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THE FANTASTIC NOVELIST

No one will write to him any more since Gabriel García Márquez has moved to a space that he now occupies with his exemplars, Sophocles, Cervantes, Kafka, Faulkner and, of course, Borges. But what he himself wrote will continue to enrich the lives of all those who belong to that most select club in the world, the Readers Club. Any reader who encountered that unforgettable first line of One Hundred Years of Solitude (“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice”) knew immediately and almost instinctively that he was in touch with greatness. García Márquez brought magic to his craft. This is not only because he created — many would say revived and immortalized — the genre that goes by the name of magic realism but also because he was a master storyteller who conjured up tales from his own past and the past of the enchanted continent that he inhabited. Storytelling is almost embedded in the human condition — as García Márquez once memorably said, “Fiction was invented the day Jonah arrived home and told his wife that he was three days late because he had been swallowed by a whale.’’ Human beings love to tell stories and to listen to stories. García Márquez entered the wonderful world of stories and their retelling and revelled in it. His genius lay in the bond of trust that he created between himself and his readers: none of his readers bothered about the willing suspension of disbelief. He created a world that was his own but from which radiated memories, history, fairy tales, modes of narrative and above all the joys of the imaginary. The reader wandered with the writer in the labyrinth, happy to be lost in wonder.

The fantastic was an integral part of the reality that nurtured García Márquez’s literary imagination. From his grandmother he heard about omens and superstitions; from her he learnt that the extraordinary was actually a part of the ordinary and the quotidian. Thus when in his novels he recounted episodes that appeared surreal to the rational mind, his own narrative register was absolutely ordinary. He was surrounded by history that was beyond belief: a dictator who held an elaborate funeral for a leg lost in a war. Thus, his tale of a dictator who ruled for so long that no one knew what life was like before his reign had for García Márquez and his immediate readers the ring of truth. García Márquez made the unbelievable real.

It is difficult to mourn the passing of García Márquez because he brought to his readers so much joy. He has earned the solitude of death by bestowing on readers the company of his magnificent creativity.