Friday, April 18, 2014

Magical Realism: Fidel es un hombre bueno

It seems sometimes that old Commies never die, they just fade away into rich retirements along with the praise of the NY Times. Fortunately, we'll always have The Telegraph obituary (of Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez);
...on January 8 1959, he received the news that Fidel Castro had entered Havana in triumph.
García Márquez was jubilant. He went straight to the island to witness the founding of the new Cuban press agency, Prensa Latina, and was invited by Castro to set up an office in Bogota, where he spent the next two years energetically defending the Cuban revolution, first from Colombia and then from New York. During the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 his American visa was withdrawn, and he was forced to move again, this time to Mexico City, which became his permanent home.
Except for all those mansions he had elsewhere;
He maintained homes in Colombia, Barcelona and Paris and continued to keep up his friendship with Fidel Castro, who gave him the use of a villa in Havana. During García Márquez’s frequent visits to Cuba, Castro would call on him as often as twice a day; the two men went fishing together, and talked about books and the nature of absolute power. 
For the Nobel prize winner, absolute power was for Fidel to exercise and him to slavishly admire. For the antidote, here's Chilean Alberto Fuguet back in 1997;
Reinaldo Arenas, the well-known writer and Cuban exile, hit the nail on the head when he attacked the South American literary stereotypes that so-called “developed” countries have fostered. “To write in Latin America is a drama (whether conscious or not), played out beneath the eternal double curse of underdevelopment and exoticism.” Arenas feels that Latin American magic realism has degenerated to the point that its dominant theme is nothing more than a desire to pander to the magic-starved sensibilities of North American and European readers. I tend to agree with him.
“The other side of the curse is that of conformity. We [Latinos] … are [considered] noble savages, simple, passionate beings whose only goal in life is to cultivate an acre of land, and dance the cumbia … By taking the path of exoticism, and with the paternalistic support and understanding proffered by the Europeans and North Americans, one can easily reach fame and fortune, and, sometimes even the Nobel Prize.”
Exactly. Unlike the ethereal world of García Márquez’s imaginary Macondo, my own world is something much closer to what I call “McOndo” — a world of McDonald’s, Macintoshes and condos. In a continent that was once ultra-politicized, young, apolitical writers like myself are now writing without an overt agenda, about their own experiences. Living in cities all over South America, hooked on cable TV (CNN en español), addicted to movies and connected to the Net, we are far away from the jalapeño-scented, siesta-happy atmosphere that permeates too much of the South American literary landscape. Julian Barnes echoes this feeling in his novel “Flaubert’s Parrot,” where his scholarly narrator declares that the entire genre of magical realism should be banished: “A quota system is to be introduced on fiction set in South America,” he says. The example he gives speaks for itself. “Ah, the fredonna tree whose roots grow at the tip of its branches, and whose fibers assist the hunchback to impregnate by telepathy the haughty wife of the hacienda owner …”
Not even The Telegraph had the cojones to include that in their obit. 

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