Gabriel García Márquez was terrified of winning the Nobel, we tell him why

The roosters at dawn had not finished singing when we all woke up to the news of Gabriel García Márquez winning the Nobel Prize for Literature on October 21, 1982. The stars were still trembling in his garden in Mexico and his first glorious photo of that day was in a dressing gown with Mercedes Barcha. She was 55 years old.

The first thing that occurred to him was to wake up with a phone call to his primary teacher at the Montessori school in Aracataca, Rosa Helena Fergusson Gómez. She was the one who taught him to read and write, and also enchanted him since he was a child when he heard for the first time from his lips, recited by heart, as if he were singing medieval ballads, the poems of the Spanish Golden Age. Read here: A daughter, the best kept secret of Gabriel García Márquez

Two years ago, García Márquez had written in two installments, on November 8 and 9, 1980, the columns The ghost of the Nobel Prize in the newspaper El Espectador.

That first column had begun by naming Jorge Luis Borges, the eternal candidate for the Nobel Prize, whom the author of One hundred years of solitude He considered himself, at 53 years old, “the writer with the highest artistic merits in the Spanish language”, and declared himself to be one of his “insatiable readers” and, at the same time, one of his “political adversaries”. In addition to Borges, he believed that there were two writers who also deserved it, and García Márquez predicted Naipaul and Graham Greene.

Seen from the inside, like someone deciphering the hermetic cabinet of some wise men, the eighteen Nobel Prize juries, according to García Márquez, agree in May “when the snow begins to melt, and they study the work of the few finalists during the summer heat” and when October arrives, “under the southern suns, they render their verdict”.

In that cabinet of life members, García Márquez investigated that it was made up of two philosophers, two historians, three specialists in Swedish languages, and a single woman. And when referring to the selection criteria of that hermetic jury, he revealed that there were many contradictions among themselves, “secret, supportive and unappealable decisions.” And he throws this pearl: “If they were not so serious, one might think that they are animated by the mischief of circumventing all predictions.” Read also: 40 years of the Nobel: the news that made García Márquez sleepless

The kept secret could be unpredictable and the surprise of the chosen one could also be an unexpected event. That mysterious rigor of choosing what is subjectively the best of the world’s literature goes through infinite filters, mirrors and mirages.

He knew that Alfred Nobel created that prize in 1895 with a capital of 9,200,000 dollars, with annual interest to be distributed in November, and that in the first prize, awarded in 1901, the winner received 30,160 Swedish crowns. In tracking him he also picked up the street and foul-mouthed speculation that this capital was invested in the gold mines of South Africa.


Gabo was years old when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

In that first column, García Márquez revealed that the only member of the Swedish Academy who fervently read authors in Spanish was the poet Artur Lundkvist, who invited him to dinner at his house, and already in confidence, after dinner with cold meats and hot beer, took García Márquez out for coffee in his library. Inside that library, the Colombian author discovered the best books in Spanish, and also the worst scrambled in that babel of letters. And looking at some of them, he discovered that they were dedicated by their authors, some already dead and others taking turns to leave. Among those books, of course, was García Márquez.

the second terror

García Márquez’s second terror, after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, was confessed in his second column on The Phantom of the Nobel Prize. He was to die seven years after winning it.

The exception was Albert Camus, who won it at the age of 44 and died two years later in a car accident. Camus was the second youngest after Rudyard Kipling, who won it at the age of 42.

Many who deserved that award, such as Leo Tolstoy, Kafka, Proust, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, André Malraux, Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad, among others, died without the Nobel Prize, and their work prevails.

Years later, recalling that day when the Nobel Prize was awarded, García Márquez confessed among his friends that he was very scared and terrified. And the yellow flower was the spell against fear. The flower he wore on his lapel shivering next to him. And they all took her so she wouldn’t feel alone. Also read: The last days of Gabriel García Márquez told by his son

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Gabriel García Márquez was terrified of winning the Nobel, we tell him why