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On A Genre Of Literature & Littérateurs

The name Gabriel García Márquez (March 6, 1927 – April 17, 2014) still enthrals many. The literary works of the Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and journalist, known affectionately as Gabo, take his readers to a different world, where there are various characters, taking different forms. The readers can often enjoy an unprecedented journey of reality, together with the unfamiliar myths and fantasies. While describing the admixture of imagination and harsh reality in Márquez’s work, another Latin American author Alejo Carpentier (December 26, 1904 – April 24, 1980) used the term Magic Realism. The European literary critics, too, use this term to describe post-war German fictions. Later, the term became so popular that people failed to identify the difference between Magical Realism and Fantasy. Meanwhile, Márquez, too, became almost synonymous with Magical Realism, and his 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude became the Bible of modern fiction.

In his autobiography In Living to Tell the Tale, Márquez wrote: “Life is not what one lived, but what One remembers and how One remembers it in order to recount it.” He, in his biography, hinted that the seeds of almost all of his works were in his memory. Márquez repeatedly discovered the memories of life flowing in human minds. His brother stunned the world by announcing that Márquez was suffering from Dementia, which is not a specific disease, but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities. It was seemingly a somewhat Twist of Fate, as the great author could not write and remember anything. It was a punishment for Gabo. A couple of years later, he passed away at the age of 87. Márquez, once, spoke of a life lived in the memory of others. Two years after his demise, his son Rodrigo García did just that. García, a Colombian television and film director, screenwriter and former cinematographer, penned the book ‘A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes: A Son’s Memoir of Gabriel García Márquez and Mercedes Barcha‘.

Gabriel García Márquez

Before leaving this world, Márquez repeatedly told his son: “Memory is my tool and my raw material. I cannot work without it. Help me.” In his publication, García has narrated his parents’ final days, including his celebrated father’s struggle with the Time. When he lost his mother, Mercedes Barcha Pardo, in August 2020, García was in a different city. He could just manage to make two video calls to his mother, before she passed away. That pain has also been reflected in this work, as García wrote: “Unable to travel, I saw her alive for the last time on the cracked screen of my phone, and again five minutes later, gone forever. Two brief live videos, separated by eternity, from which my capacity for storytelling has yet to recuperate.” “I don’t think we’ll get out of this one,” Mercedes told her son Rodrigo when Márquez was suffering from Dementia. Hearing his mother’s words, Rodrigo wondered: “Is this how the end begins?” To make sense of events as they unfolded, he began to write the story of Márquez’s final days. The result is this intimate and honest account that not only contemplates his father’s mortality, but reveals his remarkable humanity. Describing his father’s death, he stated: “The sight of my father’s body entering the cremation chamber is mesmerising and numbing. It feels both impossibly pregnant and meaningless.

One can find the shadow of Márquez in García’s style of writing… Well, Márquez once told his son: “When I’m dead, do whatever you want.” Interestingly, García wrote this book in English, and not in Spanish. He mentioned in this publication that he wanted to be different from his father in all aspects. He had regrets, as his father could not visit his residence in the US, nor did he favour the English language much.

Márquez & his wife, Mercedes Barcha

In A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes, readers could find García’s emotional turmoil, along with the stories of Gabo’s final days. Somewhere, the book contains small parts of the great author’s autobiography. If readers can combine all those parts while going through the book, they shall find the real character of author García! The small scenes portrayed by the author have created some of the most impeccable parts of the memoir of his father. Some of those parts are somewhat unstable and arranged randomly, while other parts are quite stable. This way, readers could find some short stories about Márquez’s life in García’s memoir, which gradually became a part of the readers’ memory. For example, Márquez, in one gloomy evening, told his wife that he had killed the colonel. This colonel was none, other than Aureliano Buendía of One Hundred Years of Solitude. The news of the death of a character in the novel caused a great deal of grief in the author’s Mexico City residence that evening in 1966. Although he had enough material to write about at least two generations of the Buendía family, Márquez did not include them in his original novel.

García went back and forth in his Los Angeles life while writing the story of his own. Again, he was found returning to his family in Mexico. He, himself, has become more and more clear in these repeated mental ups and downs. And, the character of Márquez, too, has become clear. In other words, while looking at his father, García has slowly taken some close-up snippets, in order to create a montage of a wonderful world through the scattered and broken scenario. This memoir is rather much a narrative of the various linear movements of the author’s mind. In fact, the human mind is not linear. However, García did not follow the model of Stream of Consciousness.

The book & its author Rodrigo García

Although García wrote freely in this publication, he had a control over his self, which is because he knelt before two deaths. Many anecdotes and stories of his father also came up, as he made an attempt to see his father from a reader’s point of view. Márquez fought a battle against dementia in the last two years of his life, and during this period, he used to read his own novels, as if he was reading them for the first time. García wrote: “He eventually reread his books in his old age, and it was like reading them for the first time. Where on Earth did all this come from?

Márquez used to question his son, as he gradually realised that he lost his memory. He also asked his wife to arrange the manuscripts. Often, he asked his sons – Rodrigo and Gonzalo – to destroy some of his previous manuscripts, as he was against leaving any work unfinished. A few hours before Márquez’s death (one Thursday), a bird crashed into a wall of his residence and died. What a strange coincidence! Years ago, after the death of Úrsula (one of his favourite characters) in One Hundred Years of Solitude on a Good Thursday, confused birds flew into walls and died. In his novel, Márquez had written: “…partly because it was so hot that noon that the birds in their confusion were flying into walls like day buckshot and breaking through screens to die in the bedrooms.

A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes is basically all about memories of pain. However, García did not resort to any artificial straightforward narrative while writing this book. In a sense, his publication is also an unfinished work, because this sort of book shall never end. Gabo and Mercedes might be remembered by a person, while taking a stroll all by her/himself, on a dull day. García, too, is bound to remember many things. Actually, memory never dies… One particular memory brings countless memories from the secret chamber of Time. Many things can be interpreted anew. Many forms of silence also become sonorous, full of meaning. This book does not talk about sadness, humour and perception, but stays with readers as a friend. It is like exploring Márquez in a different manner.

Both an illuminating memoir and a heartbreaking work of reportage, A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes transforms this towering genius from literary creator to protagonist, and paints a rich and revelatory portrait of a family coping with loss. At its centre is a man at his most vulnerable, whose humour shines even as his lucidity wanes. Gabo savors affection and attention from those in his orbit, but wrestles with what he would lose, and what is already lost. Throughout his final journey is the charismatic Mercedes, his constant companion and the creative muse who was one of the foremost influences on Gabo’s life and his art. Bittersweet and insightful, surprising and powerful, A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes celebrates the formidable legacy of García’s parents, offering an unprecedented look at the private family life of a literary giant. It is at once a gift to Gabriel García Márquez’s readers worldwide, and a grand tribute from a writer who knew him well.

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