Gabriel Garcia Marquez_ A Life Part 5

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For the longer term, this short story has another aspect. It is a pointer to the future, away from Macondo-Aracataca and El Pueblo-Sucre, that is, away from Colombia and towards not only Latin America but literary universality. "Big Mama's Funeral" had finally fused the two small towns and in a sense had ironized both of them, preparing them for liquidation as the writer searched for a way to paint on a larger canvas. One Hundred Years of Solitude would still be set in Macondo but it would be obvious to the informed reader from the first page that this was an allegory of Latin America as a whole: Macondo had made the leap from national to continental symbol.

He still did not yet see clearly that the way to greatness for a Latin American novelist at this time in history was also, fortuitously, through Latin America itself, through a continental vision. He was still a Colombian. Writers in other countries with, ironically, a much less developed political consciousness than his, were nevertheless already making the leap that he was not yet prepared to make: the Argentinian Julio Cortazar, the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa and, above all, the Mexican Carlos Fuentes, were writers who were becoming conscious of being Latin Americans and were right then composing Joycean, "Ulyssean" books precisely about their own change of consciousness, their own reconquest of the continent, just as that earlier writer from a colonized country, James Joyce himself, had written about his own conquest of Europe forty years before (remember Stephen Dedalus's ambition to "forge ... the uncreated conscience of my race"). Now Garcia Marquez had to redefine his obsessions-his grandfather, his mother, his father, Colombia-and place them within a Latin American perspective. Other Latin American writers-Asturias, Carpentier, Arturo Uslar Pietri-had become Latin Americans in their early twenties; it took Garcia Marquez until he was thirty-eight, and it might never have happened at all without the Boom and, in particular, without the Boom's great creator and propagandist, the Mexican Carlos Fuentes. Fortunately for Garcia Marquez he would soon be meeting Fuentes, and the meeting would be decisive in his life.

Again what we see is the extraordinary, perhaps unparalleled restraint of a writer who, long before he was famous, always knew how to wait, sometimes in the face of great pressure or great temptation, until a book was right. It merely added to the anguish that this solitary story, "The Sea of Lost Time," was narrated from the anti-imperialist perspective which Cuba had given him yet he was not in touch with Cuba-on the contrary, it seemed to have spurned him. So in Mexico, blind as he was-without a political soul, as Mao Zedong might have said, now that he'd lost Cuba-he began to wonder, not for the first time, whether he should give up writing literature for good and move, as soon as he could, to writing film scripts. He had a family now and he could not in conscience sacrifice Mercedes, Rodrigo and the unborn child to his still largely unfulfilled literary vocation: if he had failed to make the big breakthrough when he was single, why should they suffer while he tried again and again to succeed? Film work, which he had always longed to do in any case, must have seemed, increasingly, like the most logical aspiration for a man in his situation and it was in that direction that he turned his endeavours. After all, it was still a form of writing.

Mexico was the country with the largest film industry in the Spanish-speaking world.14 But at the beginning nothing materialized in the movies either. Then one evening when he got home after a fruitless search for work-and Garcia Marquez was never very good at asking for anything-Mercedes told him she'd run out of money for food and had not been able to give Rodrigo his usual drink of milk before bedtime. Garcia Marquez sat his two-year-old son down, explained the position and swore to him that this would never happen again. The child "understood," went to sleep without complaining, and did not wake up in the night. The next morning, sufficiently desperate to ask for another favour, Garcia Marquez called Mutis, who seems to have judged that his friend might finally face up to being a beggar rather than a chooser. He used his own business contacts to arrange a couple of interviews. The first was with Gustavo Alatriste, an entrepreneur who had spent the previous years diversifying miraculously from the manufacture of furniture to several other industries including cinema and journalism. But at the beginning nothing materialized in the movies either. Then one evening when he got home after a fruitless search for work-and Garcia Marquez was never very good at asking for anything-Mercedes told him she'd run out of money for food and had not been able to give Rodrigo his usual drink of milk before bedtime. Garcia Marquez sat his two-year-old son down, explained the position and swore to him that this would never happen again. The child "understood," went to sleep without complaining, and did not wake up in the night. The next morning, sufficiently desperate to ask for another favour, Garcia Marquez called Mutis, who seems to have judged that his friend might finally face up to being a beggar rather than a chooser. He used his own business contacts to arrange a couple of interviews. The first was with Gustavo Alatriste, an entrepreneur who had spent the previous years diversifying miraculously from the manufacture of furniture to several other industries including cinema and journalism.

Alatriste arranged to meet him in the bar of the Hotel Presidente on 26 September 1961, exactly three months after his arrival in Mexico. Garcia Marquez would recall that the sole of one of his shoes was hanging and so he turned up early for the interview and waited for Alatriste to leave before he himself padded away15 Alatriste had produced some of Luis Bunuel's best films and was married at the time to Silvia Pinal, Mexico's most glamorous actress and leading lady in three of Bunuel's movies. Alatriste had produced some of Luis Bunuel's best films and was married at the time to Silvia Pinal, Mexico's most glamorous actress and leading lady in three of Bunuel's movies.16 Obviously Garcia Marquez was hoping that he would get immediate access to the film world through Alatriste. But Alatriste had recently bought several popular publications including Obviously Garcia Marquez was hoping that he would get immediate access to the film world through Alatriste. But Alatriste had recently bought several popular publications including The Family (La Familia) The Family (La Familia), a women's-interest magazine, and Stories for Everyone (Sucesos para Todos) Stories for Everyone (Sucesos para Todos), a very Mexican crime and scandal sheet. Editing these magazines was what Alatriste decided to offer the disenchanted supplicant, though he was doubtful even about that. Mutis had made the mistake of showing Alatriste some of Garcia Marquez's previous journalism as part of his recommendation and Alatriste was doubtful: "This guy's too good," he growled. But Mutis assured him that his friend could turn his hand to anything. After some hesitation Garcia Marquez took the job-the two jobs-and went home and asked Rodrigo what he would like most in the world. "A ball." His father went out and bought the biggest one he could find.



So Garcia Marquez bade farewell for the moment to his dreams about the movies and took on both of Alatriste's magazines, on the extraordinary condition that his name should not appear anywhere on the staff lists and that he would not have to sign any pieces. He was in charge of The Family and Stories for Everyone-The Home Front and The Street, he must have thought. This was not only a humiliating retreat back into journalism, but the lowest level of journalism possible. He worked in the office down on Avenida Insurgentes Sur without a typewriter, and directed affairs there as if with gloves and tongs. It was almost too much for him to bear. The last time he had been forced to sacrifice his vocation in quite this way was during the crisis after his parents moved from Sucre to Cartagena in 1951; and even then he had found time to go on writing Leaf Storm in the cracks between his commitments. But now there was a wife and child and they had to eat even if he was used to doing without food. He gritted his teeth and prepared to say goodbye not only to the cinema but to literature too.

