I only discovered Gabo’s writings last year and rapidly fell in love with Macondo and the sumptious insights into Colmbian life that he shared with us. The world is smaller without him but he leaves us with a marvellous mix of tales…
I very quickly came to appreciate the sense of post-revolutionary reality that he could portray (as in “No One Writes to the Colonel”, for example), the surreal world of religion and love that he showed in “Of Love and Other Demons”, and the real harsh world of the Colombian drugs war in his non-fiction “News of a Kidnapping”.
In Western Europe we put a high value on life, we value the contribution of the individual and go to great lengths to protect our people from harm. I get a very different perception about life in Colombia.
If there is a single sense that I can take from all of Gabo’s writings, it is that, overall, life is cheap in Colombia:
From ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’:
‘And meanwhile what do we eat?’ she asked, and seized the colonel by the collar of his flannel night shirt. She shook him hard.
It had taken the colonel seventy-five years – the seventy-five years of his life, minute by minute – to reach this moment. He felt pure, explicit, invincible at the moment when he replied: ‘Shit’
And the terrible death of Marina Montoya in ‘News of a Kidnapping’:
In her bed, Marina looked like a marble carving, with her hair disheveled and a pallor so intense that even her lips were white. Then the Monk spoke to her in the affectionate tones of a grandson.”Get your things together, Granny,” he said. “You have five minutes.”
… Maruja confronted the Monk, her voice steady.”Are you going to kill her?”
… The Monk bristled.”You can’t ask a thing like that!” he said. But he regained his composure right away and said: “I told you she’s going to a better house. I swear.”
… AT DAWN THE NEXT DAY, Thursday, January 24, the body of Marina Montoya was found in an empty lot north of Bogotá. Almost sitting upright in grass still damp from an early rain, she was leaning against the barbed-wire fence, her arms extended… dressed in a pink sweatsuit and a pair of maroon men’s socks… the head of the corpse was covered by a hood, stiff with dried blood, that had been put on with the openings for the mouth and eyes at the back of the head, and it was almost in tatters because of the entrance and exit holes of six bullets fired from a distance of more than fifty centimeters…”
What a very sad death at the end of so much fear.
Of course, Gabo’s most famous work is “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, and nobody who reads it will ever forget this chronicle of the struggles of the Buendías and Macondo.