I remember in the interview that Mario Vargas Llosa had with Gabriel Garcia Marquez following the publication of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” in 1967 that Marquez, in reply to a question, described himself as a realist.
When Vargas Llosa expressed some surprise, Marquez said that in Latin America, after all, the completely fantastical was reality, and went on to cite, as an example, the belief of a dictator that if a pendulum swung to the right he could safely eat the food that lay under it, and that if it swung to the left it was poisoned. That dictator was also convinced, he said, that wrapping streetlights in red paper would put an end to a virus epidemic.
At one point, when Vargas Llosa remarked that a number of Latin American writers were no longer living in their native countries, and was the case with Marquez, he said, “Who says I don’t live in Colombia?” As if to say that no matter where he resided, Colombia lived in him. No matter where he was, he would always write a Colombian novel, a Latin American novel, he said, adding that he didn’t believe, moreover, that one had to be miserable to be a good writer, that one could write even better, in fact, if his or her domestic and economic problems were resolved. (I was cheered by that.) And, he added that “you know perfectly well that a tired man can’t write.” (I must take in more electrolytes.)
A young couple to whom I lent the book in which the interview was recorded returned it to me the next day, with a note from him, that said, as best as I could make out: “Thanks, Jack! It has been years since I’ve read about this pair of writers with such devotion. Gabo faced life with poetry, especially in ‘Love in the Time of Cholera.’ By the same token, Vargas Llosa showed me a rational world in ‘The Temptation of the Impossible,’ a great cultural contribution, a magisterial essay on Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables.’ This conversation between Mario and Gabo is an invaluable gift.”
I was kept afloat by that intellectual interaction — figuratively, of course, for, in the hotel’s pool, as I said last week, I’d swim a few strokes and then sink like a stone. In the end, then, I’m more buoyed by thoughts when on vacation than by parasailing.
And with that, I’m off to BookHampton to order “The Temptation of the Impossible.”