Another of the house magazines, called S.nob S.nob, had successfully lived up to its name by selling almost no copies up to that point but was now able to survive parasitically on the backs of Garcia Marquez's populist mouthpieces. S.nob S.nob was run in those days by two avant-garde writers, Salvador Elizondo and Juan Garcia Ponce, and Garcia Marquez complained bitterly that they were literary aristocrats exploiting his labour-little knowing that one day his still-unborn son would marry Elizondo's still-unborn daughter. was run in those days by two avant-garde writers, Salvador Elizondo and Juan Garcia Ponce, and Garcia Marquez complained bitterly that they were literary aristocrats exploiting his labour-little knowing that one day his still-unborn son would marry Elizondo's still-unborn daughter.17 From time to time, adding insult to injury, Alatriste would forget to pay his long-suffering employee. Once he fell three months behind and Garcia Marquez had to pursue him everywhere. In the end he pursued him to a Turkish bath and a perspiring Alatriste had to give him the cheque in the midst of the rising steam. When Garcia Marquez got it outside he saw that the writing had run and he had to scurry back in and pursue Alatriste all over again into the changing room. From time to time, adding insult to injury, Alatriste would forget to pay his long-suffering employee. Once he fell three months behind and Garcia Marquez had to pursue him everywhere. In the end he pursued him to a Turkish bath and a perspiring Alatriste had to give him the cheque in the midst of the rising steam. When Garcia Marquez got it outside he saw that the writing had run and he had to scurry back in and pursue Alatriste all over again into the changing room.18 He was beginning to resemble Cantinflas, the Mexican comedian. He was beginning to resemble Cantinflas, the Mexican comedian.

Within weeks, despite his distaste for the work, he had improved the layout, the style and the mix of both the magazines. In amongst the recipes and knitting patterns of La Familia, which had a huge continental readership, and the blood-curdling stories and gruesome pictures of Sucesos, he infiltrated great novels in condensed form, biographical serials, detective stories, general interest features on other cultures and any other quality padding he could think of. He had done it all before both for Cronica in Barranquilla and for Venezuela Grafica in Caracas. Much of it was achieved by ransacking other magazines from other countries, using scissors and paste and egged on by a dash of desperation, a large dose of boredom, and a smidgen of cynicism.19 By the early months of 1962 Sucesos had increased its circulation by around a thousand copies each issue and still rising. By April a cooler Garcia Marquez was able to report to Plinio Mendoza that he had "an office with carpets and two secretaries, a home almost, and with a garden, and a boss who is either a rare genius or stark raving mad, I'm still not sure. I'm not yet a magnate but although I've moved to within three blocks of the office I'm thinking of buying a Mercedes Benz in July. It would not be surprising if I moved from here to Miami to organize the counter-revolution ... We're expecting Alejandra within ten days and Mercedes is in that interminable period in which women become unbearable not only as wives but also as spectacles. Nevertheless she is preparing her revenge: she's going to buy loads of dresses and shoes and other things when she goes back down to her normal size." By the early months of 1962 Sucesos had increased its circulation by around a thousand copies each issue and still rising. By April a cooler Garcia Marquez was able to report to Plinio Mendoza that he had "an office with carpets and two secretaries, a home almost, and with a garden, and a boss who is either a rare genius or stark raving mad, I'm still not sure. I'm not yet a magnate but although I've moved to within three blocks of the office I'm thinking of buying a Mercedes Benz in July. It would not be surprising if I moved from here to Miami to organize the counter-revolution ... We're expecting Alejandra within ten days and Mercedes is in that interminable period in which women become unbearable not only as wives but also as spectacles. Nevertheless she is preparing her revenge: she's going to buy loads of dresses and shoes and other things when she goes back down to her normal size."20 Guillermo Angulo had suggested in September 1961 that Garcia Marquez should put his unpublished manuscript, In Evil Hour In Evil Hour, in for the Esso-sponsored 1961 Colombian Literary Prize, which would be awarded retrospectively in 1962.21 Alvaro Mutis also put pressure on him. It was said that Esso had received 173 submissions and none looked promising; hence the suggestion that Garcia Marquez should send in a last-minute entry. The man himself would recall that he undid the necktie, looked again at his much-travelled typescript, and gave it one last, rigorous revision. Alvaro Mutis also put pressure on him. It was said that Esso had received 173 submissions and none looked promising; hence the suggestion that Garcia Marquez should send in a last-minute entry. The man himself would recall that he undid the necktie, looked again at his much-travelled typescript, and gave it one last, rigorous revision.22 Unloved by its author, Unloved by its author, In Evil Hour In Evil Hour has never been a favourite with critics either. The plot is somewhat over-fussy; the characters a little undeveloped. Yet it has a lucid, cinematographic quality and a cool hands-off technique that cannot fail to impress themselves on the reader, even if the sombre subject matter is unrelieved by humour or local colour. has never been a favourite with critics either. The plot is somewhat over-fussy; the characters a little undeveloped. Yet it has a lucid, cinematographic quality and a cool hands-off technique that cannot fail to impress themselves on the reader, even if the sombre subject matter is unrelieved by humour or local colour.

The decision was made on Esso's behalf by the Colombian Academy, and Garcia Marquez's manuscript was adjudged the winner. He had been asked to provide a title and he set aside "This Shitty Town" and came up with In Evil Hour. It transpired however that the President of the Colombian Academy was a priest, Father Felix Restrepo, who, as guardian both of the Spanish language and of the morals of his flock, had been troubled by the inclusion of words such as "contraceptive" and "masturbation." Father Restrepo asked the Colombian ambassador in Mexico, Carlos Arango Velez, to take a letter to Garcia Marquez and to have a discreet and delicate conversation with him in the course of which he should be asked to cut those two offending words. Garcia Marquez decided, Solomon-like (though with the 3,000 dollars prize money already safely in his custody), to allow the ambassador to cut one. He chose "masturbation."

