When I found Gabriel Garcia Marquez, it was like inheriting a wise grandfather, randy uncle and beloved teacher. I dreamt of meeting a real life Melquiades. I marveled at the drama of the Buendia -- their lives were like those of the families in our stories, but full of magic we never get with soap operas. I fell in love with a geography I have visited only through his stories. I felt like I could walk around Macondo without a map ... intimately connected to it and its history. But it also gave me new eyes for my own hometown. You can love someplace that you have desperately tried to get away from as much as the place where you landed.
I became more interested in the history of Latin America because of the twists and turns I read in his book. His novels and stories are full of allusions to Latin American history, politics and intrigue. But you have to know something about it to get them... so, there I would go, trying to get deeper into the story by understanding the inside jokes.
The stories were magnificent and I loved reading them in the original. [My first read, One Hundred Years of Solitude, I read and reread and reread it.] Through his books, I learned vocabulary
without looking up words in the dictionary. I learned to appreciate my
long, winding sentences as a legacy of the Spanish living somewhere
inside my brain since I was an infant.
I had the pleasure of reading far and wide in his works because I was teaching them in AP Spanish Literature as a novice teacher. I wanted to know all of the works inside and out so that I could help my students. I studied literature more intensely those first few years of teaching than I ever did as a Romance Languages and Literature major. I mean, of course, I had read what I was assigned to read, but now I needed to KNOW the readings. I am sure I enjoyed the readings more... mostly because it was challenging stuff for my students. Really, only a few of them had the skills to actually get through a story. When they came back to me frustrated, I would say, "Oh, if you didn't like this story it must be because you missed the secret sex." The joy of teaching high schoolers -- some would go back in search of the secret sex. I can only hope that in the search some of them also found they loved GGM, too.
My favorite short story is El ahorcado mas hermoso del mundo. Cien anos de soledad will always be my favorite of his novels. You might see my admiration for GGM's work is firmly in the magical.
I picture GGM's heaven as a brothel in the daytime -- surrounded by beautiful women and recounting stories that always leaving them wanting more.
Thank you, don Gabriel, your magical places were always a refuge for me. May you rest in peace, your mind free again to wander in the realms of magic, reality and wonder.