[Paleopsych] The Modern World: Garcia Marquez - Nobel Prize

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Garcia Marquez - Nobel Prize

                                 Nobel Prize

                        The Solitude of Latin America

                            Gabriel García Márquez
                     Nobel Prize Lecture, 8 December 1982

             (A somewhat flawed Spanish version exists [26]here.)

    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 had 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.
    [cleardot.GIF] This short and fascinating book, which even then
    contained the seeds of our present-day novels, is by no means the most
    staggering account of our reality in that age. The Chronicles of the
    Indies left us countless others. Eldorado, our so avidly sought and
    illusory land, appeared on numerous maps for many a long year,
    shifting its place and form to suit the fantasy of cartographers. In
    his search for the fountain of eternal youth, the mythical Alvar Núñez
    Cabeza de Vaca explored the north of Mexico for eight years, in a
    deluded expedition whose members devoured each other and only five of
    whom returned, of the six hundred who had undertaken it. One of the
    many unfathomed mysteries of that age is that of the eleven thousand
    mules, each loaded with one hundred pounds of gold, that left Cuzco
    one day to pay the ransom of Atahualpa and never reached their
    destination. Subsequently, in colonial times, hens were sold in
    Cartagena de Indias, that had been raised on alluvial land and whose
    gizzards contained tiny lumps of gold. One founder's lust for gold
    beset us until recently. As late as the last century, a German mission
    appointed to study the construction of an interoceanic railroad across
    the Isthmus of Panama concluded that the project was feasible on one
    condition: that the rails not be made of iron, which was scarce in the
    region, but of gold.
    [cleardot.GIF] Our independence from Spanish domination did not put us
    beyond the reach of madness. General Antonio López de Santana, three
    times dictator of Mexico, held a magnificent funeral for the right leg
    he had lost in the so-called Pastry War. General Gabriel García Moreno
    ruled Ecuador for sixteen years as an absolute monarch; at his wake,
    the corpse was seated on the presidential chair, decked out in
    full-dress uniform and a protective layer of medals. General
    Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, the theosophical despot of El Salvador
    who had thirty thousand peasants slaughtered in a savage massacre,
    invented a pendulum to detect poison in his food, and had streetlamps
    draped in red paper to defeat an epidemic of scarlet fever. The statue
    to General Francisco Moraz´n erected in the main square of Tegucigalpa
    is actually one of Marshal Ney, purchased at a Paris warehouse of
    second-hand sculptures.
    [cleardot.GIF] Eleven years ago, the Chilean Pablo Neruda, one of the
    outstanding poets of our time, enlightened this audience with his
    word. Since then, the Europeans of good will -- and sometimes those of
    bad, as well -- have been struck, with ever greater force, by the
    unearthly tidings of Latin America, that boundless realm of haunted
    men and historic women, whose unending obstinacy blurs into legend. We
    have not had a moment's rest. A promethean president, entrenched in
    his burning palace, died fighting an entire army, alone; and two
    suspicious airplane accidents, yet to be explained, cut short the life
    of another great-hearted president and that of a democratic soldier
    who had revived the dignity of his people. There have been five wars
    and seventeen military coups; there emerged a diabolic dictator who is
    carrying out, in God's name, the first Latin American ethnocide of our
    time. In the meantime, twenty million Latin American children died
    before the age of one -- more than have been born in Europe since
    1970. Those missing because of repression number nearly one hundred
    and twenty thousand, which is as if no one could account for all the
    inhabitants of Uppsala. Numerous women arrested while pregnant have
    given birth in Argentine prisons, yet nobody knows the whereabouts and
    identity of their children who were furtively adopted or sent to an
    orphanage by order of the military authorities. Because they tried to
    change this state of things, nearly two hundred thousand men and women
    have died throughout the continent, and over one hundred thousand have
    lost their lives in three small and ill-fated countries of Central
    America: Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. If this had happened in
    the United States, the corresponding figure would be that of one
    million six hundred thousand violent deaths in four years.
    [cleardot.GIF] One million people have fled Chile, a country with a
