The fact that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has died shouldn’t feel like a blow. He was 87 years old and reportedly suffering from dementia. To quote Marquez himself, “there had never been a death so foretold.” And yet, the knowledge that Marquez is no longer with us is heartbreak.
The news of his passing came in about eight hours ago and my first thought was that my father will wake up to this news and it will make him as terribly sad as I feel right now. He does have some consolation though: he’s at home, with his books. Ever since I heard about Marquez’s death, I have longed to go through my copies of his books. My fingertips are itching to feel the pages, I want to see the sentences, flutter from story to story, let his characters flit past me. Except I’m far away from home and my books are out of reach. So I’m looking Marquez quotes online and letting the tourniquet of sad longing tighten.
He was shaken by the overwhelming revelation that the headlong race between his misfortunes ad his dreams was at that moment reaching the finish line. The rest was darkness, “Damn it,” he sighed. “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!”
“And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?” he asked. Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights. “Forever,” he said.
He was carrying a suitcase with clothing in order to stay and another just like it with almost two thousand letters that she had written him. They were arranged by date in bundles ties with coloured ribbons, and they were all unopened.
Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finis deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.
There’s a beautiful obituary of Marquez in The New York Times and it tells you all about his life and if you have read anything of his, I think you will fall in love with him a little by the time you reach the end of the piece. They’ve also got a blog post that has collected links to reviews of Marquez’s works.
I can’t gather my thoughts well enough to write an obituary or reminisce about Marquez’s writing. What I keep remembering is my father telling me about reading Marquez. He didn’t tell me the stories or the outlines of the plots in any of Marquez’s novels or short stories. Instead, he told me about this man with this distinctive imagination and sublime language. He told me about the wonder he felt when he followed the trail of Marquez’s words into lands and families. As I listened to my father, just the experience of reading Marquez felt like magic and I wanted that for myself. He finished with, “Marquez is brilliant. You have to read him.” It’s one of the best suggestions he’s made to me. Over the years, my father and I have lain in wait for the newest Marquez. We’ve gifted Marquez books to one another, despaired to one another when they were disappointing and exulted together when we read Marquez at his best.
For so many and definitely for my father and me, Marquez was our Melquiades. He reminded us that we could choose to not let our imaginations be moulded by an aesthetic inherited from West-facing schools and syllabi. He showed us that unrealistic could be poignantly real. Even though there is nothing singular about my love for Marquez’s work — I belong to a community of heartbroken readers who must seem like attention-seekers or weirdos to those who don’t really see the big deal about an aged and ailing author dying — I can’t let today pass without a post here in The Growlery because it was my father who introduced me to Marquez’s words and worlds. In the books blog that we’ve set up in the hope of prodding each other to read and write, how can we not raise a virtual toast to the writer that we’ve both loved both wisely and well?
So to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the patron saint of magic realism and the author whose writing has so often made me feel like my father’s daughter (more often than not, we would both feel that little kick of breathless admiration at the same moment when reading one of Marquez’s short stories or novels), thank you and farewell.