Gabriel García Márquez interview by Ana Cristina Navarro

https://www.rtve.es/alacarta/videos/personajes-en-el-archivo-de-rtve/vida-segun-gabriel-garcia-marquez/2488243/

Interview by Ana Cristina Navarro from the TV program “Life according to…[La vida según…]” September 1995 

Transcription of interview in Spanish here.

GGM: Gabriel García Márquez

J [Journalist]: Ana Cristina Navarro

GGM:  A novelist can make up anything as long as he/she is capable of making it believable and I think the great challenge of a novel is that the reader believes every line. But what you discover is that already in Latin America, it is easier to make someone believe literature, fiction and novels, than reality [1:07].

The great challenge of a novel is that the reader believes every line.

gabriel garcía márquez

 J: What would you, what would you like to see through a keyhole without being seen?

GGM: You know what? Life from death. That would be—it is a great dream to be able to see life from death.

 J: You, who chooses the death of your protagonists, how would you choose yours? How would you like to die?

GGM: Well, if they could, if I were put to choose death, I wouldn’t choose it, I absolutely refuse to [1:38]. The only option I accept is to not die. I think the only really important thing there is is life; what is important is to be alive. And I think that death is a trap, it’s a betrayal, which is let loose on you without giving you the conditions.

 J: So you, like your friend [Juan] Rulfo [1:57], you wouldn’t choose someone to be in the grave next to yours to have someone to talk to, for example?

 GGM: No, no, not so. For me the fact that this ends is very serious and practically without any participation of one’s own, except when it comes. I think it’s unfair [2:15].

J: And what can we do to avoid it?

GGM: Write a lot.

What can we do to avoid [death]?

“Write a lot.”

gabriel garcía márquez

J: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s fascination of the supernatural is Galician and his unconditional loyalty towards his friends is Basque. From the Andalusians he gets his fondness for exaggerations and word decorations. His sensible way of looking at life reminds one of Castile. But he also has a lot from Africa and the melancholy of the slaves, and like other Caribbeans, he likes to philosophize and be a prophet. He’s also the offspring of the enigmatic women from the Guajiro desert and if that’s not enough, he was born in a country where the absurd happens daily and with the same force every day, and that means being a child of Macondo [3:07].

Spain learnt about him from a novel that came from Buenos Aires named One Hundred Years Of Solitude. In Colombia, his country, he was already the best at features and reporting, and he had five published books and an award or two. Two years after the publishing of the epic story of the Buendías, he became the most sold Spanish language author in the world. It’s a record he still holds. His name is Gabriel García Márquez and he is 67 years old [3:41].

GGM: In Latin America, but particularly in Mexico and Colombia, we were trained and educated by the Spanish refugees, by the Spanish Republicans. So then the children of that time, we were Spanish Republicans. And I with that militant fervor of the first years of high school and college, I always told myself that I would never go to Spain until Franco died [4:24]. But in the meantime, I was already a Spanish Republican completely. I knew the history of the Spanish civil war very well, knew the history of Spain less well, but Spanish literature very well. So then there were these types of tendencies found inside of me that knew a country very well by reference, I knew its people, but I had never gone to Spain [5:00].

J: You had the nostalgia but without having lived it.

GGM: I had the anticipated nostalgia of Spain, moreover, I remember Azorín’s countryside, Machado’s countryside, all those literary references which later one discovers are real. Those writers did a wonderful photograph of Spain in their time. Later on, I would visit as if I had always been there. Those rivers with their black poplars on their banks. Until the moment came when I realized; I was in Europe for three years, in Italy, in France and England and I didn’t go to Spain. I flew over Spain twice. I stopped once in Madrid and I could have stayed, but I didn’t because I had made myself that promise, which no one had asked me to actually, instead it was something born out of my spirit and all of a sudden I realized [6:10] after writing Hundred Years Of Solitude, Franco was never going to die and I was never going to know Spain, so then without further ado, I went there. Now-

J: Why did you choose Barcelona and not another city to live in?

GGM: Why did I go to Barcelona? Because the person who had the most influence on me was Catalonian Ramón Villas, who lived many years in Barranquilla and who is the Wise Old Catalonian in One Hundred Years of Solitude. So I had heard so much about Barcelona, the cafés, the bookstores, the theaters of Barcelona, so I went to see how it was and I arrived in Barcelona as if I had lived there a long time and knew the place. And then I found that the affinity I had for my Spanish teachers, Spanish friends, the Spanish butcher, the Spanish fishmonger, the Spanish ironsmith, the Spanish shoemaker, whom we grew up with, still existed over there and even now people ask me “What did you come to do in Spain?” and I say, as always, to fight with my Spanish friends because we kick up a tremendous fuss, have some huge meals and one lives in a permanent state of volcanic eruption [7:29].

