Forty years of celebration: a Nobel that we are still celebrating

On October 21, 1982, forty years ago, Colombia woke up to the jubilant news of the Nobel Prize for Literature for Gabriel García Márquez, without a doubt the greatest writer in our history and one of the greatest of all time in all languages, to the point that it is not only that he was the best writer born here but also the only Colombian who had truly achieved the most difficult thing in art and in life, universality.

That is why on that day this country celebrated that individual and solitary triumph – that is literature, the temptation to fail – as if it belonged to everyone, and more than the glory of a writer It seemed like that of one of our self-sacrificing athletes of that time, irremediably accustomed to inconceivable and titanic feats in which the entire country was paralyzed and left on edge, crying, grabbing the bed and then throwing itself into the street to whistle. in their cars madly.

Colombia did not know what it was like to win, and it is likely that they still do not know it completely, although in these forty years that has changed a lot and the triumphs of our heroes they are not as rare or as long-suffering, as tormented, as close to defeat as they were in the eighties, that is why people here did not know what to do when good news broke like this: we laughed nervously, we looked at each other anguished and perplexed .

But that October 21, 1982, at his home in Mexico, García Márquez received a call very early in the morning from Stockholm in which a Swedish government official announced that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Someone had already told him the day before that it was very likely that this would happen, but by sheer omen he only told his wife, since other times the bread had burned on the oven door.

As soon as he received the news, almost like the fulfillment of a destiny, ‘Gabo’ went out to the interior patio of his house in the Fire Street of the DF and he let his son Rodrigo take a picture of him and Mercedes, his wife and lifelong companion, the big mom, in a nightgown. In that photo you can see their faces of relief rather than joy and happiness; the certainty once again that this had to happen, as if everything had been written from the beginning.

It is not only that he was the best writer born here, but also the only Colombian who had truly achieved the most difficult thing in art and in life, universality.

Very soon the house began to fill with people and yellow flowers, and when a friend who had not yet found out what was happening came to visit them, he saw that commotion and thought terrified: “Shit, Gabo died.” Later, once inside, he protested because the night before he had also been there and no one had ever said anything to him, but Mercedes appeased him with the authority of a guajira midwife: “You know, compadre, that we don’t like gossip in this house.”

Actually, there was a friend who knew the day before the still sibylline and uncertain news of the Nobel Prize: Alvaro Mutisthe best of friends, who wanted to call his brother Leopoldo immediately, but García Márquez warned him with the warning that everything could change in minutes and reminded him of the story of a poor Italian author who was made by some heartless journalists. the joke of calling him to confer the Nobel when it was not true.

But the day of the official news, after the spells, the celebration of ‘the Gabos’ with his friends yes it was at the house of Mutis and his wife Carmen, the adorable teacher: a colossal drunk made of tequila and aguardiente, nothing more, and the story of poor Juan García Ponce who rolled down a hill in his wheelchair without anyone noticing, while he was screaming lying on the the floor and happy: “Sons of bitches, sons of bitches, sons of bitches!”

The next day, radiant, García Márquez gave an interview to Televisa in which he said: “I need two minutes of calm to know exactly what I have to feel with the Nobel Prize…”. He also said that the good thing about being awarded the prize is that he would never have to be a candidate again, and He promised that he would receive him in a guayabera, “the national costume of the Caribbean”. And he added: “As long as I don’t wear a tailcoat, I can stand the cold in Stockholm in a guayabera…”.

He did not wear a guayabera but a liquiliqui, as is known, in an unforgettable ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall on December 10, 1982. All dressed in white, as if levitating, Gabriel García Márquez received the applause of the whole world surrendered at his feet; then, at the banquet offered by the king and queen to him and the other laureates, he gave a hallucinated speech called A toast to poetry.

García Márquez accompanied by some friends, among them Jaime Castro, Manuel de Andreis, Germán Vargas, Alfonso Fuenmayor, Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Eligio García Márquez and Hernán Vieco.

That speech was made by Mutis because ‘Gabo’, as everyone called him, completely forgot that he had to write it amid so many drunken sprees, so he told his best friend: “Speak about what you know, teacher: about the poetry that cooks the chickpeas in the kitchen…”. And so it was said there: “Poetry, in short, that secret energy of everyday life that cooks chickpeas in the kitchen and spreads love and repeats the images in the mirrors…”.

What the Nobel did write (the ‘prize’, as since then and forever people in the streets of Cartagena told him) was a conference called “The loneliness of Latin America”: such a beautiful and lucid reflection on our unhappy destiny that by itself it would deserve that its author be given the Nobel Prize, with that novel ending: “Where the lineages condemned to a hundred years of solitude have finally and forever a second chance on earth…”.

