Friday, April 18, 2014

A Look Back: Márquez & Hemingway Meet in Paris


Gabriel García Márquez [1927-2014], in Cartagena, Colombia; February 20, 1991. Márquez
was the recipient of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Photo CreditUlf Andersen; Getty
SourceNew Yorker

Gabriel Garcia Márquez died on Thursday at the age of 87; the Colombian writer who is known for his magic realism, notably his One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), was at one time a journalist, which is common to many writers who want to eat, including Ernest Hemingway. Both men met (briefly) near at a Paris bookstore many years ago (in 1957), and in this 1981 article (“Gabriel Garcia Marquez Meets Ernest Hemingway;” July 26, 1981) for the New York Times, Márquez recounts their brief meeting:

He writes:
I recognized him immediately, passing with his wife Mary Welsh on the Boulevard St. Michel in Paris one rainy spring day in 1957. He walked on the other side of the street, in the direction of the Luxembourg Gardens, wearing a very worn pair of cowboy pants, a plaid shirt and a ballplayer's cap. The only thing that didn't look as if it belonged to him was a pair of metal-rimmed glasses, tiny and round, which gave him a premature grandfatherly air. He had turned 59, and he was large and almost too visible,but he didn't give the impression of brutal strength that he undoubtedly wished to, because his hips were narrow and his legs looked a little emaciated above his coarse lumberjack shoes. He looked so alive amid the secondhand bookstalls and the youthful torrent from the Sorbonne that it was impossible to imagine he had but four years left to live.
For a fraction of a second, as always seemed to be the case, I found myself divided between my two competing roles. I didn't know whether to ask him for an interview or cross the avenue to express my unqualified admiration for him. But with either proposition, I faced the same great inconvenience. At the time, I spoke the same rudimentary English that I still speak now, and I wasn't very sure about his bullfighter's Spanish. And so I didn't do either of the things that could have spoiled that moment, but instead cupped both hands over my mouth and, like Tarzan in the jungle, yelled from one sidewalk to the other: ''Maaaeeestro!'' Ernest Hemingway understood that there could be no other master amid the multitude of students, and he turned, raised his hand and shouted to me in Castillian in a very childish voice, ''Adiooos, amigo!'' It was the only time I saw him.
At the time, I was a 28-year-old newspaperman with a published novel and a literary prize in Colombia, but I was adrift and without direction in Paris. My great masters were the two North American novelists who seemed to have the least in common. I had read everything they had published until then, but not as complementary reading - rather, just the opposite, as two distinct and almost mutually exclusive forms of conceiving of literature. One of them was William Faulkner, whom I had never laid eyes on and whom I could only imagine as the farmer in shirtsleeves scratching his arm beside two little white dogs in the celebrated portrait of him taken by Cartier-Bresson. The other was the ephemeral man who had just said goodbye to me from across the street, leaving me with the impression that something had happened in my life, and had happened for all time.
I don't know who said that novelists read the novels of others only to figure out how they are written. I believe it's true. We aren't satisfied with the secrets exposed on the surface of the page: we turn the book around to find the seams. In a way that's impossible to explain, we break the book down to its essential parts and then put it back together after we understand the mysteries of its personal clockwork.
That is the way with some writers, the great ones who take risks and have the courage of their convictions, who are odd fellows with a gift of explaining something of the world in such a manner as to grab the attention of readers. Such was the gift of Hemingway, and such was the way with Márquez, who used a different language to explain, yet we all understood. He will be missed, but not forgotten.

You can read the rest of the article at [NYT Books]