Society

A Poem Of Life: Unpublished Letters Of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A book by a longtime friend of the Colombian legend includes never-before-released letters from when Garcia Marquez was writing his epic "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

EFE/ Mercedes Bermejo

BOGOTA – Gabriel García Márquez's fascination when touching the snow for the first time, his discomfort with fame, sleepless nights while writing One Hundred Years of Solitude. These are just some of the revelations in “Gabo. Letters and Memories,” by Plinio Apuyelo Mendoza, a longtime García Márquez friend, whose newly updated 2002 memoir of his experiences with the Nobel Prize winner has been re-released with 11 previously unpublished letters.

Published by Ediciones B in Spain and Latin America, and not yet translated into English, Gabo. Cartas y Recuerdos, offers a very human profile of the celebrated writer, whom Apuleyo Mendoza met in the late 1940s in a café in Bogotá, when both were aspiring journalists.

Apuyelo Mendoza, 80, recounts that Gabo was only 20 years old when they met, and Plinio five years younger. He would read the Colombian writer's manuscripts long before he broke through to international reknown.

But it was in Paris during the 1950s where the two would forge their friendship in the bars and cafes of the Latin Quarter. “Our friendship was born, three days after the arrival of García Márquez in Paris, when I invited him to dinner, and as we came out of the restaurant he saw the Boulevard Saint-Michel covered in snow,” Apuleyo Mendoza. He recalls his friend's “ecstatic and fascinated” face when he saw that “dreamy spectacle.”

In the French capital, García Márquez would wind up being fired from the Colombian newspaper “El Espectador” and began to “starve” while writing No One Writes To The Colonel, refusing monetary help from his friends.

Catastrophe or huge success

At the time, when the countries of Latin America were going through dictatorships, both friends decided to travel to the Soviet Union; “Socialism was a dream” remembers Apuleyo Mendoza. Even though, what they saw during their journey which also brought them to visit East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland, would provoke a “deep uncertainty” in their careers as journalists, coming back very “disillusioned from the Communist world.”

“We lost faith, but when the Cuban Revolution happened, we took it as something new,” says Apuleyo Mendoza, whom helped launch the magazine “Libre” in Paris, a catalyzer of the Latin American narrative wave.

Fidel Castro would eventually ask to meet García Márquez, and the two are “friends to today,” Apuleyo Mendoza confirms. He adds: “Gabo is not a friend of Communism, but what has remained is a strong friendship with Fidel.”

"Gabo. Letters and Memories" also recounts their experience as journalists in Caracas, Bogota and Havana where they shared the same devotion for literature. With the approval of one of García Márquez’s sons Rodrigo, of whom Plinio is godfather, the author has included eleven unpublished letters that the Nobel Prize winner sent him from Mexico while he wrote “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

“He would tell me about his anxieties and that he was worried about what his friends said about his work”, he thought “this could be a catastrophe or great success” and he understood it as a “long poem of everyday life”.

García Márquez considered fame “an inopportune visitor,” and Apuyelo Mendoza remembers how his friends promised that after his Nobel Prize offering, “nothing would change.”

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Boris Johnson tells France — not so eloquently — to prenez un grip

Bertrand Hauger


-Essay-

PARIS — I'll admit it straight away: As a bilingual journalist, the growing use of Franglais by French politicians makes my skin crawl.

Not because I think this blend of French and English is a bad thing in and of itself (it is!), or because the purity of the French language should be preserved at all costs (it should!) — but because in a serious context, it is — at best — a distraction from the substance at hand. And at worst, well …

But in France, where more and more people speak decent English, Anglo-Saxon terms are creeping in everywhere, and increasingly in the mouths of politicians who think they're being cool or smart.

Not that long ago, Emmanuel Macron was dubbed "the Franglais president" after tweeting "La démocratie est le système le plus bottom up de la terre" ...

Oh mon dieu

They call it Frenglish

It is much rarer when the linguistic invasion goes in the other direction, with far fewer English-speaking elected officials, or their electors, knowing more than a couple of words of French. (The few Brits who use it call it Frenglish)

Imagine then my horror last night watching British Prime Minister Boris Johnson berating France over the recent diplomatic clash surrounding the AUKUS submarine deal, cheekily telling UK media from Washington: "I just think it's time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break."

Cringe. Eye roll. Facepalm.
Here's the clip, in case you haven't had your morning cup of awkward.
Grincement de dents. Yeux au ciel. Tête entre les mains.

First, let me offer a quick French lesson: Sorry, BoJo, you needed the "infinitif" form here: "It's time for [us] to prendre un grip about this and me donner un break."

But that, of course (bien sûr), is not the point in this particular moment. Instead, this would-be bon mot is not just sloppy and silly, it is incredibly patronizing, particularly when discussing a multi-billion deal that sparked a deep diplomatic crisis in the Western alliance.

The colorful British politician is, alas, no stranger to verbal miscalculations and linguistic gaffes. He's also (Brexit, anyone?) not necessarily one who cares about preserving relationships with longstanding partners. This time, combining the two, even for such a shameless figure as Mr. Johnson, only one word came to my bilingual brain: Vraiment?

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