 J: Your friend Mario Vargas Llosa is from that time as well. Is that friendship broken forever? You’re not answering. OK. And what do you think about the controversy now in Catalonia regarding bilingual education, about the fact that children should be necessarily taught in Catalan? Do you have an opinion about that?

 GGM: What I don’t have is a lot of information. I don’t have a lot of information but I think that the most reasonable people in Catalonia realize what they have there is a natural historical reality, which means it doesn’t make a lot of sense to fight the Spanish language. I think the real war against the Spanish language comes from the Spanish Language Academy [8:36].

The real war against the Spanish language comes from the Spanish Language Academy.

GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

 J: So you still haven’t reconciled with the Spanish Language Academy, not even the latest dictionary publication seems better for you?

 GGM: No, because it is not a question of dictionaries, it’s not a question of the word quantity or the inclusion of terms, but of criterion. The criterion that they are the repositories of the poorness of the language; therefore they have the language in prison. It’s like a language police who have the language in jail and they don’t allow it to flow, to go out on the streets and pervert itself, which is the wonderful thing about living languages. In that sense, María Moliner went much farther than them because she made a usage dictionary and there are the words that are used and how they are used. It’s not that they tell you that’s an anglicism, this should not be used like this etc. Even though the academies, the corresponding ones in the different Latin American countries, have influenced the Spanish Academy a lot [9:50]

 J: Have they made them change?

 GGM: Well, no, they have made them become aware that the Spanish language is also Latin-Americanisms.

 J: Would you feel more comfortable writing in another language that you know?

 GGM: No, I can’t conceive of a richer, more wonderful, more radiant language than the Spanish language but written with absolute liberty [10:20].

 J: Will you continue writing for the new technology, it doesn’t scare you?

 GGM: Well, I do write with a computer.

 J: I know.

 GGM: I write using a computer since—I have all of Love In The Time Of Cholera in the computer. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the first Spanish novel written using a computer. And I’m not sure if it’s because of age or because of the computer itself, but what I do know since I started to write using a computer, my book average, which was about seven years per book, is almost at three years for each book. I think the computer has a lot to do with that.

 J: I see that you’re not very scared of technology. Is there any recent scientific advance that scares you? [11:07]

 GGM: The way genetics are being handled. We already have the conditions to make you a Centaur. It hasn’t been done because of ethical reasons but we can already make centaurs. And I have the fear that we might go into an age of foolishness. Not everything else, everything else is all under the service of humanity and genetics. The study of genetics is super important but the insanity, the abuses that can be committed with genetics are terrible.

 J: By the way, when you went to the Príncipe de Asturias [Award Ceremony] and when you got off the airplane, you said, with a lot of enthusiasm, “at last I’m in Oviedo.” Why “at last” What were you hoping to find in Oviedo? [11:56]

 GGM: I didn’t make a very sincere statement over there and one which would have come from my soul because I didn’t know at that time if it would have been interpreted very well. But what I felt and what I wanted to say was that Oviedo seemed to me like a gigantic Centro Asturiano [Asturian Centers]. I said that with all my love, I didn’t want to say it because I don’t know if it would have been well interpreted. The thing is that among everything I was telling you about the relationships with Spaniards in Latin America, there’s one thing that left a mark on us since we were children: The Centro Asturianos in the different towns.

 J: In Mexico, in Venezuela—

 GGM: In Mexico, Venezuela, but in Mexico, in Mexico City, in Cuba, inVeracruz, everywhere. So then we—I had this idea of Asturias, of the beloved homeland, of the fabada stew, of the music, of the people—even of the different Asturian accents in comparison with other Spanish ones because I had become familiar with them in the Centros Asturianos. They are of this Asturian membership all over the world and when I went [to Asturias] I realized they’re the same over there.

 J: Spain in this moment is going through confusing, difficult, complicated moments. Specially for a person who is a friend of yours, Felipe González. Do you think Felipe will have a place in history or all of the sudden changes that his administration is going through will erase the footprint of what he may have done for Spain? [13:55]

 GGM: All of those sudden changes were able to happen because of the Spain that Felipe González has made. It was unthinkable before.

 J: OK, explain that.