    tradition of hospitality -- that is, ten per cent of its population.
    Uruguay, a tiny nation of two and a half million inhabitants which
    considered itself the continent's most civilized country, has lost to
    exile one out of every five citizens. Since 1979, the civil war in El
    Salvador has produced almost one refugee every twenty minutes. The
    country that could be formed of all the exiles and forced emigrants of
    Latin America would have a population larger than that of Norway.
    [cleardot.GIF] I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and
    not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of
    the Swedish Academy of Letters. A reality not of paper, but one that
    lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily
    deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of
    sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but
    one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians
    and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled
    reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial
    problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives
    believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.
    [cleardot.GIF] And if these difficulties, whose essence we share,
    hinder us, it is understandable that the rational talents on this side
    of the world, exalted in the contemplation of their own cultures,
    should have found themselves without valid means to interpret us. It
    is only natural that they insist on measuring us with the yardstick
    that they use for themselves, forgetting that the ravages of life are
    not the same for all, and that the quest of our own identity is just
    as arduous and bloody for us as it was for them. The interpretation of
    our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever
    more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary. Venerable Europe
    would perhaps be more perceptive if it tried to see us in its own
    past. If only it recalled that London took three hundred years to
    build its first city wall, and three hundred years more to acquire a
    bishop; that Rome labored in a gloom of uncertainty for twenty
    centuries, until an Etruscan King anchored it in history; and that the
    peaceful Swiss of today, who feast us with their mild cheeses and
    apathetic watches, bloodied Europe as soldiers of fortune, as late as
    the Sixteenth Century. Even at the height of the Renaissance, twelve
    thousand lansquenets in the pay of the imperial armies sacked and
    devastated Rome and put eight thousand of its inhabitants to the
    [cleardot.GIF] I do not mean to embody the illusions of Tonio Kröger,
    whose dreams of uniting a chaste north to a passionate south were
    exalted here, fifty-three years ago, by Thomas Mann. But I do believe
    that those clear-sighted Europeans who struggle, here as well, for a
    more just and humane homeland, could help us far better if they
    reconsidered their way of seeing us. 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
    [cleardot.GIF] 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.
    [cleardot.GIF] In spite of this, to oppression, plundering and
    abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines
    nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century,
    have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death.
    An advantage that grows and quickens: every year, there are
    seventy-four million more births than deaths, a sufficient number of
    new lives to multiply, each year, the population of New York
    sevenfold. Most of these births occur in the countries of least
    resources -- including, of course, those of Latin America. Conversely,
    the most prosperous countries have succeeded in accumulating powers of
    destruction such as to annihilate, a hundred times over, not only all
    the human beings that have existed to this day, but also the totality
    of all living beings that have ever drawn breath on this planet of
    [cleardot.GIF] On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said,
    "I decline to accept the end of man." I would fall unworthy of
    standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that
    the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is
    now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more
    than a simple scientific possiblity. Faced with this awesome reality
    that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the
    inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to
    believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the
    opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will
    be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true
    and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one
    hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second
    opportunity on earth.