Stockholm, icy and ghostly, dark from noon as always in the boreal winter, was during those days of the Colombian landing a true carnival, a rapture of music and fire, of cumbia and vallenato, of nostalgia and rum. All the friends of ‘Gabo’, the living and the dead, gathered there for that consecration that seemed at the same time impossible, just, miraculous.

Someone once told me that one of the vallenato musicians who was there at the Grand Hotel, a famous accordion player in the Valley, saw the bellboy in his gala suit, more elegant and solemn than anything he had ever seen in his life. Then another musician from the group, a cashier, told his colleague to suck cock: “He is the king of Sweden.”and the accordion player knelt down and made all kinds of bows and kisses to the stupefied and crowned bellhop.

It was as if everything in García Márquez’s life was colored by the force of his poetry; as if everything that happened in it was one more episode of his delirious and beautiful novels. The day he won the Nobel, a Colombian television news interviewed his mother, Luisa Santiaga Marquez Iguaran who only managed to say that hopefully the prize would serve to finally fix the telephone in the house, damaged for three months.

The incredible thing, or not, is that it was always like that; The most moving thing is that from the first moment García Márquez’s life seemed destined for literature and nothing else: the stories he heard at his grandparents’ house, his strange relationship with his parents, his trip to boarding school in Zipaquirá, his arrival in Bogotá, where he was touched by ‘el bogotazo’ and where he read with amazement Kafka on a five-cent streetcar in which he stayed all day turning nonstop.

He had published his first things in El Espectador, greeted with enthusiasm and enthusiasm by the great Eduardo Zalamea Borda. But the fire and bullets of April 9, 1948 returned him to the Coast, first to Cartagena and then to Barranquilla, where he joined the literary gathering of Ramón Vinyes, ‘the Catalan sage‘. And it was as if everyone knew, everywhere, that there was no writer greater than ‘Gabito’.

He had hardly written anything: his short stories and some venial and luckily forgotten poems, his journalistic texts that already revealed his genius, a novel (La Hojarasca) that the literary critic Guillermo de Torre rejected in order to publish it in Losada, in Buenos Aires, with the argument that it was better that he dedicate himself to something else, not to write. as he told them dick rowe to the Beatles when he rejected them at Decca: “Groups with guitars are doomed to disappear…”.

Garcia Marquez Nobel 40 years

García Márquez received the Prize in December 1982.

What follows is the epic story that we all already know: his return to Bogotá to write and become famous in El Espectador; his going to Europe and into poverty, while he waited for a check that never came, like the colonel in his story waiting for his retirement pension; his going to Venezuela, hand in hand with Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, his compadre, and then to the United States; his trip to Mexico, where Mutis was and where he wanted to change literature for cinema.

And there in Mexico, one morning in 1965, the abduction and illumination, the epiphany of One hundred years of solitude: the novel he had been writing all his life; the disastrous saga of Macondo, already present in Litter and somehow in The colonel has no one to write to him and in the bad hour. It was an act of exorcism, a conflagration: locked in her study while Mercedes sold the car to fill the fridge,‘Gabo’ was creating the world.

This is how someone who went to see him every afternoon describes him and he still hadn’t come out of his confinement: cigarette smoke barely slipped through the crack in the door; inside, the typewriter would not stop playing along with the songs of the Beatles: a miracle was happening: “Many years later, facing the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that remote afternoon when his father took him to discover ice…”.

During those days of poverty, while García Márquez wrote his novel on the edge of the abyss, he told his two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo, not to worry and that very soon, one afternoon, a very elegant man was going to arrive with a suitcase full of bills. That was what happened with the first sale of that book that went around the world: a very elegant man, sent by the South American publishercame in one afternoon with a suitcase full of bills.

How not to believe in miracles and magic, how to deny fate after knowing the life and work of Gabriel García Márquez? That was something that he himself was very clear about, that is why he never wanted to return to Buenos Aires, where he was published One hundred years of solitude: Better not break the spell. And once they were going to give him a blood transfusion, he flatly refused: what if the secret of everything was there, what if that was the only explanation for his fate.

That and that of his unlimited talent, his accurate intuition, his enlightened tongue. Or as the best critic of him wrote, Ernest Volkening, “the uncommon ability to see both sides of the moon.” All of this was in that call that resounded in the early hours of October 21, 1982, forty years ago, on Calle del Fuego in Mexico City. That day, and forever, the Nobel Prize fell in Macondo, as Antonio Caballero said.

For the first and only time in our lives, perhaps, we Colombians knew what it was like to win something true. That’s why we’re still celebrating it.


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Forty years of celebration: a Nobel that we are still celebrating