 GGM: Before it was unthinkable to make so many false and true accusations, to create so much public controversy and to denigrate or entangle things the way they do now. It was impossible before. That space of freedom, of freedom of expression, of all types of freedoms is owed to Felipe González and his people. But I think that’s how it’s going to be judged. I think it’s a passing moment, Felipe will prevail, he will triumph before all his adversaries but it shouldn’t be forgotten that those adversaries had the opportunity to do everything they do because all those things are possible in the Spain of today, and they haven’t been during many years and centuries in Spain. I think the freedom that Felipe González’s Spain has hasn’t existed in Spain for many years and centuries. That’s how I see it [15:27]

 J: Have you already reconciliated with Spain with the immigrant issue? In 1992 you made some strong statements in that sense.

GGM: Yes, the thing is that Latin Americans never forget what we did with the Spanish refugees. Not all who came were university professors, great publishers, writers and scientists. A lot of riffraff came too. And it was about saving their lives, giving them a new life, a new world, which one time belonged to them; and we did so with pleasure. And we mixed with them the same way we did after Columbus’ arrival. And then all of a sudden, we find Spain starts to choose which ones yes and which ones no. So that hurts a lot because– I do not have any complaints, of course, when I arrive in Spain, I’m like a king. Friends treat me like a king. And many whom I know, writers, but what they’re doing, a critic, with a selection criteria, those people they consider good yes, like kings, and the rest they treat them at the airports in a way we never treated any Spaniard. And I think we never would. Furthermore, It’s strange that they do that. In that sense the discrimination continues.

 J: Do you still think that the closer Spain is to Europe, the farthest it will be from Latin América?

 GGM: Yes. When all of this started, I complained to Felipe González. And he said, “don’t worry I will be the bridge. Spain will be the bridge between Latin America and Europe.” But I think the circumstances have taken them to try to be more European than Latin Americans and we are here waiting for that not too far away day when they return, like the Chinese who sit on their doorstep to wait for the enemy’s corpse to go by. The Spaniards will return again because each day they are less European, despite all the technology and automatic stoves. Deep down they are still only Spaniards equal to us.

 J: Is it true that you detest Cristopher Columbus as a historical personage?

GGM: No, the thing is that he was pavoso [unlucky], like Venezuelans say. He brought bad luck. He carried his bad luck everywhere. You can’t talk about him in Santo Domingo.

 J: His journal however, fascinates you.

GGM: Well, but that is –

J: His travel journal

GGM: But that doesn’t seriously affect us.

J: Look, I’m going to read this star chart to you, published by the newspaper ABC in 1982, after they gave you the Nobel price and you tell me if you agree or disagree with it. Do you consult the stars sometimes?

GGM: Not at all. But I don’t because I do believe in it and I don’t want to know. It’s not because I don’t believe it.

J: Oh, in fortune tellers?

GGM: No, no, precisely because I believe there are fortune tellers—

J: Because of fear?

GGM: Because I believe in fortune tellers, I don’t want them to fortune-tell me anything.

J: OK. It says you are a Piscis three times Aquarius and thanks to Pluto’s influence you have the gift of persuasion. Do you agree or not?

GGM: Well, I don’t know by which planets, but I think when I’ve needed it, I’ve had it, yes.

J: I do think so. With an unconscious influenced by Virgo, which makes you analytical, intolerant, perfectionist and pedantic.

GGM: Oh yes, all of that. It’s perfect, luckily.

J: It also says you are a born psychologist. Incredibly intuitive, which makes one think you have privileged and secret information and that trifles irritate you. Did you write this horoscope?

GGM: No, no, no.

J: It seems like you did.

GGM: What is false there is that trifles irritate me. I mean, trifles irritate me if they are irritating. But some are not, nor do they have to be.

J: Do you admit you are vain? [20:14]

GGM: What is understood by vain? Let’s see, when a skinny weak person stands before a mirror to do this, he’s a vain one, but when Tarzan does it, that’s not vain, that’s proud. In that sense I’m not vain.

J: Are you capricious? Yes?

GGM: Capricious I think—

J: Do you like caprices?

GGM: We’ve got a definition problem [20:44].

J: No, no. A man who always buys the same style of boots is capricious because those are the ones he likes.

GGM: A capricious person, like the name says, is a person who is like a goat, who starts to butt a wall until he gets through it. I think I hit a wall once and I use the door. In that sense, I’m not capricious. I know exactly what they want to say but it’s not capricious, it’s something else. It’s like, like, like what?

J: Do you admit you dislike it when people are contrary to you?

GGM: No one likes it when someone is contrary but thanks to the friends I recognize as friends, and like good literary critics, who are unfavorable reading my originals, thanks to that I’ve been able to save a lot of my books.

J: Do you still share with your friends the literary correction of your books?

GGM: Oh, yes, of course. Yes, but who likes it when people are contrary?

J: No, no one does. But some are bothered more than others.

GGM: No, it doesn’t bother me more than others. I have learnt a lot from people who are contrary to me.

