GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ
GAVE THE WORLD MEMORABLE
LITERATURE AND EMPHATIC
By Fred LaSor and Guy Farmer
The authors, both of whom were posted by the U.S. Foreign Service to Latin America in the not-too-distant past, read with interest the National Security Forum’s recent effort to bring other voices into our discussion. Good for Carina Black and Bezita Lashkariani for answering the call and to NSF for seeking different viewpoints. If we may be so bold, we would like to offer a different take on the life and work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Both of us have read and enjoyed his fiction, although we recognize that his “magical realism” does not appeal to all tastes. We both have appreciated much of Marquez’ writing; indeed, we agree with Black and Lashkariani that he may be “the most magic novelist of the 20th century”. Emphasis on “magic”.
No matter what one thinks of Garcia-Marquez’s writing, though, he is more memorable for “political activism that embodied the lives and conflicts of nations whose dreams of independence and freedom still persevere”, in Black and Lashkariani’s words. That political activism turned a bright light on the failings of the west, notably the USA, but ignored what we would call much worse failings of the left. He was an avowed Communist and was vociferously anti-American all his life. His close friendship with the murderous Castro brothers and other Latin despots was myopic to say the least, and he held that world view long after most other fellow authors/intellectuals had turned against the repressive Castro regime. It helped that the Castro brothers provided Marquez with an enormous house in Havana, complete with servants and cars at his beck and call—he lived a life most unlike his avowed proletarian credentials.
Guy Farmer knew Peru’s Nobel laureate Mario Vargas-Llosa during his stay in Lima, and admires the Peruvian’s willingness to defend freedom and democracy in opposition to Garcia-Marquez and other Latin leftists. No discussion of Latin American literature is complete without recognizing this countervailing viewpoint, which is certainly less well remarked in any view of Latin American writing.
Given Garcia-Marquez’s aggressive and virulent anti-Americanism, he had only himself to blame for “closing the gates to the magical land of opportunities”. Yes, he was denied entry into the USA for his political views. We certainly have no obligation to issue a visa to someone who hates us as aggressively as he did. And we have to wonder what benefit would have come of a visit starting with such a closed mind.
We found Black and Lashkariani’s call for a better dialogue between nations, “. . . because neither governments nor politicians ought to be given the sole power over our collective destinies”……particularly ironic. In comparing the governments Marquez supported and those he condemned for “western imperialism,” the latter more closely approach the ideal our commentators esteem. One would hardly expect Fidel Castro, for example, to abjure “sole power over” the destinies of the Cuban people. It’s facile to hate America and our reputed “imperialism.” Living for extended periods, as the two of us have, in countries that knew at first hand real imperialism — either as ruler or subject — we can’t give the term much credence when applied to the USA.
We have witnessed “up close and personal” the ravages of that dying political philosophy Marquez espoused, including serving in Peru during the last gasps of the infamous Sendero Luminoso. We have been stationed in Laos, Tanzania, and Dahomey (now Benin), as well as Latin American countries where parties following Marquez’ clarion call have attempted to establish Marxist dictatorships. The result has universally been economic failure and growing oppression.
“We, the people, have everything to lose when dissenting voices are silenced within or beyond our borders,” the article concludes. Would that Gabriel Garcia Marquez had reached this conclusion in his lifetime.
Fred LaSor served in the U.S. Foreign Service from 1968 to 1997, mostly in Africa, with bookend tours in Laos and Peru.Guy Farmer was a career USIA officer specializing in public diplomacy, with multiple assignments in South America and the Caribbean, including Grenada during the invasion.