues that while his fiction is anchored squarely in magical realism, his journalistic realm is socialist realism. The gist of it is that the crimes of many anti-imperialist regimes and their charismatic leaders --not just Castro's Cuba, but also the Vietnamese communists, János Kádár in Hungary, even Stalin-- are not given their due treatment. The political imperatives driving these regimes was far more relevant to Gabo, in Krauze's view, than the moral compasses that they lacked.

Krauze suggests that García Márquez's adoration of his grandfather, a man who'd killed an acquaintance in less than noble circumstances, taught him to justify the excesses of an otherwise admirable man. He also developed at a young age some useful conceptions --useful from the point of view of both a novelist and an apologist-- about the flexible relationship between memory and truth.

One more detail merits mention: García Márquez justifies the torturous pace of Autumn of the Patriarch with the following: "It's a luxury that can be granted the author of the One Hundred Years of Solitude." Years after reading it, I find that arrogance kind of amusing, though while in the midst of the 87-page paragraph that starts the book, not to mention the one-sentence chapter that closes the book, I would not have.

Krauze's politics color most everything he writes, so I'd like to read a rebuttal. In any event, good reading.

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