Los Silencios del Gabo / Fernando Rodríguez

Gabo’s Silences

Despite the clamor one shouldn't think there is such unanimity regarding Gabo. There are those who don’t forgive his love for Fidel. Others deride his taste for presidential palaces and similar places beyond his political banners. And ask a few distinguished professors and students of literature about his literary quality and they'll mention a populist tendency of being facile and reiterative, or a narrative will that is endowed but lacking intellectual elaboration, and of course compared to Borges, Lezama or Paz…

As with everything in this life, there is a certain percentage of truth in those assertions that we aren’t going to quantify here. Nor the hyperboles of those who want to make of One Hundred Years of Solitude the birth of the continent’s most essential imaginary, or a similar assertion. What we are aiming for here is a more superficial aspect, almost a mundane chronicle, regarding his recent birthday, which probably hasn't had such a resonant parallel for any other writer here or anywhere else. Remember Borges’s silent and solitary death in Geneva and look at the photographs of the birthday boy with his hat and his Caribbean stock sweating amidst the sun’s glare and the drums of those melancholy and smiling tropics. These could be signs for a literary aesthetic but we aren’t claiming such ambitions. This is a light chronicle, as we've said.

First of all, that artifice of the word is also a man of silences. That’s why people were clamoring for him to continue with his memoirs, because they assume he carries many secrets of the most varied sort since the author has lived an era very prolifically and intensely. Those secrets are what I call silence. In his recent book about the left [Dos izquierdas, Caracas: Ediciones Alfadil, 2005] Petkoff asks himself why, at the apogee of his militant and blatant support for Cuba, García Márquez donated the prize money from the Premio Rómulo Gallegos to the MAS political party when it was in a bitter confrontation against Fidel [1972], and he hopes his friend will one day reveal this curious secret.* That’s what this is about.

Amid this merriment this is the silence: this region’s leftist writer par excellence gives Fidel’s successor a silent smack in the face, just days after the two octogenarians take a long walk together. He sits down in Cartagena at the table belonging to the gentlemen from the Inter American Press Association (SIP) at the exact moment when the clan hated by Chávez is addressing the matter of all communicational matters, the death by firing squad of RCTV. The Venezuelan government tried in vain to play this down, first with a lie – that García Márquez would not accept the SIP’s invitation – and then with a stupid comment along the lines that he ate lunch in the viper’s den because his former bosses were there from when he was happy and undocumented in Caracas…which can only indicate his principles are very fragile and are even those of a lackey. But that’s just the beginning. At a birthday feast with such prominent brains, Clintons and other ex-leaders, noble pens and politicians and star journalists, no one paid any attention at all to Chávez or Chavismo, which was only represented by the cadaver of Velásquez Alvaray and who knows how he ended up at the event.** Moreover, the central discourse was entrusted to none other than Carlos Fuentes, who loses his neat diplomatic manners each time he names our president whom he qualifies with the worst of adjectives, the lightest of which is “crazy.” And forget about the Cubanization of the event, if any of them were there they were well hidden. So, it had a clearly squalid climate.*** Silently like so many other times. The guest of honor preferred to tell a beautiful story about his famous novel.

The truth is that throughout eight years of Bolivarian rule Gabo has not visited Venezuela or named our leader – and it’s evident they’ve begged him to do it. Only once, when the new republic had just begun, did he interview him and he concluded by asking himself if he would end up being a faithful servant of his people or a secular despot. That prolonged silence, so disparaging and clamorous, seems like an answer. Right?

Translator’s notes:

* The Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) is a Social Democratic political party founded by the former guerrilla commander Teodoro Petkoff in 1971. Petkoff now edits the newspaper TalCual.

** Luis Velásquez Alvaray is a former Supreme Court Justice, now in exile. He fled Venezuela after accusing Vice President José Vicente Rangel and other prominent members of the Venezuelan government and Supreme Court of belonging to a secret criminal organization known as La Banda de los Enanos (The Band of Midgets).

*** The Venezuelan government routinely refers to those who dissent as “escuálidos,” or, squalid ones.

{ Fernando Rodríguez, TalCual, 2 April 2007 }

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