By Shilpa Raina
Former Indian prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, a polyglot, once told interlocutors he had read many works of Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the original Spanish and was an ardent fan of his storytelling. He wasn’t the only one. Many Indians fondly remember the Colombian literary luminary who introduced “magic realism” into literature and was a gifted writer who showcased local paradigms in a universal language.
It was in the late 1950s that novelist, short-story writer and journalist Marquez introduced “magic realism” – a genre where magical elements naturally occur in an otherwise realistic world with the characters accepting it as a normal part of life – into the Latin American literature with his ever-popular “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.
“He would write on different subjects with great expertise. He was an independent, liberal and a bohemian writer who will be revered for his literary genius,” Deepak Bhojwani, a former Indian ambassador to Colombia, told IANS.
“He will be mourned in India as much as in other countries,” he added.
“His ability to use local paradigms and put them in a universal perspective in such a manner that people would relate to these local situations, sitting in their own homes thousand miles away, was incredible,” S.P.Ganguly, former professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told IANS.
“He was the pioneer of a group of writers in late 1950s who had introduced ‘boom’ literature in Latin America. It was a new concept of writing where he juxtaposed conceptual reality with circumstantial reality,” he added.
Affectionately known as Gabo to many, the literary luminary died Thursday in the Mexico City. He was 87.
Recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1982 for his novels and short stories, Marquez leaves behind a legacy of monumental works in both fiction and non-fiction and was definitely a multi-dimensional personality.
“He was truly one of the greatest writers of the last century who continued with the great tradition of writing both fiction and non-fiction. He had this ability of writing fiction based on facts. So, he had the eye and talent of a fiction writer, and his journalistic experience had given him an active sense of the world,” diplomat and author Navtej Sarna told IANS.
“He had also played an active role in Colombian politics, and was a man of letters in his own way,” added Sarna.
Author of many short stories and acclaimed writings like “Autumn of the Patriarch” and “Love in the Time of Cholera”, Gabo played an active role in negotiations between guerrillas and the Colombian government, was friendly with the Cuban ruler Fidel Castro, and had longest feud with fellow writer, the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa.
It was the idea of magical realism that made Marquez’s writings even more attractive to people all over the globe. But the juxtaposition of history and fiction is what has made him an inter-disciplinary author to be read and taught in various universities around the world, with India being one of them.
“His writings can be taught in the department of history, literature and even psychology. His works bring this inter-disciplinary approach that make him a favorite author to be read in various departments,” said Ganguly.
According to Ganguly, other than “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, not many of his works have been translated in Indian languages. But most of his short stories have reached out to many Indians as they have been translated in Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Malayalam and Bengali.
“His revolutionary expressions, easy language and the ability to dramatise situations and create a visual imaginary through his writings make him one of the best authors of his time… Though not much of his oeuvre has been translated in other Indian languages,” he said.