    Official Press Release

    Swedish Academy of Letters
    The Permanent Secretary

    Press Release: The Nobel Prize for Literature 1982

    Gabriel García Márquez

    [cleardot.GIF] With this year's Nobel Prize in Literature to the
    Colombian writer, Gabriel García Márquez, the Swedish Academy cannot
    be said to bring forward an unknown writer.
    [cleardot.GIF] García Márquez achieved unusual international success
    as a writer with his novel in 1967 (One Hundred Years of Solitude).
    The novel has been translated into a large number of languages and has
    sold millions of copies. It is still being reprinted and read with
    undiminished interest by new readers. Such a success with a single
    book could be fatal for a writer with less resources than those
    possessed by García Márquez. He has, however, gradually confirmed his
    position as a rare storyteller, richly endowed with a material from
    imagination and experience which seems inexhaustible. In breadth and
    epic richness, for instance, the novel, El ontoño del patriarca, 1975,
    (The Autumn of the Patriarch) compares favourably with the
    first-mentioned work. Short novels such as El coronel no tiene quien
    le escriba, 1961 (No One Writes to the Colonel ), La mala hora, 1962
    (In Evil Hour ), or last year's Crónica de una muerte anunciada
    (Chronicle of a Death Foretold), complement the picture of a writer
    who combines the copious, almost overwhelming narrative talent with
    the mastery of the conscious, disciplined and widely read artist of
    language. A large number of short stories, published in several
    collections or in magazines, give further proof of the great
    versatility of García Márquez's narrative gift. His international
    successes have continued. Each new work of his is received by
    expectant critics and readers as an event of world importance,
    translated into many languages and published as quickly as possible in
    large editions.
    [cleardot.GIF] Nor can it be said that any unknown literary continent
    or province is brought to light with the prize to Gabriel García
    Márquez. For a long time, Latin American literature has shown a vigour
    as in few other literary spheres, having won acclaim in the cultural
    life of today. Many impulses and traditions cross each other. Folk
    culture, including oral storytelling, reminiscences from old Indian
    culture, currents from Spanish baroque in different epochs, influences
    from European surrealism and other modernism are blended into a spiced
    and life-giving brew from which García Márquez and other
    Spanish-American writers derive material and inspiration. The violent
    conflicts of a political nature -- social and economic -- raise the
    temperature of the intellectual climate. Like most of the other
    important writers in the Latin American world, García Márquez is
    strongly committed, politically, on the side of the poor and the weak
    against domestic oppression and foreign economic exploitation. Apart
    from his fictional production, he has been very active as a
    journalist, his writings being many-sided, inventive, often,
    provocative, and by no means limited to political subjects.
    [cleardot.GIF] The great novels remind one of William Faulkner. García
    Márquez has created a world of his own around the imaginary town of
    Macondo. Since the end of the 1940s his novels and short stories have
    led us into this peculiar place where the miraculous and the real
    converge -- the extravagant flight of his own fantasy, traditional
    folk tales and facts, literary allusions, tangible, at times,
    obtrusively graphic, descriptions approaching the matter-of-factness
    of reportage. As with Faulkner, or why not Balzac, the same chief
    characters and minor persons crop up in different stories, brought
    forward into the light in various ways -- sometimes in dramatically
    revealing situations, sometimes in comic and grotesque complications
    of a kind that only the wildest imagination or shameless reality
    itself can achieve. Manias and passions harass them. Absurdities of
    war let courage change shape with craziness, infamy with chivalry,
    cunning with madness. Death is perhaps the most important director
    behind the scenes in García Márquez's invented and discovered world.
    Often his stories revolve around a dead person -- someone who has
    died, is dying or will die. A tragic sense of life characterizes
    García Márquez's books -- a sense of the incorruptible superiority of
    fate and the inhuman, inexorable ravages of history. But this
    awareness of death and tragic sense of life is broken by the
    narrative's apparently unlimited, ingenious vitality which, in its
    turn, is a representative of the at once frightening and edifying
    vital force of reality and life itself. The comedy and grotesqueness
    in García Márquez can be cruel, but can also glide over into a
    conciliating humour.
    [cleardot.GIF] With his stories, Gabriel García Márquez has created a
    world of his own which is a microcosmos. In its tumultuous,
    bewildering, yet, graphically convincing authenticity, it reflects a
    continent and its human riches and poverty.
    [cleardot.GIF] Perhaps more than that: a cosmos in which the human
    heart and the combined forces of history, time and again, burst the
    bounds of chaos -- killing and procreation.
    A Special Thank You:
    [cleardot.GIF] To the Nobel Foundation, for providing the text of the
    speech and the press release. Both are copyrighted by the Nobel
    Foundation, 1997 & 1999.

    --Allen B. Ruch
    2 June 2003

    [27]His fervour for the written word was an interweaving of solemn
    respect and gossipy irreverence -- Send email to the Great Quail --
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   26. http://www.lehigh.edu/~jcf2/gabo.html
   27. mailto:quail at libyrinth.com
   28. http://themodernword.com/spiral-bound.html

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