Zeytinoglu: Marquez’s influence extends beyond literature


Ekin Zeytinoglu, Columnist

On a cold December day in 1982, a journalist, as he liked to call himself, stood in front of the Swedish Academy and used his moment as the most important writer in the world to bluntly say that, while he appreciated the award, the Western world has been hypocritical in the way it sees Latin America. He noted, even though the Western culture embraced Latin America’s literature with open arms, it also disregarded its cultural and political identity.

Just a couple of days ago, news agencies from all over the world published a photograph of that journalist — Gabriel Garcia Marquez — with a yellow rose attached to his jacket, to announce his death. Though at times suffering incredible poverty, his works have not only influenced the world literature greatly, but also radically changed his readers’ understanding of the world. He left this world not only by not settling for the life offered to him, but by conveying his insatiable desire for more to us through his novels.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or “Gabo,” may have left on a sad April day, but he very well lives through his immortal characters: every time we fail to prevent a foreseeable murder just as Santiago Nasar or every time we, “insist on measuring Latin America with the yardstick (we) use for ourselves” even though the Buendia family tells us not to. Undoubtedly, Marquez was an author whose influence extends beyond literature.

Gabo may actually be gone, but he, also, is never going to manage to go; just as his “master” Faulkner or his great influences Joyce, Kafka, Hemingway couldn’t. Even one of 20th century’s most important poets, Pablo Neruda, placed the immortal work of Marquez above all others, calling it “perhaps the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since the ‘Don Quixote’ of Cervantes.” However Gabo’s legacy today goes beyond his literature. He was a good friend but also an idealist; he stood by his Cuban friend, whose cause he defended by heart all his life despite all the controversy and criticism, but did not hesitate to publicly send a letter to achieve the release of Heberto Padilla, a poet incarcerated by the Cuban government.

Marquez managed to attract the world’s attention to address the problems of his continent and always considered this one of his main goals. He publicly defied the “evil dictators” of Latin America, and has devoted his time, money and prestige to the causes he believed in. He formed a political party in Venezuela, defended the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and bought a news magazine in Colombia, to pursue his deep-rooted love of journalism.

However long before Gabo achieved the recognition he enjoyed through his life, he was a penniless journalist, fired by one of those Latin American dictators. After his death, the Mexican government declared three days of mourning, hundreds of newspapers reported him in their front page, thousands of people wrote about him and millions were saddened. And what about that fascist leader of Colombia back in the fifties who shut down Garcia’s newspaper: Do any of us know his name? Gabo, at least, proved the impact he did on his mission against “the evil dictators” by his death.

Not many writers get to be commemorated at all, and even the ones who manage not to be forgotten in the flow of time, tend to be remembered only for their works and not for what they achieved beyond those pages. Gabriel Garcia Marquez will surely enjoy the recognition any writer would envy.

His book “Living to Tell the Tale” begins with the quotation, “Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” Recalling those lines, I feel comfortable to say that he will be remembered well with that yellow rose on his jacket, so well that both his novels and achievements beyond those pages will not be forgotten. Since with the master of magical realism gone, everyone in this magical, yet so real, world is now a bit more desolate, a bit more solitary.

Ekin Zeytinoglu is a McCormick freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].