J: Do the reviews from literary critics, commentaries, do they manage to upset you?

GGM: Well, not anymore because I don’t read them. But I learnt something important: Any unfavorable review, any reproach, actually even any insult hurts a lot, but one learns it hurts less the next day, less the third day and on the fourth day one can’t remember anymore [22:22].

J: For example Bloom, who is an idol of literary review has just published the best writers of the century and you are not on the list. Does that bother you?

GGM: To the point I didn’t know I wasn’t on the list.

J: What would make you upset? What drives you up the wall?

GGM: Having to do something I dislike. Setbacks. Having to do something I dislike. Having to do interviews, for example, is what upsets me the most [23:02].

[one minute pause]

J: The truth is he didn’t play soccer with a cloth ball a lot, like the poor Caribbean soccer players, and he hardly had time to play baseball, the sport of the children of the coasts of the Americas. Gabriel did not have a favorite childhood game he repeated over and over because to forget the stories of the dead that his aunts would tell him, as soon as he learnt how to read, he did nothing else than devour the books his grandfather would lend him.

J: One has the impression that you were the loneliest child in the world. Is that true or is it now a novel [25:03]

GGM: I think all children are the loneliest children of the world. Let’s say what happens is I have probably managed to transmit it through my books but now I have a grandchild who is seven years old. I look at him and I know what he is thinking because I have the impression, he is suffering of the same solitude I suffered from and he’s thinking of the same things. Interesting it didn’t happen with my children.

J: What do you think is the inquisition today?

GGM: The inquisition continues exactly the same always. It starts at home. The inquisition is your parents. The inquisition is the teachers. The inquisition is the political powers, the financial powers. All the refinement you want but the inquisition continues. In a way we continue to live inside repressive circles which correspond to be the inquisition of today.

J: Let’s see, the parents are the inquisition. Have you ever felt to be an inquisitor of your own children?

GGM: I always had the worry of not being an inquisitor with my own children and I’ve never known if I was or not because we developed such a cordial relationship, of so much comprehension that I have the impression I was not, but it’s very probable I was, precisely for not being one. In the desire of not interfering, I was probably modifying and influencing them and probably affecting them. It will never be known.

J: Did you suffer any of those inquisitorial elements in your childhood? Did you also have your own inquisition as a child [27:10]?

GGM: Yes, of course, and luckily it’s what I owe being a writer to.

J: Why? Tell me.

GGM: I was controlled by means of fear. It was a big house, in Aracataca, very full of women. I remember a lot of women in that house and one only man, who was grandfather. But so that I would behave, especially at night, they would scare me terribly: “Don’t move because there’s a dead person who comes out of that room, don’t move because Mr. So and So died over there , don’t move because the devil comes out of there.” The saints, which were of the wooden statue type, of almost real-life shape, like the church ones, with those candles which makes them ghostly at night. They would threaten me with punishments from the Saints [28:04] I spent horrific nights.

J: And was it grandpa who always saved you from being burnt at the stake?

GGM: I had the impression grandpa saved me from being burnt at the stake but now I realize he was the most inquisited of all because he didn’t realize up to what point he himself was an instrument of all the women who lived in that house [28:26]

J: So what did this grandfather have which was so strong for you?

GGM: He paid attention to me. I had the impression there was a game that existed with the women, which perhaps has lasted forever, which is the game of seduction. Now I realize we were probably accomplices, and I had not realized it, accomplices against the women, except now I feel more of an accomplice of women than of men. I changed sides.

J: Everything he knows from his precocious vocation as a writer, Garcia Marquez has written in a book still unknown to us. A Manual To Be A Child are his reflections from working with a group of experts about the educational reform in Colombia: A leaflet that teaches children to defend their aptitudes before adults so they allow them to be what they always wanted to be.

GGM: I realized something I never had realized before, that I, all my training, all my education, was based on the tricks, on the cheating I always had to do to be a writer in a society where it wasn’t anticipated a person wouldn’t have one the of known liberal professions and all of a sudden wanted to be a writer. Parents are happy when they see children drawing or playing instruments and they help them until the child grows up and says “Well, what I want to be is a musician or painter. That’s when they become scared and try to convince [him/her] at all costs that [he/she] has a serious profession and furthermore [30:20] with whatever [he/she] can obtain with that serious profession, continue with what could appear as [his/her] hobby, [his/her] secondary pastime. In other words, I think if someone during [his/her] whole lifetime does only what [he/she] likes to do, and has all the conditions to do it well, that’s the secret of happiness and longevity.

If someone during [his/her] whole lifetime does only what [he/she] likes to do, and has all the conditions to do it well, that’s the secret of happiness and longevity.

GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

J: What did you feel, what did you experience being so little, the first day you saw your mother?

GGM: What I remember the most is the perfume.

J: What did it smell of [31:06]?

GGM: It’s a perfume which if I smell now I’ll probably recognize. It was a perfume that, let’s see, we lived in Aracataca. My mother had gone with her husband, my father, to Barranquilla. And the oldest memory I have in relation to her is I would be told “your mother lives in Barranquilla and your dad lives in Barranquilla,” there were no photos, there was none of that, and I had the image, an image of her which—

J: What would they tell you? Why did they live somewhere else?

GGM: No, that’s not–these things are not explained to children; I was very young anyway, when they went to Barranquilla and suddenly I started to hear “your mom is coming, your mom is coming, your mom is going to be here.” I couldn’t imagine how that could be and I’m clueless how old I was but I remember I was from a house with a great corridor and quite a large patio and they toldme your mom is already here and so look there she is. And I came in and many women were in the living room sitting all around, with the chairs against the wall, and I saw her and recognized her right away. She was dressed like the movie characters of that time, at the end of the twenties, beginning of the thirties, with the bell-shaped hat. I remember exactly her silk outfit with embroidery, beige colored, and a straw hat of the same color [32:55] and then she said “Oh” and hugged me and I smelled [the perfume]. Every time I remembered her it was because of the perfume. Actually together we’ve even been searching what perfume it could have been, she speaks of something like Coty but for me that’s what’s interesting and above all because for me the sense of smell is what evokes memories the most and the one that most easily takes you to remote episodes and allows you to relive them completely with just one burst [33:42].

J: And that absence of your mother during all those beginning years is what makes you say you have a serious relationship with her and without sentimentality?

GGM: No, the thing is we lived together a very short time. Let’s see, at that moment I was in Barranquilla, then when grandfather died and grandmother died, I went to live with them, but I remember, they went back to live to Aracataca and they lived in a different house, but I lived at my grandparents’ and they only took me to sleep at my parents’ house when they were going to give me a purgative.

J: Why?

GGM: Because when you were a kid they’d give you a purgative and where they had the purgative techniques was at home – because they had already been born – every year a sibling was born over there. There’s fifteen of us. So make the calculation, every year someone was born so at that time there must have been four or five [children], so there wasn’t a lot of time to dedicate to each one and when they decided to give a purgative they would do it collectively [35:00].

J: Everyone.

GGM: So then it was my turn – I who they wouldn’t come and get me for the parties – at night I missed being with my siblings, after they went to bed, throwing pillows at each and all that, not I, I lived in the Saint’s room.

J: And the siblings in the other house?

GGM: And the siblings in the other house. So when they took me to sleep there, I was happy because I was going to be with my siblings but I knew they gave purgatives there, a castor oil, they had the habit of mixing with milk and you’d notice the big oil sediments. Well, it was such that they’d give us a 50-cent coin as a prize, and for many years when I remembered those coins, I’d get the purgative nausea. As you can see, then, there were very few opportunities to speak to my mom who was always raising children and pregnant. The relationship became not one of strangers but it was a relationship which didn’t have memories.

J: You have your dreams of Cartagena. Have you been able to somewhat repair that relationship?

GGM: No, but it was never broken. It’s a different relationship from others. It’s a relationship with mother and father which is that way [36:19].

J: After having spent his life between many homes and many landscapes, he’s returned to Colombia. His two children and two grandchildren have stayed in other lands. He’s in Cartagena, the Caribbean City of aristocrats who are still chewing over the nostalgia of when the king of Spain ceased to rule and they stayed. In Cartagena Gabo seems already accustomed to the bodyguards and he’s built an unusual house in which to continue inventing stories to the rhythm of boleros and vallenatos. To guard the Caribbean from the site where the Bishops and the Clarisses were buried in Of Love and Other Demons and next to the school where the protagonist of Love In The Times Of Cholera goes to school. The writer has decided to live surrounded by the characters of his latest books and he walks the streets with them like nothing [37:17].

GGM: That´s the San Toribio church. Florentino Ariza played the violin there. Fermina lived over there. She’d come out of there and go to the – first she’d go by the Santa Clara convent. Have you been to the Santa Clara convent?

J: Yes, of course.

GGM: The Sierva Maria Convent.

J: Sierva María of all the Saints.

GGM: On the left she’d arrive to the La Presentación School which was where she studied. Florentino would follow her from here and on Sundays he played violin there, in the choir.

J: In that church.

GGM: And she was like those little girls coming there. She was exactly like that little girl, with the same uniform.

J: That’s adding poetry to reality.

