Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why I Hate Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the greatest Latin American writers. He is so popular that even some people in the US (like, for example, Oprah who chose his Cien anios de soledad for her book club) might actually recognize his name. And as we all know, this is not an easy feat for a Spanish-speaking writer to accomplish.

The way Garcia Marquez uses language is unbelievably beautiful. It's mesmerizing, hypnotic, heart-breaking in its power to move you. This is why the ideology he puts forward in this amazing language becomes extremely dangerous.

Garcia Marquez is profoundly machista. He despises women and this comes out in every page of his writing. To give just one example, in his novel Amor en los tiempos del colera, one of the female characters is raped. Her rapist assaults her from behind and she never gets to see his face. Of course, she falls profoundly in love with this unseen rapist and spends her entire life searching for him. She has sex with numerous men in an attempt to relive the wonderful feelings she had while being raped. It is impossible to read this and not cringe in total disgust. The author's chauvinism is blatant and apologetic in every single one of his works.

Another problem I have with Garcia Marquez is his absolute indifference to the horrible social and economic realities of his continent. He pretends to have a social consciousness but in reality all his socialism is limited to a hypocritical friendship with Fidel Castro. (Of course, how anybody could go to Cuba and not feel a profound hatred towards the system in place there is beyond my understanding.) As a bestselling author and a Nobel Prize winner, Garcia Marquez could do a lot to reveal the painful realities of Latin America to the world. That, however, wouldn't sell as well. So Garcia Marquez cutesifies and prettifies horrifying realities of his continent in order to make them attractive to his affluent American and European readers.

It is so incredibly sad to see such an amazing talent serving some really irresponsible and hateful ideological goals.


Clarissa said...

For some weird reason, the blog doesn't allow me to insert accented Spanish words today. Sorry!

Uday Raj Anand said...

im surprised to read this betrays a very superficial reading of marquez's work...I have three objections to your above critique

1. If you read other pieces of marquez's work you will realise that much of it aims to deal with the issue of women in a fiercely patriarchal society . 'Innocent Erendira and her Heartless grandmother' for example is perhaps one of the most heart-wrenchingly moving depictions of the horror of a gender-unequal society. So, just because he uses dirty, grimey, sweaty, crude and sometimes ugly imagery it does not mean he condones it. His job as an author is to put a state of the world forward as truthfully as he can. This he does with amazing deftness and usually to the effect of leaving people more aware of certain issues, particularly those of women's rights. is wholly inaccurate for you to say that marquez ignores harsh realities of life in his country. On the contrary his books do much to bring to the rest of the world the plight of people there. It is just that what he sees as being the important causes of as well as manifestations of these problems are quite different from yours. The breakdown of democracy in many Latin American countries because of the actions of the CIA is a central theme through most of his books. The effect of those actions in perpetuating feudalism and a military society is core to Marquez's work. It is unfortunate that you have not been able to see this.

3. Lastly, it is highly presumptous of you to deny Marquez a genuine love for his country and people and ascribe the manifestations of that love in his work to his desire for 'American and European' approval. Is it so difficult to see that someone outside America and Europe could deeply love their roots? it is almost offensive that you should use words like prettify and cutesify for manifestations of this deep love. And as I have mentioned above, it is not like he overlooks the ugliness of life in Latin America at all.

The beauty of Marquez's work is in the fact that it is not didactic. so perhaps you are looking for a more obvious portrayal of 'oh look at how many problems we have'..but if u read the book with an open mind and some fresh air you will understand what i mean. If there is one thing you cannot accuse him of it is indifference towards socio-economic realities of his country.

Just as a seperate point, I wonder if you expect every American Author to write about the bungling policies of the Bush Administration?

Clarissa said...

Thank you for your detailed response, Udai Raj.

No, I don't expect all American authors to write about Bush. But if they do decide to talk about the torure at Abu Ghraib, the collapse of economy, and the other tragedies of the Bush era, I wouldn't like it if they wrote about these things in the manner of "Hee hee hee, isn't this all kinda cute and exotic?"

As for Garcia Marquez's sexism, hundreds of feminist critics haas addressed this issue in his work. I would ask you to comment the story from 'Love in the Times of Cholera" where a woman falls in love with her rapist. Do you think that isn't sexist? Did you manage to find some sort of critique there? I didn't. The whole novel is profoundly offensive to me as a woman and I don't think it's your place, my friend, to tell women what they should or shouldn't find offensive.

Have you read "Memoria de mis putas tristes"? Is that not an attempt to justify pedophilia by presenting it as innocuous and cute? Isn't the horriible act perpetuated against the little girl in the novel presented as an act of love? The girl in that novel spends the entire time unmoving and silent while the nasty old man salivates all over her. She is reduced to a perfect object for his consumption. And there isn't a word of criticism of that. In case you didn't know, this objectification and exploitation are sexist.

Garcia Marques doesn't bring anybody's "plight" to the rest of the world. he describes the sad Colombian realities in a way that makes them innocuous and unthreatening to the rich Western reader. He makes them pretty. All he wants is to sell. And he manages that perfectly well.

As for me being "highly presumptious", literary criticism is my job, my friend. I studied for very many years to be able to do this. So I have deserved a right to my presumptiousness and to my opinion.

I suggest you acquaint yourself at least with the most basic premises of feminist criticism before you enter a discussion on the subject.

Clarissa said...

'So, just because he uses dirty, grimey, sweaty, crude and sometimes ugly imagery it does not mean he condones it."

-I actually criticize Garcia Marquez for NOT doing any of this. His imagery is sweet, cute and is ready to be put on a Hallmark card.

jy said...

I agree with you, Clarissa. How I stumbled upon this book? I was searching for a book for my kid based on California recommended reading list for level 12. This author wrote one of those books on the list. Luckily, that book was not available, so I picked the 2 that were availablefor my own reading : Love in the time of Cholera, and One hundred years of solitude. Needless to say more, I was so disturbed by these books. I am glad I found other people who feel the same as I do.

Spanish prof said...

I actually hate Garcia Marquez because I can't tolerate magical realism. And because of his influence, a lot of my students want to write papers on Isabel Allende (who is ten times worse). "Cronica de una muerte anunciada", though, is a great short novel

Clarissa said...

I feel the same about Allende. I told my students that they will have to avoid mentioning her to me because she causes me to have psychological issues. :-)