Marquez on his 87th birthday earlier this year
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the greatest writer who began publishing in my lifetime, died on Thursday. He was singular in his ability to delight readers of every class and country. For years when anyone asked me to recommend a book to read, I gave them A Hundred Years of Solitude. It didn't matter if the reader was a PhD in Cambridge or a waitress in western Pennsylvania. It never missed.
He wrote inimitable fiction and insisted on journalism as a literary form. His Nobel Prize lecture was mostly about Latin America rather than literature. It gives human and historical dimension to a book that appeared long after, The Shock Doctrine. It ended:
"On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said, "I decline to accept the end of man". I would fall unworthy of standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more than a simple scientific possibility. Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth."
Yet at other times he talked wisely, compassionately and valiantly about literature and the work of writing. One of my favorites, from an interview:
"You write better with all your problems resolved. You write better in good health. You write better without preoccupations. You write better when you have love in your life. There is a romantic idea that suffering and adversity are very good, very useful for the writer. I don't agree at all."
But my favorite, that in some sense serves as an epitaph, is this:
"Some say the novel is dead. But it is not the novel. It is they who are dead."
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