As fate would have it, the jury's favourable decision was made on the day that the second Garcia Barcha child, Gonzalo, was born, 16 April 1962. Garcia Marquez would later tell Plinio Mendoza that the baby was delivered "in six minutes" and "our only worry was that he might be born in the car on the way to the clinic." After winning the prize he was temporarily, relatively, rich. He used part of the money to pay for Mercedes's stay in the clinic.23 But since he felt the money was "stolen"-he would later say, perhaps hypocritically, that entering the novel for the prize was the worst decision he had ever taken in his life-he then decided, superstitiously, not to spend it on routine housekeeping and instead purchased a car, a white Opel 62 saloon with red upholstery, to transport his family about the vast metropolis. He told Plinio Mendoza: "It's the most extraordinary toy I've had in all my life. I get up in the middle of the night to see if it's still there." But since he felt the money was "stolen"-he would later say, perhaps hypocritically, that entering the novel for the prize was the worst decision he had ever taken in his life-he then decided, superstitiously, not to spend it on routine housekeeping and instead purchased a car, a white Opel 62 saloon with red upholstery, to transport his family about the vast metropolis. He told Plinio Mendoza: "It's the most extraordinary toy I've had in all my life. I get up in the middle of the night to see if it's still there."24 But none of this was enough. He had won a literary prize but he was no longer a writer. He went on fretting. He found himself still yearning for work in the cinema. Despite his high hopes, and his strategy of seducing Alatriste through his devotion to duty, nothing came.25 Indeed, the more money he made for Alatriste by overhauling and improving the two downmarket magazines, the less Alatriste was likely to allow him to move. Indeed, the more money he made for Alatriste by overhauling and improving the two downmarket magazines, the less Alatriste was likely to allow him to move.

He was no longer sure whether he would be able to write even under the right conditions. Since he had been married he had only written a few short stories and even the despised In Evil Hour In Evil Hour seemed a long book to him. The truth is that his mind was filled with nonsense at work, family matters at home, and movie talk with his friends. It is ironic to think that he had embarked, without conviction, on the next book after seemed a long book to him. The truth is that his mind was filled with nonsense at work, family matters at home, and movie talk with his friends. It is ironic to think that he had embarked, without conviction, on the next book after One Hundred Years of Solitude-Erendira and Other Stories One Hundred Years of Solitude-Erendira and Other Stories-but could not get to the novel he had been waiting to write, in one sense, for the whole of his life. So after a few months he went back to it; in other words, back to "The House," in his spare time. But "The House" was inhabited only by ghosts and again he got nowhere. So back he went to another idea that he felt deep down was a winner, a novel entitled The Autumn of the Patriarch. The Autumn of the Patriarch.26 One Hundred Years of Solitude One Hundred Years of Solitude did not even exist as a title, but this other, once aborted novel even had its eventual name. By the time the stories of did not even exist as a title, but this other, once aborted novel even had its eventual name. By the time the stories of Big Mama's Funeral Big Mama's Funeral were published in April 1962, the month he won the prize for were published in April 1962, the month he won the prize for In Evil Hour In Evil Hour, and soon after he received the first copies of No One Writes to the Colonel No One Writes to the Colonel, he had put together three hundred pages of The Autumn of the Patriarch The Autumn of the Patriarch and he still felt that he was on the wrong track. In the end he abandoned it again; later he would say that only the names of the characters survived. and he still felt that he was on the wrong track. In the end he abandoned it again; later he would say that only the names of the characters survived.27 Perhaps that dictator novel-partly about himself, in the present-could never have been written before the problem of "The House"-about his family, in the past-was dealt with. Desperate, discouraged, distraught, he put the manuscript away again and, for the first time, contemplated a future without literature. Perhaps that dictator novel-partly about himself, in the present-could never have been written before the problem of "The House"-about his family, in the past-was dealt with. Desperate, discouraged, distraught, he put the manuscript away again and, for the first time, contemplated a future without literature.

But that was intolerable. He became more and more frustrated with his work on the two mediocre magazines and now complained to his compadre compadre Plinio Mendoza: "For the time being I'm swallowing tranquilizers spread on my bread like butter and I still can't sleep more than four hours. I think my only hope is to get myself completely rewired ... As you can imagine, I'm not writing anything. It's two months since I opened the typewriter. I don't know where to start, I'm troubled by the idea that in the end I won't write anything and I won't get rich either. Nothing more to say, Plinio Mendoza: "For the time being I'm swallowing tranquilizers spread on my bread like butter and I still can't sleep more than four hours. I think my only hope is to get myself completely rewired ... As you can imagine, I'm not writing anything. It's two months since I opened the typewriter. I don't know where to start, I'm troubled by the idea that in the end I won't write anything and I won't get rich either. Nothing more to say, compadre compadre, I'm fucked, victim of a good situation."28 Politically, the question of his own relationship with Cuba was grating on him. As far as he was concerned, the matter was still pending; as far as the Cubans were concerned, it was closed. Despite the problems he had experienced in New York, Garcia Marquez still felt that his difficulties were with the sectarians, not the Cuban regime itself. Perhaps he felt deep down that he should have hung on longer. His admiration for Castro can only have been growing as he watched the young Cuban leader and the steely Guevara defying the power of the United States and the serried ranks of bourgeois liberal Latin American countries. In April 1962, as Castro confronted both the entire capitalist world and the dogmatists in the Cuban Communist Party, Garcia Marquez, who would always love to boast of having inside information, wrote to Plinio Mendoza: "I know the whole story about Fidel's 'purge' of Anibal Escalante and I was sure that Masetti would be quickly rehabilitated. Fidel said such tough things to the comrades-'Don't think you won this Revolution in a raffle'-that for a while I was afraid the crisis would be a grave one. It's incredible how Cuba is racing through phases that take ten or twenty years in other countries. I have the impression the comrades bowed their heads to Fidel but I do not rule out the possibility-and I know exactly what I'm saying-that they might kill him any day now. For the moment, though, I'm delighted for Masetti and all of us and, of course, for our beautiful little Cuba which is proving to be an incredible education for everyone."29 The letter is illuminating: here is Garcia Marquez, two years after his separation from Prensa Latina and his disillusionment with sectarian attempts to take control of it, continuing to invest his political faith and dreams for the future in Cuba and his confidence in its leader, for whom his admiration is unlimited. Here we see how two different approaches to Castro coincide: first, a way of talking that suggests that, like so many socialists at the time, Garcia Marquez feels he knows "Fidel" personally, almost as a friend or elder brother, in the way that we know someone well but still from the outside; second, more unusually, the novelist's sense that he has an inside vision of the Cuban leader, as if Castro is a character in one of his books, acting and talking more or less in fulfilment of Garcia Marquez's wishes. For now, though, Cuba was closed to him; so were the movies; and so, it seemed, was the one thing under his own control: his literature. He was beginning to lose hope.

