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Poet of Self-Pity

by David Pryce-Jones

The baleful influence of Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez lived and died in Mexico City, and there he has received a sendoff that could have served for a head of state. A funeral cortège brought the urn with his ashes to a plinth in the Bellas Artes Palace. Eulogies were then given by Enrique Peña Nieto and Juan Manuel Santos, presidents respectively of Mexico and Colombia, the country where García Márquez was born. Juan Manuel Santos had special thanks to offer: “Eternal glory to the man who has given us glory.” Thousands of people filed past the urn to pay their respects. Three days of national mourning have been decreed in both countries, with flags at half staff. In living memory no writer anywhere in the wide world has been so honored.

National presidents are prone to claim glory, and Colombia is certainly in need of it. Assorted Marxist guerrillas and terrorists have been struggling with paramilitary groups and drug cartels for the best part of half a century. Cocaine is the country’s chief product and source of income. Fear for his personal safety impelled García Márquez to move to Mexico. His contribution to glory is the literary gimmick of “magic realism.” Familiarly nicknamed “Gabo,” he was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize and praised as the pioneer of a cultural renaissance in Latin America.

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