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WaPo: Gabriel García Márquez was a gifted writer but no hero

Charles Lane in the Washington Post:

Gabriel García Márquez was a gifted writer but no hero

Statesmen eulogized Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez, who died at age 87 on April 17. “The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers — and one of my favorites from the time I was young,” President Obama said; he called the author of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” “a representative and voice for the people of the Americas.” Juan Manuel Santos, president of García Márquez’s native country, hailed him as “the greatest Colombian of all time.”

The obituary of García Márquez that I would most like to read will never be written. That is because its author would have been the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla — who passed away 14 years ago. No one was better qualified to assess the weird blend of literary brilliance and political rottenness that characterized García Márquez’s long career.

In 1968, just as “One Hundred Years of Solitude” was propelling García Márquez to fame, Padilla published a collection of poems titled “Out of the Game.” Cuba’s cultural authorities initially permitted and even praised Padilla’s book, despite its between-the-lines protest against the official thought control that was already suffocating Cuba less than a decade after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-MkaU9oTzzWM/U1BWyzc903I/AAAAAAAAjyM/hJLz-AbIwqw/s1600/Muri%25C3%25B3+Gabriel+Garc%25C3%25ADa+M%25C3%25A1rquez.+Adi%25C3%25B3s+Gabo-1-.jpgThen instructions changed: The Castro regime began a campaign against Padilla and like-minded intellectuals that culminated in March 1971, when state security agents arrested Padilla, seized his manuscripts and subjected him to a month of brutal interrogation.

The poet emerged to denounce himself before fellow writers for having “been unfair and ungrateful to Fidel, for which I will never tire of repenting.” He implicated colleagues and even his wife as counterrevolutionaries.

Intellectuals around the world, led by García Márquez’s fellow star of the Latin American literary “boom,” Mario Vargas Llosa, condemned this Stalinesque spectacle. Many cultural figures who had backed the Cuban revolution soured on it because of the Padilla affair.

For García Márquez, however, it was a different kind of turning point. When asked to sign his fellow writers’ open letter to Castro expressing “shame and anger” about the treatment of Padilla, García Márquez refused.

Thereafter, the Colombian gradually rose in Havana’s estimation, ultimately emerging as a de facto member of Castro’s inner circle.

Fidel would shower “Gabo” with perks, including a mansion, and established a film institute in Cuba under García Márquez’s personal direction.

The novelist, in turn, lent his celebrity and eloquence to the regime’s propaganda mill, describing the Cuban dictator in 1990 as a “man of austere habits and insatiable dreams, with an old-fashioned formal education, careful words and fine manners, and incapable of conceiving any idea that isn’t extraordinary.”

To rationalize this cozy relationship, García Márquez offered himself as an ostensible go-between when Castro occasionally released dissidents to appease the West.

What Gabo never did was raise his voice, or lift a finger, on behalf of Cubans’ right to express themselves freely in the first place.

Far from being “a representative and voice for the people of the Americas,” he served as a de facto spokesman for one of their oppressors.

Continue reading HERE.

10 comments to WaPo: Gabriel García Márquez was a gifted writer but no hero

  • asombra

    Well, this is refreshing, not to mention atypical. It's true that Gabo's hypocrisy was too big and obvious to miss, but so was Mandela's, and practically nobody dared to acknowledge it. Of course, Mandela was a bigger sacred cow, pretty much sacrosanct, and much riskier to criticize. Still, I'm impressed Lane brought out the Padilla angle, which shows he's done some homework. However, as usual, the usual suspects will not be moved, because they're not interested in the actual truth, but in what suits their agenda and tickles their fancy. If they were OK with GGM for lo these many years, they're not going to switch gears now.

  • asombra

    GGM the greatest Colombian ever? I've always found Santos dubious, but now there's no doubt. Even if he actually believes that, what does that say about Colombians? Lord have mercy. Is there no end to Latrine noxiousness? And no, Santos did NOT have to say that; he could have said the greatest Colombian writer ever, and he would have been covered.