NINETEEN SIXTY-TWO DRAGGED ON. The Cuban missile crisis came and went and the world, shaken and stirred, survived it. But still there was no light at the end of Garcia Marquez's endless tunnel. Then: Hallelujah! In April 1963 he finally escaped from The Family and Stories for Everyone The Family and Stories for Everyone and became, as he wrote jubilantly to Plinio Mendoza, a "professional writer." and became, as he wrote jubilantly to Plinio Mendoza, a "professional writer."30 He meant script-writer but it was a telling paraphrase. After discussing his predicament with Mercedes, he had taken a chance on a desperate piece of private enterprise by writing a screenplay, on his own initiative, in five days, over the Easter holiday. The script was for a film to be called He meant script-writer but it was a telling paraphrase. After discussing his predicament with Mercedes, he had taken a chance on a desperate piece of private enterprise by writing a screenplay, on his own initiative, in five days, over the Easter holiday. The script was for a film to be called El Charro (The Cowboy) El Charro (The Cowboy), and Garcia Marquez had the great Mexican actor Pedro Armendariz in mind to play the protagonist. When Alatriste heard about the project he wanted to take it over with the idea of that most Mexican of film-makers, Emilio "The Indian" Fernandez, directing the film. When he discovered that Garcia Marquez had already promised the script to the young director Jose Luis Gonzalez de Leon in exchange for complete control of the screenplay and when he became convinced that Garcia Marquez would not break his word with the other director, Alatriste suddenly changed his previous tune and told Garcia Marquez that he would pay him the same salary as he had paid him for editing the magazines to stay at home for a year and write two more film scripts of his choice.31 Garcia Marquez was delighted that his gamble had paid off. Garcia Marquez was delighted that his gamble had paid off.

Unfortunately the unpredictable Alatriste ran out of money over the summer and asked Garcia Marquez to release him from their deal whilst promising to continue to provide him with visa cover. Having succeeded once in provoking competition among film producers, Garcia Marquez contacted another of Alvaro Mutis's friends: Manuel Barbachano, the producer, who was only too happy to take him on as long as it was on a freelance basis. One of Barbachano's obsessions was the work of Juan Rulfo and he planned to carry the story "The Golden Cock" ("El gallo de oro") to the screen. It is the tale of a poor man who saves a dying fighting cock and discovers he has found a champion; he aspires both to great wealth and to the local belle, the mistress of a rich man, and eventually all concerned lose everything they have fought for. In several respects it was the world of No One Writes to the Colonel No One Writes to the Colonel and Mutis had recommended his excited friend as the very man for the job. No better opportunity could have come Garcia Marquez's way. The director, Roberto Gavaldon, was one of the best-known, and politically best-placed of the country's film-makers-while the director of photography, Gabriel Figueroa, was probably the most brilliant cameraman in all of Latin America. Garcia Marquez would finally meet the tortured alcoholic author of the story, Juan Rulfo, at a wedding in late November 1963-on the day Lee Harvey Oswald died shortly after being accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy-and they became as friendly as Rulfo's condition and Garcia Marquez's state of anxiety and depression would allow. and Mutis had recommended his excited friend as the very man for the job. No better opportunity could have come Garcia Marquez's way. The director, Roberto Gavaldon, was one of the best-known, and politically best-placed of the country's film-makers-while the director of photography, Gabriel Figueroa, was probably the most brilliant cameraman in all of Latin America. Garcia Marquez would finally meet the tortured alcoholic author of the story, Juan Rulfo, at a wedding in late November 1963-on the day Lee Harvey Oswald died shortly after being accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy-and they became as friendly as Rulfo's condition and Garcia Marquez's state of anxiety and depression would allow.

Barbachano was not offering Garcia Marquez the same security as Alatriste and the bills still had to be paid, so Garcia Marquez called the Walter Thompson advertising agency in September and was taken on immediately. Though far from what he was ideally looking for, advertising suited his temperament better and left him with far more freedom than the treadmill of running magazines. At least in this new situation he was in a better position to do what he had always done: attend to his day job efficiently and responsibly while still retaining the energy and somehow finding the time to work on what really interested him.32 He was destined to spend late 1963, all of 1964 and much of 1965 working simultaneously in freelance movie work and in advertising agencies-first Walter Thompson, and then Stanton, Pritchard and Wood, which was part of another global giant, McCann Erickson. Walter Thompson and McCann Erickson were among the top three advertising agencies in the world and so for a time Garcia Marquez found himself working for the standard-bearers of U.S. monopoly capitalism, Madison Avenue branch, not something he has ever been keen to highlight. Mutis had preceded him in this as in other things, having worked at Stanton early in his stay in Mexico, from the moment it was established. He was destined to spend late 1963, all of 1964 and much of 1965 working simultaneously in freelance movie work and in advertising agencies-first Walter Thompson, and then Stanton, Pritchard and Wood, which was part of another global giant, McCann Erickson. Walter Thompson and McCann Erickson were among the top three advertising agencies in the world and so for a time Garcia Marquez found himself working for the standard-bearers of U.S. monopoly capitalism, Madison Avenue branch, not something he has ever been keen to highlight. Mutis had preceded him in this as in other things, having worked at Stanton early in his stay in Mexico, from the moment it was established.

Much later, the experience gained during this somewhat bizarre interlude prepared Garcia Marquez, ironically enough, to negotiate his own future celebrity-to understand fame, to think about self-presentation, to produce a personal brand-image and then to manage it. Still more ironic, this early training in advertising and public relations would allow him to live out his political contradictions in public without hostile U.S. commentators ever seriously laying a finger on him in the decades to come. He had the knack, and whenever Garcia Marquez was inspired his manager, a reformed alcoholic, would raise his right hand and punch the air like a prize fighter. He also had help at home: Mercedes was always coming up with memorable phrases about products-"You can't live without a Kleenex" was one of them-and he turned several of her off-the-cuff remarks into profitable slogans.33 Garcia Marquez now became fully installed in the Mexican cultural milieu at one of its most influential and effervescent moments; the Zona Rosa, Mexico's answer to Swinging London's Carnaby Street and King's Road, would really get going in 1964. Era, the recently funded left-wing publishing house, had just brought out the second edition of No One Writes to the Colonel No One Writes to the Colonel in September 1963, to Garcia Marquez's delight-though still with a print run of only 1,000 copies. He began to live quite a social whirl among the black leather jackets and dark glasses of the city's fashionable writers, painters, movie actors, singers and journalists. The couple were now prosperous and well dressed. Rodrigo and Gonzalo would go to private English schools, first the Colegio Williams kindergarten, then the Queen Elizabeth School in San Angel. in September 1963, to Garcia Marquez's delight-though still with a print run of only 1,000 copies. He began to live quite a social whirl among the black leather jackets and dark glasses of the city's fashionable writers, painters, movie actors, singers and journalists. The couple were now prosperous and well dressed. Rodrigo and Gonzalo would go to private English schools, first the Colegio Williams kindergarten, then the Queen Elizabeth School in San Angel.34 The family owned a car and started looking around for a house with more space. The family owned a car and started looking around for a house with more space.

