Food For Thought

Nobel Lecture by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is hailed as one of the greatest living writers of our times. He received the Nobel Prize for literature n 1982. His Nobel Lecture 'The Solitude of Latin America' provides rich ford for thought. We as Indians find Marquez all the more relevant because he talks about colonialism, erosion of native cultures, mental slavery, loss of pagan ways of living, destruction of self-respect in erstwhile colonial lands mono-culture-ism of today and such related topics. These topics are relevant to the Indian scholar. 

This is a very powerful lecture by Marquez which shakes our faith in basic tenets of modern civilization. Each word spoken by the author demand repeated pondering.

Marquez begins his lecture hitting directly on the nail. He begins with he account of Latin America actually was the description resembles fantasy in today's perception. He simply begins with an implied statement that this fantasy like beautiful and rich land was reduced to a state of after penury by the hungry colonizers. What Marquez underlines is that co-existence, love and trust were the main themes of life in the pre-colonial era. The killing instinct of the colonizer was something entirely unknown to the natives. His words are a simple challenge to the Darwinian Law of the survival of the fittest. 

'Antonio Pigafetta, a Florentine navigator who went with Magellan on the first voyage around the world wrote, upon his passage through our soul here lands of America, a strictly accurate account that nonetheless resembles a venture into fantasy. In it he recorded that he had seen hogs with navels on their haunches, clawless birds who hens laid eggs on the backs of the mates, and others still, resembling tongue less pelicans, with beaks like spoons.'

Marquez lives in what he calls 'our reality' in the pre-colonial period. His lecture straightaway begins with 'fountains of eternal youth', unfathomed mysteries' and hens with tiny lumps of gold.
In this historical lecture, we can describe lecture Marquez's journey as from pain to pain, from loss to loss. In fact, Marquez has assumed that whole lot of exploitative colonial history. He does not go about explaining the with colonial onslaught cud justifying his stand. He begins with implied statements of loss, injustice and pain that Latin America suffered.
The next paragraph of the speech colorfully describes the brutality a madness of the rulers of Latin America in the post-colonial period. Once the natural order is ruined by colonizers, becomes impossible for natives to free themselves from all complexes and corrupting influences. Politicians and military rule have ruled this land without understanding its spirit and soul. They have acted according to their whims and eccentricities.
Marquez then refers to the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Why are the civilized Europeans attracted towards Latin America

'…the Europeans of good will-and sometimes those of bad, as well-have been struck with ever greater force, by the unearth tidings of Latin America , that boundless realm of haunted men and history women, whose unending obstinacy blurs into legend. We have not had a moment rest.'

I find irony in these words. How the so called civilized world is entertained by 'unearthly' land and its people, out for sale, out to entertain and enliven the dull lives of rich men and women. The rich nations need situations and people whom they can actually pity; no matter they themselves have been the cause of the ruin of the pitiable masses. This is Marquez's cry against the unjust world-order. Marquez goes on to describe the bare facts of the loss, murders, ethnocide forced migration and missing of millions and millions of Latin American children, men and women. His soul purpose in giving this lecture is to thrust, record and imprint the tragedy of Latin America on the psyche of the world. He says boldly,

'I dare to think that it is this out sized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of letters. A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily death, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune'.

We just cannot miss the sheer beauty of the worlds, the force and depth of expression and the genuineness of the sentiment Marquez points out the vacuum in which Latin Americans live. That is the reason why the title of the lecture is 'The Solitude of Latin America.' The rich, mysterious, occult and unfathomable past o one hand and utter penury, lack of self-respect and state of disfigured mentality today-these two poles put the Latin Americans in tongue less Solitude and loneliness. They are in a bewildered state. After being repeatedly looted years after years, they do not know where they stand or what they should say. This is a pathetic state indeed.
In the following two paragraphs, Marquez comes to those parameters with which the dominant European culture judges other cultures. The irony of the situation cannot be missed. Marquez clearly states that alien yardstick applied on Latin Americans have no validity. Life breath, history, fervor, art, food, ways of worship, thinking, parenting just everything is different any two distinct territories of the world. Why should values of one area be applied on the others? This is absolutely unjust. Marquez says,

'The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary. Every nation has to go the painful process of birth in order to be recognized and respected. There is no cakewalk alternative.'

Marquez urges the European world to 'reconsider their ways of seeing us.' Every nation has its own agenda or should have its own priorities and also techniques of achieving its desired aims. Marquez uses beautiful phrase 'solidarity with our dreams.' One's dreams are one's own every nation should stand by its own dreams.
Marquez goes on to drive home the cruelly of colonization and an unjust world-order. He forcibly highlights the solitude of Latin Americans. They are a people who tongue has frozen. The unjust world-order has bereft them of establishing their own goals and means of achieving those goals. In today's world, no nation can survive without being at the mercy of the powerful nations.
Yet, poor nations or nations on whom poverty has been forced such nations continue with their will and faith in life. Marquez says

' In spite of this, to oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither Floods, nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death.'

Marquez develops the thought in this historic speech in a skillful manner. In the end, he comes to tools of mass destruction accumulated by prosperous countries. In fact, it is an irony of life that struggling nations show more faith in life then rich and powerful nations. The rich nations have crated the scientific possibility of destruction of all forms of life within moments. Marquez refers to William Faulkner who refuses to accept the end of man. Inventors of tales, Marquez also presents the ideals that humanity can follow and achieve in the days to come,

'A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for other how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.'

This is a very powerful lecture by Marquez which shakes our faith in basic tenets of modern civilization. Each word spoken by the author demand repeated pondering. How democratic is our democracy? Perhaps the process of so called growth has not been all-inclusive and assimilative. The aspirations of the marginalized cultures do not find any expression in the mainstream consciousness of today. If we want to live in a happy peaceful and secure world, we will have to listen to all societies of the world, the current world-order is unjust and lop-sided. It needs to be changed. Hierarchal thinking needs to be changed. Sectarian attitude needs to be changed. The very concept of a civilized and cultured society must change.

Note:  All the quoted lines have been taken from Nobel Lecture by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1982 Nobel Lectures, Literature 1981-1990, Editor- in-charge Tore Frangsmyr, Editor Sture Allen, World Scientific Publishing Co, Singapore, 1993. 

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More by :  Prof. Shubha Tiwari

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