Arts & Entertainment

Son of Gabriel García Márquez brings family intimacies to Hay Festival

By Ricardo Maldonado Rozo

Cartagena, Colombia, Jan 27 (EFE).- The life and death of Nobel Prize winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez were recalled by his son Rodrigo García Barcha on the first day of the Hay Festival in Cartagena on Thursday.

In a conversation with writer Juan Gabriel Vasquez, García Barcha revived the memories that served him to write his book “Gabo y Mercedes: Una Despedida” (“A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes,” 2021), which he was encouraged to publish after the death of his mother Mercedes Barcha in August 2020.

“Like my mother, my dad had a firm belief that our family life should be strictly private. As children we were made to enforce that rule over and over again, but we are not children any more. Adult children perhaps, but not children,” he said.

In his book, he wrote that on Apr. 17, 2014, “a bird entered and apparently crashed into the glass of the room and fell dead on the chair where Gabo sits. Immediately, the friends, the employees of the house were divided. Some said this is a good omen, others said no.”

“A few hours later Gabo died and in the afternoon a friend who knew nothing about the bird wrote to tell us: ‘He is dying on Holy Thursday; Úrsula Iguarán (a character from García Márquez’s famous book “One Hundred Years of Solitude”) also died on Holy Thursday,'” he said.

The son of the Nobel Prize laureate defines what happened as “an amazing coincidence,” adding that in the novel, when Úrsula died “it was a hot day and the disoriented birds entered the houses and collided with the walls or the windows and fell dead to the floor.”

García Barcha said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection when his father died in Mexico City, and realized that the pain of the writer’s death not only belonged to the family but also to his readers and admirers.

Thousands of people turned out to say goodbye during the funeral at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and as he sat in the area reserved for the family, García Barcha recalled that his father had once told him: “We all have three lives: the public, the private, and the secret.”

“For an instant it occurred to me that maybe someone from his secret life could be among those people. Before I could get too obsessed with the idea, a Vallenato trio who was in line arrives, stops and performs a song for my father. It was cheerful and I appreciated it,” he says in his book.

García Barcha dedicated part of his book to his mother, whom “Gabologists” say was the big support of García Márquez, whom she married in March 1958 and whose friends called her La Gaba.

“Behind every great man there is a great woman,” says the well-known phrase that for García Márquez takes on much relevance, to the point that many of the couple’s friends have said that the writer would never have reached such heights of success without her.

In the book, her son says that Mercedes “was affectionate, although not so much physically but deeply affectionate in her attitude, and more and more over the years.”

“Her complex personality has undoubtedly contributed to my lifelong fascination with women, particularly the multifaceted, the enigmatic, and those who I think are unfairly called ‘difficult women,'” he noted.

An example of the admiration that García Barcha feels for his parents can be found in another sentence: “I would give anything to spend an hour with my father when he was a nine-year-old miscreant or with my mother when she was a lively eleven-year-old girl, both unable to suspect the extraordinary life that awaited them..”

“I knew that La Gaba was not going to like it if (those memories) were published and I even thought about never publishing it, that it would be something for my brother, for our children and grandchildren. But when La Gaba died, that was when I realized that it was what I felt,” he added.

“(The theme of the book) was not the death of the great writer, but the farewell of the parents, and the end of the world that formed me, and that’s when I realized what the hell it was that I was writing,” he said. EFE


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