GGM: That’s adding music to reality. In Of Love And Other Demons, for example, the Cessatio A Divinis episode, that is, the long and hard war between the bishop and the Clarisses nuns is historical, just one hundred years before [38:24].

J: However, the Clarissess issued a press release when you published your book denying they had fallen out with the bishop and that there were tunnels under the convent.

GGM: In Of Love And Other Demons the main subject is the concealment and mystification of reality, which still exists in many religious and secular communities. So it’s not odd for me that a community who still has roots in that era thinks that by denial, history is going to be denied. And it’s natural that it so happens but that episode is historical, perfectly documented, and all around it I did everything else [39:14].

J: And finally in your memoirs, Mercedes, your wife, will she have a protagonist role that we still haven’t seen in your books?

GGM: I don’t know if I’ll get all the way there because it’s not a chronological book and in which case I would have to write Mercedes’ chapter, or the chapter of our private relationship and she, as much she as I, we are too modest for that. That’s how it is, it must not be disturbed. Therefore I’m not too sure she would accept it and besides, Mercedes is all over my books, pieces everywhere, complete characters, which can be seen in Hundred Years Of Solitude, even with her own name. It’s not that those memoirs are raw but I’ve got them abandoned because I decided to write them between two books and now it turns out I’m not leaving space between  two [books] because I get out of one and go right away to the next one [40:39].

J: Tell me something about Mercedes, besides how beautiful she was because she was a very delightful woman.

GGM: She is.

J: Obviously, yes. What is it about her that fascinated you from the start because you as far as it’s known—

GGM: She didn’t pay attention to me; she paid so little attention to me like she does now and like she’s always done

J: But many years however—

GGM: No, no, the thing is she didn’t pay attention to me and she still doesn’t. That’s something men really like, to not be paid attention to.

J: Since he proposed to her at thirteen years of age, Mercedes has been at his side setting the objectives and supporting his projects no matter how absurd they may seem. While she shines on her own, he finds the way to mediate in all types of causes, some unsuccessful, like when he tried to stop the war between the Medellin Cartel and the Colombian government. García Márquez has just finished a great article about those hard years of drug violence in Colombia [41:36].

J: Can you identify obvious signs that drug trafficking has been here, I mean that it’s left an indelible mark in this society?

GGM: Oh, yes, it has. There’s already some cracks, very important cultural cracks, part of it being easy money. Easy money, which I think is one of the most serious things, the concept of easy money, why work so much if by being a little drug mule just once you’ll already have enough [money] for the rest of your life. This is extremely serious because it’s already contaminated the whole country. The corruption is immense; it’s enormous and the temptation of corruption is everywhere. Those are the serious consequences, they’re cultural, they’re already inside the Colombian soul. They are very serious but it’s like if we’re living a plague. I think it will be resolved in the simplest way: One day it will be out of fashion. But in the meantime, the damage it will make and the deaths it will create will be enormous. But one day it will be out of fashion.

J: Do you believe in the international legalization of drugs as a solution [42:47]?

GGM: Everything North American journalists know about drug trafficking in Colombia, which is a lot, they know because Colombian journalists have investigated it, have uncovered it and many of them have sacrificed their lives for those publications. However, we don’t know anything about how drug trafficking is in the U.S. because North American journalists do as if it doesn’t exist. If in the U.S. 30 million drug addicts are supplied with drugs daily without incident, without any problem, as if it were delivering milk, bread, the newspapers—if they can get supplied without incident, it means there are Mafias which are much more powerful than in Colombia and a much more significant corruption of the authorities than in Colombia. The problem is humankind has lost control of the problem of drug trafficking and drugs. It doesn’t mean we’re going to become discouraged and we’re not going to continue fighting, but we’re not going to make the assumption that the drug problem can be solved with glyphosate fumigations and with Congress certifications when it’s a problem the whole world suffers from and cannot resolve. It’s like the medieval plagues which were over when they were over. From there to say what I’ve been thinking since a long time ago and I’ve said the only thing that can save us from this is legalization, the decriminalization of drugs. But we have to be careful with the implications. This doesn’t mean we’re going to do it in Colombia and they’re not going to do it in Peru and they’re not going to in, no. It’s only possible when it’s a global agreement, of the whole world completely and without exceptions because when there’s one exception, it fails. And it’s very difficult to achieve because the interests committed in the immense drug business are so big and so high up which will make it very difficult to reach a global agreement [45:18].

J: You signed a document the other day implying the Colombian guerrilla no longer makes any sense, no longer has a raison d’être. Do you think the Chiapas movement has a justification for existence? What is your opinion of what is happening in Mexico, you being almost Mexican?

