Gabriel Garcia Marquez Goes Home Again

The Nobel Prize-winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez returns to his home village, Aracataca, Colombia, to mark his upcoming 80th birthday. It's the 40th anniversary of his masterwork, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now let's follow somebody who has been telling stories for a long time, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He created the writing style known as magical realism. If the sun needs to set at one o'clock in the afternoon, the author just makes that happen.

This has been Gabriel Garcia Marquez's year in his native Colombia. Celebrations have marked his upcoming 80th birthday, the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Prize, and the 40th anniversary of his greatest literary work, "One Hundred Years of Solitude".

That book begins with the line: Many years later, as he stood in front of a firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia(ph) had to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

The novel took place in a town modeled on Garcia Marquez's home town, Aracataca, Colombia. But for 25 years the author did not return to the real town, until now. NPR's Juan Forero went along.

(Soundbite of train)

JUAN FORERO: Trains have always played an important role in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's work. Decades ago, trains carried massacre victims, banana workers killed in uprisings; horrific images that fired the young writer's imagination. And it was on a slow, chugging train that Garcia Marquez returned to Aracataca as a young man, a trip in 1950 that would inspire him to become a writer.

(Soundbite of applause)

FORERO: So it was that the novelist and a big entourage boarded the Macondo Express on Wednesday, a vintage train prepared just for this trip and painted over with yellow butterflies - an allusion to the butterflies that infest Macondo in "One Hundred Years of Solitude". The train rumbled slowly through shantytowns and lush banana fields, and all along the tracks stood thousands of people hoping to catch a glimpse of a man so beloved here that he's simply known as Gabo.

(Soundbite of music)

FORERO: Brass bands welcomed him. Garcia Marquez only waved, declining to make a speech or talk to reporters on this trip. It didn't bother Wilmer Polo(ph), who brought his whole family to a train station along the route.

Mr. WILMER POLO: (Through translator) This is his land, the land of Macondo. It's been 25 years. Now it was time.

FORERO: In his autobiography, Garcia Marquez remembers Aracataca as a good place to live, where everybody knew everybody else, located on the banks of a river of transparent water that raced over a bed of polished stones as huge and white as prehistoric eggs.

In Gabo's greatest novel, Aracataca becomes a forgotten, magical place of the quirky Buendia clan, a town of conflict and tranquility, love and love lost, a near paradise that never seems to live up to its potential. In a nutshell, it's Colombia, or even Latin America, all wrapped up in one small place.

Living here until age eight, Garcia Marquez's imagination was filled with the hair-raising stories told by his grandfather, Colonel Nicolas Marquez - grist for his books.

Jaime Abello is Gabo's close friend. Standing on a stage in Aracataca's central square, awaiting the novelist, he spoke above the din. He said the writer knows full well what he owes his hometown.

Mr. JAIME ABELLO (Writer): He wanted to maybe pay some tribute of love to this town, to this village, and to all the people. It's like coming back to say I love you and I belong to you.

FORERO: Music celebrating Gabo's return blared from loud speakers.

(Soundbite of music)

FORERO: And children sang and clapped as Garcia Marquez passed by.

(Soundbite of children)

FORERO: Cesar Montero was among the organizers of the visit.

Mr. CESAR MONTERO (Resident, Aracataca, Colombia): (Through translator) It's been 25 years since he's visited us, so we can't waste this opportunity.

FORERO: Writing about the 1950 trip that changed his life, Gabo recalled it as so decisive that the longest and most diligent of lives would not be enough for me to finish recounting it. To many here, this latest trip was just as important.

Juan Forero, NPR News, Aracataca, Colombia.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.