Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in Columbia in 1927 and passed away just last year, on the 17th of April (2014). He was one of the most significant and inspiring Latin American authors of the 20th century, and was even awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. I finally got around to reading his autobiography Vivir Para Contarla (or in English, Living to Tell the Tale). It goes without saying, the man had a way with words…
His autobiography tells a lot not only about his upbringing, his family, and his friends… but also a lot about his way of looking at life — admitting that there is a fine line between fact and fiction, as “life is not what you live, but what you remember and how you remember it.” In other words, life is just a story we tell ourselves, and our memories are often altered by figments of our imagination.
Nonetheless, what strikes me most about his life as a writer is how deeply he was influenced by his thirst for books, and his well-read friends. They discussed authors, they discussed literature, they lived to talk about story-telling, and they were constantly striving to acquire more books they could share amongst themselves. Mr. Garcia Marquez indeed kept excellent company, in this sense. He even read the dictionary! … a gift from his grandfather — a man who loved words and loved learning about them — Garcia Marquez admits he read this dictionary as one reads a novel: in alphabetical order and barely understanding any of it. The man was a lover of words and stories in any shape or form: novels, news articles, tales among friends, movies … life. He claimed he knew he would be a writer even before learning how to write! He knew because of this irresistible urge to write so as not to die.
Garcia Marquez did not live a life of privilege. He was often destitute and broke, barely getting by with his ease for making new acquaintances despite his shyness (such as police officers who once found him sleeping on a park bench), or simply due to his friends’ kindness. Even when he was making some money, he was so immersed in his work that his only concern with it was making sure to send financial aid to his large family so as ensure they could make ends meet. He lived to party, to sing, to write, to read, to soak up as much of his surroundings as possible… the good, the bad, the painful, the beautiful, the ugly, and the devastating.
I was struck by his words, “The terror of writing can be as unbearable as that of not writing.” The need to write is strong… the fear of it being worthless is strong, too. Yet every story that demands to be told will take whatever form it may need… but in the end, it must make its way into the light. Fortunately, Garcia Marquez’s works live on despite his passing… and through his memoirs, he encourages us to live, so that one day we too can tell our tales.