Within a few months of starting as a freelance movie writer Garcia Marquez had produced the script for Rulfo's "The Golden Cock."35 Barbachano considered it excellent, with just one reservation-he said it was written in Colombian, not Mexican. It was at this moment that Garcia Marquez's luck improved still more, indeed decisively. Carlos Fuentes, the country's leading young writer, eighteen months Garcia Marquez's junior, returned to Mexico late in 1963 after a longish stay in Europe. Barbachano considered it excellent, with just one reservation-he said it was written in Colombian, not Mexican. It was at this moment that Garcia Marquez's luck improved still more, indeed decisively. Carlos Fuentes, the country's leading young writer, eighteen months Garcia Marquez's junior, returned to Mexico late in 1963 after a longish stay in Europe.36 He and the Colombian had a plethora of friends in common. Whoever introduced them, it helped when they first met that Fuentes knew who Garcia Marquez was and already admired his work. As the Mexican would recall, "I'd first heard about Gabriel through Alvaro Mutis, who in the late 1950s gave me a copy of He and the Colombian had a plethora of friends in common. Whoever introduced them, it helped when they first met that Fuentes knew who Garcia Marquez was and already admired his work. As the Mexican would recall, "I'd first heard about Gabriel through Alvaro Mutis, who in the late 1950s gave me a copy of Leaf Storm. Leaf Storm. 'This is the best thing that's come out,' he said, wisely failing to specify either time or place." 'This is the best thing that's come out,' he said, wisely failing to specify either time or place."37 As a result of this recommendation Fuentes had published "Big Mama's Funeral" and the "Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo" in the As a result of this recommendation Fuentes had published "Big Mama's Funeral" and the "Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo" in the Revista Mexicana de Literatura. Revista Mexicana de Literatura. He had even written an enthusiastic review of He had even written an enthusiastic review of No One Writes to the Colonel in La Cultura en Mexico (Siempre!) No One Writes to the Colonel in La Cultura en Mexico (Siempre!) in January 1963. in January 1963.

Still, Fuentes was enough to worsen anyone's inferiority complex. He had enjoyed a privileged upbringing, which he had made the most of. He spoke both English and French superbly, in the virile but modulated tones of the classic Mexican tenor. He was handsome, dashing and dynamic, glamorous in every way. In 1957 he had married the leading actress Rita Macedo; later he would have a dramatic affair with the ill-fated Hollywood star Jean Seberg when she was filming Macho Callahan Macho Callahan up in Durango. And in 1958 he had published what can fairly be considered the work which announced the imminent Boom of the Latin American novel, up in Durango. And in 1958 he had published what can fairly be considered the work which announced the imminent Boom of the Latin American novel, Where the Air Is Clear (La region mas transparente). Where the Air Is Clear (La region mas transparente). Like Garcia Marquez, Fuentes had travelled to Cuba immediately after the revolution but was always politically independent: he would eventually manage the unlikely feat of being banned from communist Cuba, fascist Spain and the liberal United States. In 1962 he had published two more outstanding books, the gothic novella Like Garcia Marquez, Fuentes had travelled to Cuba immediately after the revolution but was always politically independent: he would eventually manage the unlikely feat of being banned from communist Cuba, fascist Spain and the liberal United States. In 1962 he had published two more outstanding books, the gothic novella Aura Aura and and The Death of Artemio Cruz (La muerte de Artemio Cruz) The Death of Artemio Cruz (La muerte de Artemio Cruz), one of the great Mexican novels of the century and perhaps the greatest of all novels about the Mexican Revolution-a work which he completed in Havana, where he had viewed his own country's fading revolutionary process from the perspective of Cuba's new one. At thirty-five, then, Carlos Fuentes was without question the leading young writer in Mexico and a rising international star.

With so many shared interests and a vocation in common, the two men soon developed a close and mutually profitable relationship. Of course Garcia Marquez had infinitely more to gain. Fuentes was not only several years ahead of him in terms of career development, he was a Mexican in his own country and he had developed over the previous decade a quite extraordinary network of contacts with many of the leading intellectuals in the world-the worlds-in which Garcia Marquez aspired to move. Fuentes could take him to places that almost no other writer in Latin America could reach; and his intellectual generosity was unrivalled. Above all, Fuentes's Latin American consciousness was much more developed than that of Garcia Marquez and he was able to tutor and groom the still raw and uncertain Colombian for a role in a vast Latin American literary drama that Fuentes, more than any other man alive, could foresee and for which, more than any other man alive, he would be personally responsible.

Garcia Marquez and Fuentes began to work together on the script of "The Golden Cock" with Roberto Gavaldon. Garcia Marquez would later claim that he and Fuentes spent five long months arguing with the director about the script and got nowhere. The movie was eventually filmed between 17 June and 24 July 1964 at the famous Churubusco studios and on location in Queretaro, with star actors Ignacio Lopez Tarso and Lucha Villa as the leads. When the ninety-minute production eventually opened on 18 December 1964 it would be a commercial and critical flop. Rulfo's writing is ritualistic and implicitly mythic but it is always spare and suggestive, never overt, and nothing could have been more difficult to adapt to the big screen.

Although both men would persist with the genre, particularly Garcia Marquez-he said it was "a safety valve to liberate my ghosts"-neither of them would ever be entirely at home in film work.38 It is not difficult to see why they persisted, however: there was no money to be made in literature in those days, or so it seemed, and the movies were a way to appeal directly to the consciousness of the great Latin American public. Moreover, in the 1960s, in a relatively repressive society like Mexico's, the cinema, with its new approach to sexuality and nudity, and its use of beautiful actresses and young, outgoing, avant-garde directors, gave rare and privileged access both to glamour and to the cultural future. Unfortunately the 1960s also encouraged much effervescent but vacuous nonsense, not least in Mexico. To be up to date, fashionable and "where it was at," or better, to be "in," became essential in those days and even Garcia Marquez and Fuentes found themselves seduced by the cultural market and its public relations machine. It is not difficult to see why they persisted, however: there was no money to be made in literature in those days, or so it seemed, and the movies were a way to appeal directly to the consciousness of the great Latin American public. Moreover, in the 1960s, in a relatively repressive society like Mexico's, the cinema, with its new approach to sexuality and nudity, and its use of beautiful actresses and young, outgoing, avant-garde directors, gave rare and privileged access both to glamour and to the cultural future. Unfortunately the 1960s also encouraged much effervescent but vacuous nonsense, not least in Mexico. To be up to date, fashionable and "where it was at," or better, to be "in," became essential in those days and even Garcia Marquez and Fuentes found themselves seduced by the cultural market and its public relations machine.

