40 years of the Nobel Prize to García Márquez

Last Saturday marked the forty anniversary of the delivery to Gabriel García Márquez of the Nobel Prize for Literature. That December 10, 1982, when King Gustavo Adolfo placed the plaque declaring him the winner of the highest universal award for letters in the hands of the famous Colombian novelist, cold Stockholm experienced a carnival. Colombian dances and rhythms showed the Swedes that this event could be celebrated without stiff academics. Vallenatos, currulaos, cumbias and mapalés filled the streets of a city that, until then, Allende was unaware that a joyous culture existed in the seas, which was expressed not only in the magical lyrics of the award-winning writer, but also in that strange music for them that, without However, they aroused admiration.

The Nobel Prize did not mean the consecration as a writer of Gabriel García Márquez. The son of the telegraph operator from Aracataca was universally consecrated when his name was chosen by the Swedish academy as deserving of the award. one hundred years of solitude It had captivated millions of readers around the world because of the experiences of the members of a family that lives in a huge house in a town where the heat of three in the afternoon produces an immense drowsiness, because of those characters who, like Rebeca, suddenly appear in the house of José Arcadio Buendía to stay living in it, because of that imagination of a writer who makes a priest levitate while celebrating mass and a beautiful woman to ascend to heaven wrapped in the sheets that her grandmother leaves to dry in the courtyard.

Gabriel García Márquez wrote a portentous work. His novels speak of a world where fiction is confused with reality. Such is the case of the dictator who, in The Autumn of the Patriarch, allows the cows to eat the carpets of the Presidential Palace and to relieve themselves in the corridors themselves. That man who sells the sea from his homeland is an old man who wants to turn his mother into a saint, Bendición Alvarado, because he remembers that when he was born he earned his living painting birds to sell them in the market. Since the holy see does not agree to her claims, he decides to canonize her by decree after he forces an entire town to venerate her. He is the same person who, in order to charge him for an alleged conspiracy against the regime, orders Major General Rodrigo de Aguilar to be killed.

Forty years later, Colombia remembers this event with national pride. All the media have talked these days about what that great Colombian party was like.

Colombia achieved universal presence thanks to the literary genius of Gabriel García Márquez. Before him, we did not count in the inventory of countries that had produced men endowed with superior intelligence. They looked at us then as an underdeveloped country that had not managed to get rid of Spanish tutelage, not even in the management of its language. After him, they began to look at us with different eyes. And our history, and our customs, and our past and our beliefs began to be taken into account on the European continent. All because this man drew the curtain that prevented us from seeing ourselves as we were, with our virtues and our defects. García Márquez opened the doors to show us to the world as a country with a literary dimension.

Before García Márquez, only four Colombian writers had managed to position their names as authors of international prestige. Jorge Isaacs broke in in 1867 with Maria, a novel translated into several languages. With this work, where he narrates the love of Efraín and María on a farm in Valle del Cauca, he made a great contribution to the literary current known as romanticism. And in 1924 it appears the Maelstrom, by José Eustasio Rivera, a novel of social denunciation, where while narrating the love between Alicia and Arturo Cova, he tells how the rubber tappers are exploited. José María Vargas Vila, an anticlerical writer, also gains international recognition. The same goes for German Arciniegas. But none reaches the million-dollar sales of García Márquez, nor his transcendence over time.

Since that distant May 30, 1967, when that marvelous novel called One Hundred Years of Solitude saw the public light, not a day goes by without the name of our country appearing with honors in newspapers on all continents. Since then, we Colombians have become accustomed to the fact that every day, anywhere in the world, the name of Colombia is pronounced with respect in academic circles. We owe this honor to this man born in Aracataca on March 6, 1927, who died in Mexico City on April 17, 2014. Due to his literary success, achieved when he was barely forty years old, the name of Colombia began to sound all over the world. All because he wrote a novel that is an obligatory reference every time one wants to talk about universal literature.

Gabriel García Márquez, the creator of that wonderful saga of the Buendías, of the yellow butterflies that persecute Mauricio Babilonia, of the manuscripts left by the gypsy Melquíades, of the ascension of Remedio la bella to heaven, of the fantastic stories of Colonel Aureliano Buendía from the very moment his father took him to see ice until when, facing the firing squad, he recalled the thirty-two armed confrontations in which he took part during the civil war, that day he put the name of Colombia in the most unsuspected heights. Forty years later, Colombia remembers this event with national pride. All the media have talked these days about what that great Colombian party was like.

The Nobel Prize receiving speech is an anthological literary piece. In it, the writer recognized the influence that William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Wolf had had on his literary work. He highlighted how the countries of this continent were living under the shadow of oblivion, and described Latin America as “that immense homeland of hallucinated men and historical women, whose endless stubbornness is confused with legend.” Example, Úrsula Iguarán and Aureliano Buendía. The jury said the award was given “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting the life and conflicts of a continent.” That December 10, 1982, the world learned that Colombia had produced an immortal writer.


(Read all the columns by José Miguel Alzate in EL TIEMPO, here)

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40 years of the Nobel Prize to García Márquez