Solidarity with our dreams will not make us feel less alone, as long as it is not translated into concrete acts of legitimate support for all the peoples that assume the illusion of having a life of their own in the distribution of the world.
Latin America neither wants, nor has any reason, to be a pawn without a will of its own; nor is it merely wishful thinking that its quest for independence and originality should become a Western aspiration. However, the navigational advances that have narrowed such distances between our Americas and Europe seem, conversely, to have accentuated our cultural remoteness. Why is the originality so readily granted us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change? Why think that the social justice sought by progressive Europeans for their own countries cannot also be a goal for Latin America, with different methods for dissimilar conditions? No: the immeasurable violence and pain of our history are the result of age-old inequities and untold bitterness, and not a conspiracy plotted three thousand leagues from our home. But many European leaders and thinkers have thought so, with the childishness of old-timers who have forgotten the fruitful excess of their youth as if it were impossible to find another destiny than to live at the mercy of the two great masters of the world. This, my friends, is the very scale of our solitude.
– Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dec. 8, 1982
When I became a professional writer the biggest problem I had was my schedule. Being a journalist meant working at night. When I started writing full-time I was forty years old, my schedule was basically from nine o’clock in the morning until two in the afternoon when my sons came back from school. Since I was so used to hard work, I felt guilty that I was only working in the morning; so I tried to work in the afternoons, but I discovered that what I did in the afternoon had to be done over again the next morning. So I decided that I would just work from nine until two-thirty and not do anything else. In the afternoons I have appointments and interviews and anything else that might come up. I have another problem in that I can only work in surroundings that are familiar and have already been warmed up with my work. I cannot write in hotels or borrowed rooms or on borrowed typewriters. This creates problems because when I travel I can’t work. Of course, you’re always trying to find a pretext to work less. That’s why the conditions you impose on yourself are more difficult all the time. You hope for inspiration whatever the circumstances. That’s a word the romantics exploited a lot. My Marxist comrades have a lot of difficulty accepting the word, but whatever you call it, I’m convinced that there is a special state of mind in which you can write with great ease and things just flow. All the pretexts—such as the one where you can only write at home—disappear. That moment and that state of mind seem to come when you have found the right theme and the right ways of treating it. And it has to be something you really like, too, because there is no worse job than doing something you don’t like.
– Interview with Paris Review, published Winter 1981
The letters I find most interesting are from people who ask me where I got this theme or that passage or such and such a character. Because they feel it is about something or someone they know. They will say: So and so is just like my aunt. Or: I have an uncle just like him. And: that episode happened exactly like that in my village. How did you know about it? People from all over Latin America wrote such things, especially after ”One Hundred Years of Solitude.” They felt it was part of their lives.
– Interview with The New York Times, published April 10, 1988
If I were to choose a country which had politics that I like, I would not live anywhere.
– Interview with The Atlantic, published Jan. 1, 1973
The Cafe de la Parroquia could be in Cartagena perfectly well. The fact that it isn’t is purely incidental, because al1 the conditions exist in Cartagena for it to be there. As a matter of fact, the very same Cafe de la Parroquia of Veracruz would be in Cartagena if the Spaniard who built it had immigrated to Cartagena instead of to Veracruz. It’s just a matter of chance, the way it is was for my wife’s grandfather, who was an Egyptian who left for New York and ended up in Magangue. Well, that was quite a case of the poetization of space–a bit of an exaggerated one. Cartagena still needs a cafe 1ike the Cafe de la Parroquia in Veracruz, so I took the one from Veracruz, which I needed in Cartagena for my novel.
When I’m in Cartagena I sometimes suddenly feel the desire to go to a place like the Cafe de la Parroquia in Veracruz. I have to go to the bars in hotels and places like that, and I feel something is missing. How marvelous to have the freedom to be a writer who says, “Well, I’m going to put the Cafe de la Parroquia where I want it to be” Every day I’m writing I say to myself how marvelous it is to invent life, which is what you do, although within the bounds of some very strict laws because characters don’t die when you want them to, nor are they born when you want.
– Interview conducted by Raymond Leslie Williams, University of Colorado-Boulder, 1987.
According to my mother’s version, the two of them met at a wake for a child. She was singing in the courtyard with her friends, following the popular custom of singing love songs to pass the time through the nine nights of mourning for innocents. Out of nowhere, a man’s voice joined the choir. All the girls turned to look at the man who was singing and were stunned by his good looks. “He is the one we’re going to marry,” they chanted, and clapped their hands in unison. He did not, however, impress my mother. “He was,” she said, “just another stranger.” And he was. His name was Gabriel Eligio Garcia, and after having abandoned his medical and pharmaceutical studies in Cartagena de Indias, owing to a lack of funds, he’d found work in some of the nearby towns in the more mundane profession of telegraph operator. A photograph from that time shows him distinguished by the equivocal bearing of impoverished gentility. He wore a suit of dark taffeta, with a four-button jacket, very close-fitting, in the style of the day, and a high, stiff collar, wide tie, and flat-brimmed straw hat. He also wore fashionable round spectacles with thin wire frames. He had a reputation as a hard-living, womanizing bohemian, but he never had a cigarette or a glass of alcohol in his long life.
– From “Serenade,” as published in The New Yorker, February 2001.
In reality, I don’t know anyone who, on a certain level, does not feel alone. This is the meaning of loneliness that interests me. I’m afraid that it may be metaphysical and that it may be reactionary and that it might look like the opposite of what I am, of what I want to be in reality, but I think that man is completely alone. I think it’s an essential part of nature.
[Top image via CBC.ca]