In July he confessed to Plinio Mendoza that his admiration for Alejo Carpentier's recent novel Explosion in a Cathedral Explosion in a Cathedral was beginning to make him think-following Fuentes, no doubt-about the relation between the tropics and the literary baroque. He drew Plinio's attention to the success in Europe the year before of translations of Explosion in a Cathedral, Fuentes's was beginning to make him think-following Fuentes, no doubt-about the relation between the tropics and the literary baroque. He drew Plinio's attention to the success in Europe the year before of translations of Explosion in a Cathedral, Fuentes's The Death of Artemio Cruz The Death of Artemio Cruz, Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch Hopscotch, and Mario Vargas Llosa's The Time of the Hero The Time of the Hero, a list which included the first three novels of what was not yet known as the "Boom."39 Little did he dream that the fourth and most famous novel of all would be written by him. Little did he dream that the fourth and most famous novel of all would be written by him.

Gabo and Mercedes were now offered the opportunity of moving straight into a new house that was ideal for their purposes.40 It was, he told Plinio, "a great house, with a garden, a study, a guest room, telephone and all the comforts of bourgeois life, in a very quiet and traditional sector full of illustrious oligarchs." This was something of an exaggeration: it was true that the house was close to such a sector but they were separated from it by a major roadway. Still, agreeable, quiet and comfortable it undoubtedly was. And he, at long last, had his own study, a "cave full of papers." The house was sparsely furnished but roomier than anywhere the family had lived before, and although largely empty of possessions it would always be full of music, especially Bartok and the Beatles. It was, he told Plinio, "a great house, with a garden, a study, a guest room, telephone and all the comforts of bourgeois life, in a very quiet and traditional sector full of illustrious oligarchs." This was something of an exaggeration: it was true that the house was close to such a sector but they were separated from it by a major roadway. Still, agreeable, quiet and comfortable it undoubtedly was. And he, at long last, had his own study, a "cave full of papers." The house was sparsely furnished but roomier than anywhere the family had lived before, and although largely empty of possessions it would always be full of music, especially Bartok and the Beatles.41 Yet in the midst of all the social whirl, behind the fake bonhomie and despite his new-found security and respectability, Garcia Marquez was increasingly unhappy. Pictures of him from this period are painful to look at: he exudes tension and stress. Some said they saw him close to fist fights at parties. He was writing nothing that he cared about, except, on and off, The Autumn of the Patriarch The Autumn of the Patriarch, which he felt was going nowhere. He was a petty-bourgeois script-writer and ad man. Successful authors such as Julio Cortazar and Mario Vargas Llosa, who had no revolutionary antecedents, were being courted by the Cuban Revolution while he was out in the cold. When the influential Uruguayan literary critic Emir Rodriguez Monegal, who would play a fundamental role in publicizing not only Fuentes and Garcia Marquez but all the other writers of the rapidly swelling Boom, had visited Mexico in January 1964 to teach at the Colegio de Mexico, he had found Garcia Marquez in a disturbing mental condition: "a tortured soul, an inhabitant of the most exquisite hell: that of literary sterility. To try to speak to him about his earlier work, to praise (for example) No One Writes to the Colonel No One Writes to the Colonel, was like torturing him with one of the most subtle machines of the Inquisition."42 He soldiered on. In late 1964 he rewrote his first original screenplay, El charro El charro, originally to have been filmed by Jose Luis Gonzalez de Leon. Now it was directed by the twenty-two-year-old Arturo Ripstein and retitled Tiempo de morir (Time to Die). Tiempo de morir (Time to Die).43 Its origin, like so many of Garcia Marquez's works, lay in one image, a memory, a lived incident in the past. He had once gone back to an apartment of his in Colombia to find the doorman, an ex-hit-man, knitting a sweater. Its origin, like so many of Garcia Marquez's works, lay in one image, a memory, a lived incident in the past. He had once gone back to an apartment of his in Colombia to find the doorman, an ex-hit-man, knitting a sweater.44 In the screenplay a man who has spent eighteen years in prison for a murder he was provoked into committing returns to his home village, despite the fact that the sons of the dead man have sworn to kill him. He too knits sweaters. The younger son has a change of heart but the other repeatedly provokes the older man-history repeating itself-until finally, ironically, the protagonist shoots the older son and the younger son then shoots the protagonist dead without resistance on the other's part. Obviously this was a rewrite of his grandfather's experience in Barrancas, when he too was provoked by a younger man-though of course Nicolas Marquez eventually shot his adversary and spent only one year in jail, not eighteen. In the screenplay a man who has spent eighteen years in prison for a murder he was provoked into committing returns to his home village, despite the fact that the sons of the dead man have sworn to kill him. He too knits sweaters. The younger son has a change of heart but the other repeatedly provokes the older man-history repeating itself-until finally, ironically, the protagonist shoots the older son and the younger son then shoots the protagonist dead without resistance on the other's part. Obviously this was a rewrite of his grandfather's experience in Barrancas, when he too was provoked by a younger man-though of course Nicolas Marquez eventually shot his adversary and spent only one year in jail, not eighteen.

The movie was eventually filmed at Churubusco and in Patzcuaro between 7 June and 10 July 1965, only weeks after Garcia Marquez had completed the script. It would star Jorge Martinez de Hoyos, Marga Lopez and Enrique Rocha; the dialogue would be adapted by Carlos Fuentes, the camera work was by the great Alex Phillips, and the titles were produced by Garcia Marquez's friend Vicente Rojo. It was ninety minutes long and premiered on 11 August 1966 at the Cine Variedades in Mexico City. Yet again a movie involving Garcia Marquez was generally considered a failure, though the young director's raw cinematographic talent was evident to all. Garcia Marquez and Ripstein would each blame the other. Garcia Marquez's contribution was typical of his cinematographic virtues and vices: the plot was almost worthy of Sophocles in its perfection; the dialogue was far too sententious for a movie. Garcia Marquez had seen with disillusioning clarity that for him at least writing movie scripts was less satisfying than writing literary stories, even if almost no one reads them: first of all, writing for films was completely different from writing for a reading public; second, you inevitably lost your independence, your political and moral integrity, and even your identity; because finally, producers and directors inevitably saw you as merely a means to an end, a commodity.45 Nevertheless what was, in many respects, Garcia Marquez's most historic moment in the movies had come almost at the start of this ultimately disillusioning new era, when many of Mexico's best-known celebrities, mostly friends of his, took part in the filming of his story "There Are No Thieves in This Town" in late October 1964. It was the tale of a layabout in a small town who decides to make some money by selling the ivory billiard balls in the local pool hall, only to bring disaster upon himself, his long-suffering wife and their recently born child.46 Filming took place in Mexico City and in Cuautla. Garcia Marquez himself, who would also work on the montage, played the ticket collector outside the village cinema and, always self-conscious in such situations, gave a particularly uneasy performance. Luis Bunuel played the priest, Juan Rulfo, Abel Quezada and Carlos Monsivais were dominoes players, Luis Vicens was the owner of the pool hall, Jose Luis Cuevas and Emilio Garcia Riera were billiards players, Maria Luisa Mendoza was a cabaret singer, and the painter Leonora Carrington played a churchgoer dressed in mourning. The leads were Julian Pastor, Rocio Sagaon and Graciela Enriquez. Decidedly one of the better films of the era, Filming took place in Mexico City and in Cuautla. Garcia Marquez himself, who would also work on the montage, played the ticket collector outside the village cinema and, always self-conscious in such situations, gave a particularly uneasy performance. Luis Bunuel played the priest, Juan Rulfo, Abel Quezada and Carlos Monsivais were dominoes players, Luis Vicens was the owner of the pool hall, Jose Luis Cuevas and Emilio Garcia Riera were billiards players, Maria Luisa Mendoza was a cabaret singer, and the painter Leonora Carrington played a churchgoer dressed in mourning. The leads were Julian Pastor, Rocio Sagaon and Graciela Enriquez. Decidedly one of the better films of the era, There Are No Thieves in This Town There Are No Thieves in This Town was ninety minutes long and premiered on 9 September 1965. was ninety minutes long and premiered on 9 September 1965.