  • asombra

    Vargas Llosa, btw, was initially pro-Castro, but had the decency to change his mind. He and Gabo were once friends, but that seems to have ended when Vargas Llosa floored Gabo with a punch in a Mexican hotel lobby, for reasons which remain unclear (possibly because they're too personal). Some have speculated that Vargas Llosa was having marital troubles at the time and Gabo tried to make a move on the wife.

  • asombra

    It's not a writer's duty to be a hero, btw, but neither a writer nor anyone else should be a hypocritical SOB.

  • Gallardo

    Santos, a.k.a Chucky, is a wavering idiot if not a traitor to his own party and voters. His presidency has been a big disappointment.

    Indeed, if that is the "greatest Colombian ever" then Colombia sure leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. After all, what did Garcia Marquez do for Colombia? Nothing.

  • Rayarena

    I hope that Carlos Alberto Montaner who has depleted whatever respect I had for him with his ever growing wishy washy spineless brown nosing has read this article. First, when Mandala died, he praised the former terrorist and justified his unapologetic, pro-castroism even when point-blank asked by the interviewer what he thought of Mandala's friendship with castro. I.E. how can a "freedom fighter" be friends with castro?" Montaner skirted the question and defended Mandala. Now, he again defends a pro-castroite by praising how Garcia-Marques used to help liberate political prisoners in Cuba. Little does it matter that he gave castro a patina of legitimacy and respectability that was far more harmful than whatever good his intercession on behalf of Cuban political prisoners might have been.

  • asombra

    Montaner has issues, one of which is an apparent fear of being lumped with "those people," the poor unsophisticated "hysterical" exiles, as opposed to European-style "intellectuals." Maybe he really thinks this will give him more traction to help Cuba, but I doubt it's quite that innocent or noble. All he winds up doing, at best, is looking like an embarrassing fashion victim, raising the suspicion that he may be "un hombre sin decoro," something abhorred by Martí. It is not OK to disgrace yourself to curry favor with those who can't tolerate Cubans with uncompromising dignity. If nothing else, even if the usual suspects condescend to "accept" you, they still won't respect you--and frankly, you don't deserve the respect.

    Putting would-be sophistication over decorum is an extremely bad sign, and Montaner is definitely on my dubious list. He strikes me as too much of a politician, though I think his political aspirations are unrealistic, not to say delusional. However, they're still bound to affect his MO, and evidently they do--he's eminently "pragmatic" and also very careful to "soothe" potential future voters in Cuba, who are unfortunately part of the problem. Politics, of course, is a nasty and highly compromised business, but we don't need any more dubious Cubans--there have been far too many already, which is the main reason Cuba was ruined.

  • Rayarena

    Asombra, I think that you got Montaner's number! I agree with your take on him. By the way, let me add for whatever its worth, his brother is [or was, I don't know if he served his time] in jail for medicaid fraud and his former son-in-law is Jorge Ramos. Montaner who is insufferably arrogant is the great nephew of Rita Montaner who was one of the greatest singers in Cuba's history, but Carlos Alberto, I've heard, is a bit ashamed of that fact and likes to keep it hush because well, you know...

  • Luis3939

    I love this blog/website. You guys have all the deep info that nobody knows, or maybe they do, but don't want to talk about. Keep up the good work! and keep it coming.

  • asombra

    Rita Montaner was a big star in her day, a kind of Cuban Lena Horne, but she had major "diva" issues (totally unlike Celia Cruz). I didn't know she was related to CAM, but I'd heard something about the Jorge Ramos connection. In any case, CAM remains dubious--don't forget the position he took when Pablo Milanés came to to sing in Miami and insult every self-respecting exile in the city. In other words, there's a pattern of the same sort of behavior, and I'm sure it's not coincidental. The implications are too negative for me to be able to consider him without significant reservations.