On April 17 Gabriel Garcia Márquez died in Mexico city. Little is left to be said about one of the most influential writers of the 20th century and, more importantly, one of the most read and beloved worldwide.
Naturally, the best we can do with a writer is to read and to enjoy his or her stories. And García Márquez was a master storyteller. He used the power of imagination to write his realistic yet magical stories. He also could go deep into people´s hearts and show all the power and contradictions of people´s souls. Furthermore, he was a master of the language rivalling that of Borges.
I am aware of the difficulty of reading a full novel like A Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish in a secondary school. Luckily for us, García Márquez wrote several novellas, that we could use, and many short stories which students in an IB or bilingual Spanish program can fully understand and enjoy. His first short story, La tercera resignación, was published in 1947 and the author continued writing short stories for almost his entire life.
I'd like to introduce 5 of his short stories, although I am sure that many others can be used.
In the book Doce cuentos peregrinos, short stories Espantos de agosto and Me alquilo para soñar
I recall Garcia Marquez explaining what magic realism is in a interview on television. He mentioned that if we say: "vi un burro volando", nobody would ever believe us. However when we can give many details about a magical or unrealistic situation, everyone would believe us no matter how absurd it is. In the interview he said that if he wrote in a novel "vi 276 burros volando", everyone would believe him. Something similar happens in the short story, Espantos de agosto. The main character visits his friend´s house in Tuscany with his family. The old house was built by a member of the nobility during the Renaissance and it is haunted. As a reader I was not impressed. But when the narrator tells us how they visit the 85 bedrooms in the house, I started to believe that such a house must have at least one ghost and probably more.
Me alquilo para soñar
Garcia Marquez also mixes detailed reality with real-life characters with his magical and ironic world in this story. A lady who has been able to foretell the future of her family since childhood is hired by a rich family in Vienna. She was asked to tell them their fortunes through interpreting her dreams. Garcia Marquez meets her in Vienna and she warns the author to leave the city because he was in danger. When her boss dies years later she moves to a house in Portugal from where she can see the whole sea up to the Americas. Then she will meet Garcia Marquez in Spain during Neruda's visit and we realize that her powers are still intact.
Book, Los funerales de la Mamá Grande, Un día de estos
Garcia Marquez liked to portray Latinoamerica as a land where the supernatural is intertwined with every day reality at all levels. But he was also very critical with the social and political situation of his country, Colombia, and by extension of all Latinoamerica. This short story is a good example to explore this with our students.
Book, La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada, the short story Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes.
This short story is another good example of magic realism. The fate and luck of a poor Colombian family changes when they find an old angel after a storm and take him home. The angel becomes a celebrity and people "from all over the world" come to see him. Things get so complicated that even the local priest has to intervene. After many years living in very poor conditions, the strange angel flies away and the family is relieved.
Ladrón de sábado
This is a beautiful story full of irony and humour. Hugo is a thief who only robs houses on the weekends. One weekend he robs Ana´s house, the conductor of his favourite music radio program when she is at home. He feels so comfortable that he decides to spend the weekend with Ana and her daughter, taking advantage that her husband is away on a business trip. Soon, his weekends will be busier than usual.
There are thousands of websites where we can get information about García Márquez' works, his life and his political opinions. I recommend to have a look at these three web sites:
- El País newspaper published several articles about the author after his death, we can track his life and his works in this article. His life: http://elpais.com/especiales/2014/gabriel-garcia-marquez/
- Interview to Chilean writer Isabel Allende, also after his death.
- Conversation between the Nobel Prizes winners García Márquez and Vargas Llosa, which took place in 1967. They discuss about writing, magic realism, Latinoamerica, their literary influences and many other issues.