Despite these and other developments, the movies had started to lose their charm for Garcia Marquez at just the moment that he found himself fully installed in the industry and finally earning good money. Was that the point? He could see that he could go on working in the Mexican cinema with tolerable success for as far into the future as he wanted. Yet he was also becoming aware that this was not where his talent lay, that the satisfactions of script-writing were limited, and in any case the script-writer was never in full control of his own destiny. He was beginning to feel trapped again. Besides, the world of Latin American literature was changing rapidly and becoming, ironically, much more glamorous than the movies. And just around then, as the movies palled, he began to perceive that the movies were part of the trouble he had had with literature. It was not so much that he was writing literary scripts for a quite different medium, though undoubtedly he was; the real problem was that the movies had taken over his conception of the novel, years before, and he needed to go back to his own literary roots. Looking back several years later, he reflected: "I always thought that the cinema, through its tremendous visual power, was the perfect means of expression. All my books before One Hundred Years of Solitude One Hundred Years of Solitude are hampered by that uncertainty. There is an immoderate desire for the visualization of character and scene, a millimetric account of the time of dialogue and action and an obsession with indicating point of view and frame. While actually working in cinema, however, I came to realize not only what could be done but also what couldn't be done; I saw that the predominance of the image over other narrative elements was certainly an advantage but also a limitation and this was for me a startling discovery because only then did I become aware of the fact that the possibilities of the novel itself are unlimited." are hampered by that uncertainty. There is an immoderate desire for the visualization of character and scene, a millimetric account of the time of dialogue and action and an obsession with indicating point of view and frame. While actually working in cinema, however, I came to realize not only what could be done but also what couldn't be done; I saw that the predominance of the image over other narrative elements was certainly an advantage but also a limitation and this was for me a startling discovery because only then did I become aware of the fact that the possibilities of the novel itself are unlimited."47 In 1965 a grand symposium of intellectuals was held at the site of the Mayan archaeological ruins of Chichen Itza. Carlos Fuentes, Jose Luis Cuevas and William Styron were among the participants in what was a real jamboree with its much-advertised intellectual dimension somewhat sidelined by high jinks of every kind. Of course no one at that time would have thought of inviting Garcia Marquez, still unknown internationally nor would Garcia Marquez have thought of exposing himself to such an occasion. However, when the participants set off for their various destinations via Mexico City Fuentes organized a huge and now legendary party at his house, at which Garcia Marquez was a guest and met the Chilean novelist Jose Donoso, who admired No One Writes to the Colonel and would remember Garcia Marquez as "a gloomy, melancholy person tormented by his writer's block, a blockage as legendary as those of Ernesto Sabato and the eternal block of Juan Rulfo...and William Styron."48 Following the party came two visits which were to prove decisive in Garcia Marquez's return to literature and the revolutionizing of his life. While Ripstein was shooting Tiempo de morir Tiempo de morir in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, in June, Garcia Marquez was visited by Luis Harss, a young Chilean-American who had met him briefly in the United Nations building in New York in 1961 and who was now preparing a book of critical interviews of leading Latin American novelists of the last two generations in response to the sensational phenomenon that would later be called the Boom. in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, in June, Garcia Marquez was visited by Luis Harss, a young Chilean-American who had met him briefly in the United Nations building in New York in 1961 and who was now preparing a book of critical interviews of leading Latin American novelists of the last two generations in response to the sensational phenomenon that would later be called the Boom.49 He had originally planned nine interviews. Most of the other writers included were fairly obvious, though still shrewdly chosen: Miguel Angel Asturias, Jorge Luis Borges, Alejo Carpentier, Joo Guimares Rosa, Juan Carlos Onetti and Juan Rulfo, from the previous generation; and Julio Cortazar, Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes from the writers of the Boom. Garcia Marquez, however, was the brilliant exception. The recommendation, inevitably, came from Fuentes. He had originally planned nine interviews. Most of the other writers included were fairly obvious, though still shrewdly chosen: Miguel Angel Asturias, Jorge Luis Borges, Alejo Carpentier, Joo Guimares Rosa, Juan Carlos Onetti and Juan Rulfo, from the previous generation; and Julio Cortazar, Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes from the writers of the Boom. Garcia Marquez, however, was the brilliant exception. The recommendation, inevitably, came from Fuentes.50 The visit by Harss and his inclusion in this top ten list must have been an exhilarating shot in the arm for Garcia Marquez. The interview remains today one of the most extraordinary insights into a man who, at that time, in his first serious major interview, had not yet developed the brash celebrity persona of later years, though he did begin by calling Colombian literature "a casualty list." It was the first time Garcia Marquez had been subjected to public interrogation and its effect on his own self-scrutiny and self-analysis is likely to have been dramatic. Harss described him thus: He is stocky, but light on his feet, with a bristling mustache, a cauliflower nose, and many fillings in his teeth. He wears an open sports shirt, faded blue jeans, and a bulky jacket flung over his shoulders ... A strenuous life that might have wrecked another man has provided Garcia Marquez with the rich hoard of personal experiences that form the hard core of his work. For years he has been living in Mexico. He would go home if he could-he says he would drop everything if he were needed there-but at the moment he and Colombia have nothing to offer each other. For one thing, his politics are unwelcome there, and he has strong feelings on the subject. Meantime-if life abroad can be an ordeal, it also has its compensations-he is like a jeweler polishing his gems. With a handful of books behind him, each born of the labor of love, like a pearl in an oyster, he has begun to make a solid reputation for himself.51 Later in the interview, however, Garcia Marquez would try to undermine Harss's view of him as constant and tenacious: "I have firm political ideas. But my literary ideas change according to my digestion." And Harss noted that he also seemed somehow to carry drama with him: Angel Gabriel, tightening his belt, comes out of a dark bend in the corridor with lights in his eyes. He lets himself into the room stealthily, a bit on edge, wondering what is going to happen to him, but at the same time, it seems, rubbing his hands with anticipation ... He has a way of startling himself with his own thoughts. Now-the night is fragrant and full of surprises-he lies back on a bed, like a psychoanalytic patient, stubbing out cigarettes. He talks fast, snatching thoughts as they cross his mind, winding and unwinding them like paper streamers, following them in one end and out the other, only to lose them before he can pin them down. A casual tone with a deep undertow suggests he is making a strategy of negligence. He has a way of eavesdropping on himself, as if he were trying to overhear bits of a conversation in the next room. What matters is what is left unsaid.52 Was Garcia Marquez already like this or was he becoming this as he spoke, urged on by the drama in which he felt he was taking part? Who knows. Harss would entitle his interview "Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or the Lost Chord."

