Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gabo Lands in El Imperio

Marquéz at work on 'One Hundred Years of Solitude.'
The Marquéz family's sale of the Nobel laureate's papers to an academic center in Austin, Texas has, understandably, generated lots of polemic back in Colombia.

"For the National Library (of Colombia) it would have been an honor to have those materials," Culture Minister Mariana Garcés told the FM radio. "For Colombia, it's a great pity not having them."

She said that Colombia had expressed interest in the collection.

One of the manuscripts donated to the Harry Ransom Center.
(Photo: Harry Ransom Center)
But the location is also appropriate in some ways. For one thing, the Harry Ransom Center, which is part of the University of Texas, also holds documents from some of Marquéz's literary influences, particularly William Faulkner, whose fictional Mississippi community helped inspire Marquéz's town of Macondo.

Perhaps more relevantly, Marquez lived the last half century of his life in Mexico City, where he is buried. Some Colombians resented what they considered Marquéz's small contributions to the mostly poor people who inspired his stories. So, it's in a way appropriate that his papers will rest outside of Colombia as well.

Marquéz's corrections and editions on manuscript
of 'The General in his Laberynth.'
But the Texas donation also draws attention to the Colombian novelist's often difficult relationship with the United States. A life-long friend of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the young Marquéz worked for Cuba's government news service, Prensa Latina, for which he was based for a time in New York. But because of Marquéz's relationships with leftist groups, including the Colombian Communist Party and the M-19 guerrillas, Marquéz was for decades banned from entering the U.S., which he sometimes referred to as 'El Imperio' - until his friend Pres. Bill Clinton reversed the order. Now, Colombian Marquéz scholars will have to travel not only to El Imperio, but to the land of the Bush family, in order to study the Colombian idol.

Marquéz's family did not completely stiff Colombia. Items including the typewriter he wrote 'One Hundred Years of Solitude,' on and his Nobel Prize medal will go to the Colombian National Library.

Many commentators on the El Tiempo newspaper's story about the sale seemed to get a cynical pleasure from the spectacle of the leftist writer's family selling his material to a United States institution.

"That's the Colombian left," wrote Fercast0513. "Just imagine, Gabo's son sold his leftist father's files to a university in the North American empire."

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Dan K said...

Well, Colombia has nothing close to the Ransom center in Austin, and his manuscripts being housed there would be accessed by a much wider audience. Furthermore, the documents wouldn't come under scrutinization by some Colombian faction with a bone to pick with his outspoken political views. I could only imagine the squabbling that would ensue if such documents came to Colombia.

Miguel said...

Hi Dan - Yes, the folks at the Ransom must be pros at document conservation. They've got a Gutenberg Bible there, after all, and a Shakespeare First Folio.

However, Texas has lots of factions, as well. It's just that they don't care as much about Gabo as the Colombians do.

But, you're right, it'd be a sad thing for the docs to get lost in some Colombian library, or defaced by some Uribista.


Dan K said...

Sure, but the dominant political party in Texas is one that is completely opposite to the ideology of Gabo; the Republicans. Even though polarization may be quite the problem in the US, the petulant behavior of Colombian politics could easily put his manuscripts at risk had they been housed within the country.

Miguel said...

Thanks mostly to its growing Latino population, Texas may turn Democratic within a few election cycles.

But I doubt that'll make a big difference to Gabo. And Austin's a lefty island, in any case.