García Márquez the Nobel that the world can never forget

In the early hours of October 21, 1982, the telephone at Gabriel García Márquez’s house in Mexico City would not go off the ringing. The Colombian writer thought about not answering, but thought it might be something urgently familiar or news from his native country.

As he could, he got up and almost asleep answered the call. On the other end of the line a voice told him ‘he won the Nobel Prize for Literature’. The first reaction of the Caribbean writer, before the euphoria and joy, was to get dressed in record time and run to wake up his Colombian colleague and friend, Álvaro Mutis, who lived a few streets away.

At 55 years of age, at that time, he did not remember a day when he had run so much, he only thought of arriving, being able to enter and be alone in the living room of the Mutis family house, to reflect on the scope of the Good News.

– Brother, … I come to hide. Gabo said.

– Because? Did you fight again with Mercedes? (his wife of him). Álvaro Mutis affirmed.

– No, worse, I won the Nobel Prize.

It was the conversation that Gabriel García Márquez said he had after receiving such news that made him lose sleep that morning and the following days.

Only the two of them know if the story was true or has a large dose of the inventiveness of the son of Aracataca, Magdalena, who has had the habit of making novels of each of the events of his life.

It was a typical cloudy dawn of that Thursday Thursday in the great Mexican city. Mercedes learned of the news when she saw her husband get dressed in an agitated manner and run away when darkness still prevailed in Pedregal de San Ángel, the neighborhood where the family had lived for a decade.

There is another version. Gabo was about to go for a run when the phone rang and he received the news. Somewhat dazed, he shared it with his wife and minutes later, the street in front of the house was full of Mexican journalists.

Recounting it with mastery, Gabo assured that seeing the advent of dawn at Mutis’s house, he thought better of it and began to doubt the news. ‘Could it have been a trick of the mind between sleep and consciousness?’ ‘Did I really win the Nobel at 55 years of age?’ or “A heavy prank from one of his close friends?” He actually did not think he deserved this award.

“I thought I would be an eternal candidate, because four years ago they woke me up with the same news,” Gabriel García Márquez declared that day to journalist Juan Gossain, who with the dose of fortune that a reporter needs, failing to get an answer to his called at Gabo’s house, he called Álvaro Mutis to get a reaction from the writer’s colleague and friend, but luckily, not only did García Márquez answer him, but he recognized his voice and was able to get the desired reaction.

Within the deck of candidates were three English-language writers, such as Graham Greene, Doris Lessing and Nadine Gordimer. In addition to the French Simone de Beavoir, Claude Simon, René Char and Henry Michaux; together with the Turkish Yasar Kemal.

Of them, Claude Simon got it in 1985, Nadine Gordimer (1991) and Doris Lessing this year (2007).

At that time, the prize was one million 150 thousand Swedish crowns (200 thousand dollars approximately), which Gabo received on December 9 of the same year.

But beyond money, world prestige is the highest award in these prizes created by Alfred Nobel, who determined that they should be awarded “to the most worthy”, according to the final decision made each year by the Swedish Academy of Letters.

From that October 21 and until the month of December, the day that King Gustav of Sweden officially presented him with the award, Gabo assured that he could not sleep well, turning the story of the day he learned that he had won the Nobel, of which today he admits he is tired of being reminded of it.


October 21 fell on a Thursday and Colombians woke up to the news. Nothing else mattered, we had to talk about Gabriel García Márquez, whether or not his literature was known.

or it was only in Colombia, all of Latin America, especially Mexico, assumed it as their own, since it was considered to have been a tribute to the so-called ‘Latin American Boom’, to its magical stories that had seduced the world of diverse languages.

It was not for less so much euphoria, the Swedish Academy of Letters had not chosen anyone from Latin America again after Gabriela Mistral (1945), Miguel Ángel Asturias (1967) and Pablo Neruda (1971).

“It was the exaltation of the generation that followed the path created by Miguel Ángel Asturias, Alejo Carpentier and Juan Rulfo, with the influence of North American and European literature, that won the Nobel Prize in 1982,” said critic Eduardo Person.

It was, not surprisingly, the central theme of the radio newscasts of the time, which eagerly sought the reaction in the Colombian writer’s own voice, and which they did not easily achieve.

It was not a news of a day, it transcended time and for 40 years it has remained in force as one of the most important moments in the history of Colombian culture.

The headlines extolled the universal distinction that marked the humanity of master Gabo for life, the ‘son of the Aracataca telegraph operator’, Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez, the eldest of eleven brothers.

The previous winners, except for Pablo Neruda, had gone almost unnoticed. It was news that stayed within the literary circuit, in the academy. What happened with Gabo, that October 21, was different, it was a celebration similar to winning a sports title, which was discussed in the streets, in the markets, in the parks, even in brothels. In many cities of the country, motorcyclists and taxi drivers blew their whistles, as a way of paying tribute to the Colombian writer.


172 pages, Gonzalo Mallarino Flórez, makes a deep and detailed account of what it was, his experience 40 years ago, traveling to distant Stockholm (Sweden), as part of the guests at the delivery of the Nobel Prize for Literature that Gabriel García received Marquez.

It is ‘The day that Gabo won the Nobel’, a book that has just been published by the Planeta publishing house, as a chronicle of a luxury witness, with the before, during and after of what this award has been for an entire country .

All this without ignoring the political and social moment that the country was experiencing at the beginning of the 1980s, when the event occurred, at the end of the government of Julio Cesar Turbay, the beginning of Belisario Betancur’s four-year term.

Relations between the writer and the outgoing government were not minor. García Márquez had harshly criticized the security statute imposed by Turbay, which had generated hundreds of prisoners and political persecution. Forms and styles similar to those used by the different dictatorships that had been protagonists in Latin America in recent years.

Such was the tension, that there was a possibility that the Son of Aracataca would be captured, so it was best that he stay in Mexico, where he spent the rest of his life.

As is a Colombian tradition, the country was divided between two sides, between those who were in favor of the government’s decisions, and those who thought the same as García Márquez, until the news of the Nobel Prize for Literature arrived.

That October 21, the country joined in the same celebration, although after the euphoria, the resistance would return, but with the award, he was able to return to the country, especially to his beloved Cartagena.

In the final part of the book, before a large album of photographs, Gonzalo invites the reader to accompany him on the trip to Stockholm, with all the particular characters that made up that flight and all the possible anecdotes that can occur when a group of Caribbean people arrive on the shores of the Baltic Archipelago./Colprensa


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García Márquez the Nobel that the world can never forget