When I was a young man, I often thought I was living in a magical time: legends of sports and stage, presidents and dictators, film stars walking among us. It was only later, much later, that I discovered the mundane that dwelt among all that enchantment. That was, perhaps, 1975—all the strange moments of those days had occurred and were over: Allende in Chile, a smattering of revolution and then a vast counter-coup. Death. The strange circus-troupe of Nixon henchmen, all those Haldeman and Ehrlichman clones, strutting about with all their certainties. The smokescreen that was reality hit hard and kept hitting.
It was just about that time when I landed in Macondo. This oddball writer, coming to me from South America, scoring points with talk about crumbling, doddering dictators, wobbly, fantastic kingdoms, lines of strange succession, bizarre animals and fractured skies and horizons. I read all I could. Who was this man? What was this voice? I was completely taken.
Gabriel García Márquez died last week at age 87. If you know of whom I speak, you need not go on—I can add nothing more to your already vivid, perfect and fantastic visions and images. He has spoken. And though his voice has quieted, his phantasmagoric passages will live on forever. Marquez long ago had found that portal through which a denser, more real reality entered into and exited our world of the ordinary. It was a cosmic doorway open to anyone who would enter. I know that I eagerly went for it, head over heels and spinning—and came out the better man for it.
One of the things, personal and curious to me, that has always resonated from the work of Márquez (and my time in Macondo) is his writing that “It is not necessary to demonstrate facts; it was enough for the author to have written something for it to be true.” For a writer, for the writer’s lance and the distant horizon, that is a startling statement, a totally invigorating, in-your-face, point of view. Again, not so easy to live up to—it had better be credible; it had better ring true—but basically, it is the truest summation of a writer’s real craft.
Márquez received, yes, the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1982. The world occasionally owns up to its encumbrances. Book by book, he’d proven to grasp the factor which thrusts our world forward, a higher, almost higher-than-literary and mystical level of being, where everything seems allowed, and the most decrepit can sing their own tales and eulogies without decomposing. Flowers really can fall from the sky.
It takes a writer of real steely determination and a particular level of talent and emphasis to design, write and stay with such forms. Gabriel García Márquez, gone from us now at this late date in our own conundrum of events—our own strange and fantastic—will, in reality, in a magic realism all its own, be with us forever. As the American Indians would once break an arrow to show peace, I here break a writing pencil, No. 2 lead, in half, in honor of Gabriel García Márquez, of Colombia, as we know it. He has outlived all foibles and conflicts. He’s far off now, in his own magical place.
Gary Introne is an artist, writer and poet who can be found at Labyrinth Books in Princeton, N.J.
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PW's Holiday Guide 2014