Taken from Cubadebate
Reflections by Comrade Fidel
on Tuesday, I had a bundle of cables with news about the meeting in
Our news agency, as suggested by Che, had just been born, and it hired, among others, the services of a modest Colombian journalist named Gabriel García Márquez. Neither Prensa Latina nor Gabo had the slightest idea that there would be a Nobel Prize; or maybe this son of a small-town Colombian post-office telegraph operator buried in the banana plantations of a Yankee company had some inkling, with that "Brobdingnagian" imagination of his. He shared his lot with a bunch of siblings, as was the custom, still his father, a Colombian with the privilege of being employed thanks to the telegraph keys, was able to give him an education.
I experienced the opposite. The post office with its telegraph keys and the little public school in Birán were the only facilities in that hamlet that were not owned by my father; all the rest of the goods and services of any economic value belonged to Don Ángel, and for that reason I was able to go to school. I never had the privilege of getting to know Aracataca, the small town where Gabo was born, but I certainly had the privilege of celebrating my 70th birthday in Birán, with him as my guest.
It was also a fortuitous circumstance that
in 1948 when, on our initiative, a Latin American Students’ Congress was being held
It was an honor that the Colombian students introduced me to Gaitán. This man offered his support and gave us pamphlets of what came to be known as the Peace Prayer, a speech made on the occasion of the Silent March, that massive and impressive demonstration which streamed through Bogotá protesting the massacres of peasants by the Colombian oligarchy. Gabo took part in that march.
In his book Transparency of Emanuel, Germán Sánchez, our current Cuban
It was chance until this point.
Our friendship is the result of a
relationship cultivated over the course of many years, in hundreds of
conversations which were always pleasant to me.
Talking with García Márquez and Mercedes whenever they came to
I called Gabo, who was close by, and jokingly told him: “Get on this carriage with us so they don’t start shooting!” And that’s what he did. In the same vein, I told Mercedes who stayed behind at the starting point: “You are going to be the youngest widow!” She hasn’t forgotten! The horse took off, limping along from its heavy load; its hoofs skidding across the pavement.
Later, I found out that the same thing had
happened there than in Santiago de Chile, when a TV camera hiding an automatic
weapon was pointed at me during a press conference, and the mercenary operating
it didn’t dare fire. In
Yesterday, during our conversation, I
recalled this and I asked him and Mercedes –an Olympic champion of facts and
figures– about a number of events experienced both inside
Birri, with his then long black beard, which today is as white as snow, and many other Cuban and foreign personalities passed through our reminiscences.
I gained respect and admiration for Gabo because of his capacity for organizing the school in such a meticulous fashion, without overlooking a single detail. I initially had certain prejudices about this intellectual with a marvelous sense of fantasy; I had no idea how much realism dwelled in his mind.
Scores of events in and out of
As it’s only natural, two hours were not enough for our conversation. Our meeting had begun at 11:35 a.m. I invited them to lunch, something I had not done with any of my visitors during these past almost two years, since I had never thought of it. I realized that I was really on vacation and I told them that. I improvised. I solved the problem. They had their lunch, and as for me, I followed my special diet with discipline, without deviating an inch, not to add years to my life, but productivity to my time.
sooner had they arrived that they gave me a small, lovely present wrapped up in
bright, attractively colored paper. It
contained tiny volumes a little bigger than post cards, but shorter. Each one was between 40 and 60 pages long,
printed in small but legible letters.
They are the speeches given in
I asked them for more details about the gift before they left at five in the afternoon. “I have had the most wonderful time today since my illness almost two years ago" --I told them forthrightly. That’s how I felt.
“There will be other times”, Gabo replied.
But my curiosity continued. A little later, as I was walking, I asked a comrade to bring the gift. Conscious of the rhythm with which the world has been changing in the last few decades, I wondered: What did some of those brilliant writers, who lived prior to this turbulent and uncertain era, think about humanity?
The five Nobel Prize Laureates selected for the small collection of speeches, which hopefully one day our compatriots will be able to read, in chronological order were:
William Faulkner (1949)
Pablo Neruda (1971)
Gabriel García Márquez (1982)
John Maxwell Coetzee (2003)
Doris Lessing (2007)
Gabo didn’t like making speeches. He spent months searching for facts, I recall, in agony over the words he had to say upon receiving the Prize. The same thing had happened with the short speech he had to make at the dinner in his honor following the presentation of the Prize. If that had been his profession, for sure Gabo would have been dead from a heart attack.
It must not be forgotten that the Nobel is awarded in the capital of a country that has not been ravaged by war in more than 150 years, ruled by a constitutional monarchy and governed by a Social-Democratic Party where a man as noble as Olof Palme was assassinated for his spirit of solidarity with the poor of the world. Gabo’s mission was not an easy one.
The Swedish institution, which cannot be suspected of being pro-communist, granted the Nobel Prize to William Faulkner, an inspired and rebellious American writer; to Pablo Neruda, a Communist Party member who received it during the glorious days of Salvador Allende, when fascism was trying to gain control of Chile, and to Gabriel García Márquez, one of the brilliant and prestigious writers of our era.
One doesn’t need to say how Gabo was
thinking. It is enough to simply
transcribe the final paragraphs of his speech, a jewel of prose, upon receiving
the Nobel Prize on December 10, 1982, while
“On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said in this place: “I decline to accept the end of man,” he said.
“I would feel unworthy of standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more than a simple scientific possibility. Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia.
"A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have at last and forever a second opportunity on earth.”
Fidel Castro Ruz
July 9, 2008.