Just a few weeks later, following this first public camera flash, came a crucial business visit. Since 1962 the Barcelona literary agent Carmen Balcells had been acting for Garcia Marquez in a largely hypothetical sense as the negotiator of his translations; whereas he, up to now, had been having a hard time getting the novels published even in their original language. Balcells arrived in Mexico on Monday 5 July after a visit to New York, where she had negotiated a contract with Roger Klein of Harper and Row to publish Garcia Marquez's four extant works in English translation for 1,000 dollars.53 She was an ambitious international literary agent and he was a promising young writer aching for success. She introduced herself to her new author, explained the contract and waited for his reaction: "The contract is a piece of shit," was his reply. The ebullient Balcells, rotund of face and body, and her husband Luis Palomares, had already been disconcerted by the Colombian's curious but characteristic mixture of diffidence, indifference and arrogance, and must have been astounded that a writer almost no one had heard of could have such a high opinion of his own worth. This was not a good start: "I found him most unlikeable, petulant. But he was right about the contract." She was an ambitious international literary agent and he was a promising young writer aching for success. She introduced herself to her new author, explained the contract and waited for his reaction: "The contract is a piece of shit," was his reply. The ebullient Balcells, rotund of face and body, and her husband Luis Palomares, had already been disconcerted by the Colombian's curious but characteristic mixture of diffidence, indifference and arrogance, and must have been astounded that a writer almost no one had heard of could have such a high opinion of his own worth. This was not a good start: "I found him most unlikeable, petulant. But he was right about the contract."54 Fortunately Garcia Marquez and Mercedes soon rallied and put on three days of guided tours and parties, culminating on 7 July 1965 in the signing of a second, spoof contract in which, like a colonel in one of his stories, and in the presence of Luis Vicens, he authorized Balcells to represent him in all languages and on all sides of the Atlantic for 150 years. Now his own short story was weaving its magic: he had found his own Big Mama in real life, and for the long term. She at once negotiated with Era for new editions of Fortunately Garcia Marquez and Mercedes soon rallied and put on three days of guided tours and parties, culminating on 7 July 1965 in the signing of a second, spoof contract in which, like a colonel in one of his stories, and in the presence of Luis Vicens, he authorized Balcells to represent him in all languages and on all sides of the Atlantic for 150 years. Now his own short story was weaving its magic: he had found his own Big Mama in real life, and for the long term. She at once negotiated with Era for new editions of No One Writes to the Colonel and In Evil Hour No One Writes to the Colonel and In Evil Hour, and would soon negotiate Italian translations with Feltrinelli. She probably thought he should be grateful for his luck. Little did she know how lucky she was going to be.

After these unexpected visits from afar and their accompanying good news, Garcia Marquez decided to take the family for a brief vacation in Acapulco the following weekend, having been away filming in Patzcuaro for so long. The road down to Acapulco is one of the most tortuous and testing in a country of terrifying twists and turns, and Garcia Marquez, who has always enjoyed driving, was delighting in the piloting of his little white Opel through the ever-changing panorama of the Mexican road. He has often said that driving is a skill at once so automatic and yet so demanding of concentration that it allows him to displace the surplus concentration to a consideration of his novels.55 He had not been driving long that day when, "from nowhere," the first sentence of a novel floated down into his brain. Behind it, invisible but palpable, was the entire novel, there as if dictated-downloaded-from above. It was as powerful, as irresistible as a magic spell. The secret formula of the sentence was in the point of view and, above all, in the tone: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad ..." Garcia Marquez, as if in a trance, pulled over at the roadside, turned the Opel around, and drove back in the direction of Mexico City. And then ... He had not been driving long that day when, "from nowhere," the first sentence of a novel floated down into his brain. Behind it, invisible but palpable, was the entire novel, there as if dictated-downloaded-from above. It was as powerful, as irresistible as a magic spell. The secret formula of the sentence was in the point of view and, above all, in the tone: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad ..." Garcia Marquez, as if in a trance, pulled over at the roadside, turned the Opel around, and drove back in the direction of Mexico City. And then ...

It seems a pity to intervene in the story at this point but the biographer feels constrained to point out that there have been many versions of this story (as of so many others) and that the one just related cannot be true-or at least, cannot be as miraculous as most of its narrators have suggested. The different versions vary as to whether it was the first line that Garcia Marquez heard or whether it was just the image of a grandfather taking a boy to discover ice (or, indeed, to discover something else).56 Whatever the truth, something mysterious, not to say magical, had certainly happened. Whatever the truth, something mysterious, not to say magical, had certainly happened.

The classic version, just interrupted, has Garcia Marquez turning the car round the very moment he hears the line in his head and peremptorily cancelling the family vacation, driving back to Mexico City and beginning the novel as soon as he gets home. Other versions have him repeating the line to himself and reflecting on its implications as he drives, then making extensive notes when he gets to Acapulco, then starting the novel proper as soon as he gets back to the capital city.57 This is certainly the most convincing of the different alternatives; but in all the versions the vacation is truncated and the boys and the long-suffering Mercedes, little knowing how long-suffering she would now be called upon to be, had to swallow their disappointment and wait for another holiday-an occasion which would be a long time coming

Gabriel Garcia Marquez_ A Life Part 5

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