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Mainstream, VOL LII No 19; May 3, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Magic Realism, Castro and Socialism

Monday 5 May 2014


by Vivek Kumar Srivastava

Gabriel Garcia is dead. With him died a writer who remained nostalgic throughout his life for his parent county, Columbia, where he was born on March 6, 1928 at Aracataca; with him also died parts of a glorious friendship between two Greats. His departure saddens one but he will never evaporate due to the emotional experiences and many memories his readers have accumulated while travelling through his great writings.

One Hundred Years of Solitude brought him more fame than to any other writer during the Cold War days except Boris Pasternak, author of Doctor Zhivago. One Hundred Years of Solitude is pure in language but complex in characterisation yet it produces a mesmerising effect. This was his masterpiece and established him as a great author. After its publication in June 1967, the novel influenced the readers for its eloquence of speech and a life in a fossilised village Macando which changed with the passage of time; albeit the most influential instrument was his use of magical realism, which appeared in later years so impactful that Garcia became synonymous with the master craftsman of this technique.

 He developed this technique in an independent manner. ”Representation of historical conflict is central to magic realist prose (and) the unusual juxtaposition of objects throws traditional descriptive systems into disarray, and the boundaries of an assumed ‘real’ are stretched until levels of reality obeying different ontological laws coexist metonymically.”1

He deciphered this particular but true nature of magic realism and metamorphosed it in his own way. Garcia was nurtured in this art since his childhood, the days he spent with his grandparents and the village where he had played and seen the days and nights alternating in a monotonous way; childhood remembrances visited continuously and the stream of consciousness of Garcia was a kind of reflection of Wordsworth’s ‘Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’.

He once remarked that “the tone that I eventually used in One Hundred Years of Solitude was based on the way my grandmother used to tell stories. She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, (and) I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face.’’2 Magic realism, Garcia later accepted, was to be used with the help of journalistic writing. He has opined that the ‘’tricks you need to transform something which appears fantastic, unbelievable into something plausible, credible, those I learned from journalism, The key is to tell it straight. It is done by reporters and by country folk.’’3

There are many components of his writing personality. Magic realism was supported by his ideas about socialism. He had widely travelled in Eastern European countries during the Cold War age, he was naturally attracted towards Cuban socialism. The USSR was impotent but Fidel Castro, with his charming personality and symbol of the socialistic movement, in his own way influenced him more. In the following years both became so close friends that “Gabriel Garcia Marquez will not publish a book without first showing Fidel Castro his manuscript. Mr Castro calls Mr Garcia Marquez his one true friend“4 and “the relationship between Castro and Gabo is so human that ‘a theory of friendship must be considered’.”5

This relationship started in January 1959 when Garcia with his friend Mendoza had visited Cuba. “They had been fascinated by the triumph of the people, the charisma of their leader.”6 Garcia was associated with Cuban developments through two structures, by Prensa Latina, a news agency with focus on Cuba, and Accion Liberal, a tri-monthly. This association was shaped by his inclination towards Cuba, its revolution and the leader, Castro. In this association Mendoza, his friend, was a key associate. This love for Cuba was influenced in some way by his attraction towards socialism. In his school days at Zipaquira he developed some thoughts about these ideologies
which matured in a gradual manner and he “had some sort of temporary affiliation with the Communist Party of Columbia but he remained an independent Leftist, a Marxist of his own kind.“7

He looked at socialism from a wider perspective, When Cuba was under blockade he believed that there had been “a clash between an anti-consumer society and the most consumption-oriented society in the world”.8 These ideological stands are expressed in his works. He has explained in more clear terms that “many people believe that I’m a writer of fantastic fiction, when actually I’m a very realistic person and write what I believe is the true socialist realism.”9 This reflected his concern for his own continent. “Latin America was born out of the destruction of an original world. And on its levelled rubble the Spanish colonialists built a new world, a utopia that existed only in their imperial imagination.”10

Thus there is blending of magical realism with his peculiar understanding of ideologies. “Marquez’s ‘magical realism’ embraces the reality of Latin American experience—the military dictatorships, the parody of moderni-sation that takes the form of McDonald’s and baseball, the brutal repression of protest“11 and using all these mental orientations, he produces the master pieces and for him this blending is important as “literature is nothing but carpentry.”12

He will be remembered as a great writer, a man who struggled for Latin American people by his words, a lover of Cuba. He taught that real world had magical impressions. He was a socialist realist and analysed one of the greatest crisis of the world that, everything is good if it is a commodity, his comment underlines this reality that “I would have liked for my books to have been recognised posthumously, at least in capitalist countries, where you turn into a kind of merchandise”.13

A great salute to a man who made the world more pleasurable by his words. His eternal sayings are now part of eternity.


1. Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, http://english.columbia.edu

2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Macando,http://www.themodernword.com

3. Marlise Simons, A Talk With Gabriel Garcia Marquez, December 5, 1982, www.nytimes.com

4. ‘Fidel Castro and Gabriel García Márquez: Buddy, buddies’, The Economist, February 12, 2004.

5. ‘Ángel Esteban, Stéphanie Panichelli, Fidel and Gabo: A Portrait of the Legendary Friendship Between Fidel Castro and Gabriel García Márquez’, OpenRoad Media, October 2011.

6. Ibid.

7. Gene H Bell—Villada, Garcia Marquez: The Man and His Work, University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

8. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ’The Art of Fiction’, Interview by Peter H. Stone, The Paris Review, No. 69, http://www.theparisreview

9. Ibid.

10. Mike Gonzalez, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ (Book Review), Socialist Review, December 2012

11. Ibid.

12. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ‘The Art of Fiction’, Interview by Peter H. Stone, The Paris Review, No. 69, http://www.theparisreview

13. Ibid.

Dr Vivek Kumar Srivastava is the Vice Chairman, CSSP, Kanpur. He can be contacted at: vpy1000@yahoo.co.in