GGM: Precisely because I’m a foreigner who is almost Mexican I do not comment on Mexican politics.

J: OK, you have been close to a lot of people in power, you have and have had friends in power. I think maybe Torrijos was the closest person to you, maybe I’m wrong. Did you ever see Torrijos cry? Did you see the sadness of a leader, the pain?

GGM: No, I saw him cry but of joy. when they agreed to the Treaty of the Canal, I was with him because I had been called before. He had shut himself up in Farallón, which was a Panamanian military base. They called me and said “The general has been shut in for about a week.” He had a direct line which just by picking [the phone] up would call the Panamanian embassy in D.C. They were discussing the last minutes, the last points of the Treaty and he was shut in waiting but he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t eat, he couldn’t do anything due to the pressure he was in and his friends had the fear, as did I, that he may have a heart attack. So they called me and I went there and shut myself in with him. We were practically alone and we were alone almost a week. We drank all the whisky in the world and sometimes Champagne with ice, which is something [47:23], I know, is done in the Caribbean, it’s a little barbarian but it’s cultural, it’s how it is, and suddenly the moment the news came that it was done, he started to cry like a child. Amazing, amazing to witness that.

J: And what was he saying? What words do you remember?

GGM: No, no, he could not, nothing. There was nothing to say. It was very serious because if that Treaty would not have been agreed to, very serious historical events could have happened. Torrijos was willing to destroy the Canal.

J: Do you think that Treaty has any undoing? Because some people are trying to disobey it in the year 2000.

GGM: Whatever they want but Latin America will never allow the Treaty to be violated. Latin America, which hardly did protest with the invasion of Panama will not allow the Treaty to be violated because that’s a Treaty which is in Panamanian territory but it belongs to all Latin America.

J: Are you able to tell Fidel [Castro] everything you think?

GGM: Generally I do, the thing is that sometimes he doesn’t believe it.

J: Are you really the one who tells him the truth?

GGM: No, I think he has a lot of friends. If someone has told truths to Fidel in front of me is Felipe [Gonzalez] and he has a very good relationship [with him], but they have a different relationship between them than the one I do with both of them. They relate to each other as Spaniards [do]. And they have the same—

J: Like Gallegos [Spaniards].

GGM: Yes, like Gallegos  in the Cuban Spanish dialect, like Gallegos. The things Felipe has told him [inaudible] are very admirable and very admirable how Fidel listens.

The things Felipe [González] has told [Fidel Castro] are very admirable and very admirable how Fidel listens.

gabriel garcía márquez

J: Do you think the end of the Embargo is close, of the Cuban Embargo?

GGM: I don’t think it’s close and furthermore now with the Republican win it’s very difficult it’ll happen but I think partial agreements will come which in the end make the Embargo something more or less formal. I think that could be. The thing is the world is changing [49:51] and the U.S. cannot not change too.

J: And what about the light symptoms of opening up that we’re seeing in the movies, in daily life—

GGM: In Cuba–the thing is in Europe they have the habit of believing that opening up is only about freedom of expression and democratic freedoms and blah, blah, blah. They think, like the U.S. furthermore, that a democracy is defined by an election. If there’s an election it doesn’t matter what they’re capable of doing and the outrages and injustices committed [50:17] because it’s a government based on elections. But Cuba is very far from being what it was five years ago. The progress achieved in Cuba is immense, it’s not small openings, it’s big openings. But they don’t tell you that. What they’re waiting for is that Fidel holds elections because what they want is for Fidel to fall and they think if they hold elections, Fidel will fall and he’s not going to fall. They want to do with Fidel what they did with the Sandinistas, not with the Sandinistas, with Nicaragua. They said hold free elections and we’re going to help you with this, and this, and that. They held them. If the Sandinistas had won they would have said for sure [the elections] were rigged, that there was fraud, and they would not have recognized them. They recognized [the elections]  because the Sandinistas lost and they haven’t given Nicaragua one penny of what they had promised and look at the situation Nicaragua is in. How do they expect with that precedent, that Fidel is going to believe what they are promising him? He doesn’t believe anything. Cubans are doing what they think they must do and fortunately Europe and practically all of Latin America are acknowledging it and they are helping a lot. And the U.S. what they’re doing is missing the train, and it’s leaving, and there’s not going to be room even in the last wagon.

J: Which historical moment have you lived which interests you the most, the one that has marked you the most?

GGM: It’s still a secret. It won’t be in some time but it’s still a secret.

J: When you had just received the Nobel price you said you would give it to [Juan] Rulfo or [Graham] Greene. Who would you give it to today?

