Stranger Than Fiction

From Gabriel García Márquez’ Nobel Prize lecture:

Antonio Pigafetta, a Florentine navigator who went with Magellan on the first voyage around the world, wrote, upon his passage through our southern lands of America, a strictly accurate account that nonetheless resembles a venture into fantasy. In it he recorded that he has seen hogs with navels on their haunches, clawless birds whose hens laid eggs on the backs of their mates, and others still, resembling tongueless pelicans, with beaks like spoons. He wrote of having seen a misbegotten creature with the head and ears of a mule, a camel’s body, the legs of a deer and the whinny of a horse. He described how the first native encountered in Patagonia was confronted with a mirror, whereupon that impassioned giant lost his senses to the terror of his own image.

One thing I’ve learned while reading about GGM is that everything he writes is true. He claims that every single element in his novels and stories comes directly from life, especially life on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. He is as much a journalist as a novelist, and has observed and collected all sorts of strange and unusual anecdotes, in much the same way as Thomas Hardy did. His juxtapositions and exaggerations make his stories seem unbelievable, but ultimately they are based on strange-but-true events. He would probably even deny that these events were strange, but that they are simply part of the fabric of ordinary life in Colombia. The difficulty for non-Latino readers is that what is ordinary in Latin America would be extraordinary anywhere else.

The book that the Slaves of Golconda are about to read, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, is no exception to this. It is based on the true story of a childhood friend, Cayetano Gentile, who was murdered by the brothers of a schoolteacher who married a woman who turned out not to be a virgin and named Gentile as her seducer. Even the method of death and Gentile’s last words are reproduced exactly in the book. I look forward to finding out if Gabo can make fiction even stranger than truth.

Visit Macondo for more on Gabo’s life and works.

And for musical accompaniment, check out this CD by Rubén Blades inspired by the short stories of Gabriel García Márquez.

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