GGM: Today in Spanish I would give it to Carlos Fuentes.  .Let’s see, I would give it to Milan Kundera. Well, I’ll make a list of friends for you in alphabetical order.

J: Did you ever see Hemingway?

GGM: Yes, of course, I only saw him once promenading in the Saint Michel neighborhood. Yes, I recognized him from the other sidewalk, he was with Mary, who was a lot shorter than I imagined, very blonde. I had already written Leaf Storm and I thought well, I’ll cross to the other side, he probably speaks Spanish because he lived a lot in Spain and he was a war correspondent during the Civil War. I’ll go over there and I’ll tell him some story and maybe he’ll invite me for a coffee. But if not, why be a creep or interfere. It was a fleeting moment and I thought, I have nothing to do, so I did the only thing I could think of “Bye Teacher!” and he from the other side looked like this and [UI] “Bye Amigo!” and he left and I never saw him again [54:00].

J: There’s an encounter you had which catches the eye. You spent a lot of hours with Kurosawa, the Japanese film director. What did Kurosawa want from you?

GGM: I was very lucky that Kurosawa was waiting for this cyclone which was taking time. He was filming a movie and he had all the possibilities of doing the end of the movie with a fake cyclone, a props cyclone. And he had it perfect but he insisted it had to be cyclone number 32 I think it was, because over there they don’t have names, they have numbers.. He knew cyclone number 32 was coming, he calculated the movie could end with cyclone number 32,  and cyclone number 32 started getting delayed. I had received messages from Kurosawa that he wanted to do The Autumn of the Patriarch [54:57]. So I sent a message to tell him I was delighted, no one could do it better than him. He was silent for a long time and then suddenly I received a message which said “I’m too old already and too sickly to get into the problems of the Caribbean.” Then I realized they had explained things wrong to him and when I went there, I told him I wanted to talk to him and he showed up at my hotel and said “we can talk until the cyclone gets here.”

J: How was your first encounter with the King and Queen of Spain?

GGM: I went alone to La Zarzuela [palace], Mercedes didn’t go. The King and Queen were there. The approximation to each one of them is completely different. The queen was obviously very interested in literary subjects, she wanted to speak about them, I did. The King is much more loose. There was even a moment where he said, “No, here the one that reads novels is the queen, I’m involved in other problems.” And it surprised me a lot. I had the luck of witnessing a moment of their family life in a place where even though there was no protocol it was not expected to happen. It was at a particular moment. The Prince, the now Prince of Asturias, all of a sudden opened the door, he was sweating, he had just been playing soccer or something and then the Queen said in English: “I’ve told you to knock [the door] before coming in.” And the King, all very buddy like, said “Oh, no, but I gave him permission to come in like that.” “No, he shouldn’t come in without knocking. Leave and knock.” So he did, the boy knocked, then he came in  and it was an experience which interested me very much .

 J: Are you more of a friend to men or to women?

GGM: Women.

J: Why?

GGM: Because I have a better understanding, above all I work a lot better with women. In the workshops I do, I always have a better understanding with women.

J: And what have you enjoyed the most, being close to the Powerful or attacking them?

GGM: No, being close to the powerful. But of course. The fountain of life, of information, of the inspiration, of power, is infinite. The thing is it’s a completely magical situation and I ask myself if it’s ever been real. I think power is the most unreal thing that exists.

J: And you are not scared of being misinterpreted by always wanting to be close to the powerful?

GGM: It’s not that I want–[stammers]

J: But it fascinates you.

GGM: It’s not that I always want to be close to the powerful. It’s the powerful that want to be close to me. It’s not that presidents are looking for me, no. What I want to say is that subject matter, that literary subject, which is the power, always comes to meet me. Maybe I identify it a lot better than others, besides you are speaking about power since you are thinking about presidents.

J: Yes.

GGM: Power is everywhere [54:48] here, here–at all levels.

J: I’m thinking of the powerful at all levels.

GGM: Power is on all levels.

J: The powerful were Pablo Escobar, the Guerrilla, the power–

GGM: The powerful was Pablo Neruda as well. No, power is on all levels. The thing is that I have a nose to identify it and if you think about it, I have not written a single line that’s not about Power, and above all the most powerful, important and eternal of all powers, which is Love.

I have not written a single line that’s not about Power, and above all the most powerful, important and eternal of all powers, which is Love.

gavriel garcía márquez

Copyright © 2020 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

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One Response to “Gabriel García Márquez interview by Ana Cristina Navarro”

  1. La vida según Gabriel García Márquez | El descampado Says:

    […] another WordPress.com weblog « The Immortal in the Sea Gabriel García Márquez interview by Ana Cristina Navarro […]

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