If you've heard me talk about holidays for any length of time, you know Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is my favorite. And if you've heard me talk about authors for any length of time, you know my readerly heart belongs to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. So imagine my delight when I saw a memorial to Garcia Marquez at Birmingham's Dia de Los Muertos celebration!
First, Gabo--as Garcia Marquez was affectionately called--and I go way back. I heard about his work for the first time when I was a junior in high school, about the time they made the movie of Love in the Time of Cholera. I remember being captivated by the movie trailer--which, being much more of a reader than a watcher is not something that normally grabs my attention--and becoming even more enthusiastic when I went to my local Books-A-Million and found that Love in the Time of Cholera was originally a novel.
I bought the book and embarked on one of the most enjoyable reading joys I could have imagined. I became so engrossed in the novel and the way Garcia Marquez rendered the prose (even reading it in translation!) that I purposefully dragged out reading it so it would last longer. It normally takes me about a week or two to finish a novel, but TWO MONTHS later, with tears streaming down my face, I finished Love in the Time of Cholera. It was then that I decided I wanted to read everything Gabriel Garcia Marquez has ever written.
Thankfully, Garcia Marquez has quite a canon of mesmerizing literary works, so I'll have plenty to read for awhile. Again, because I want it to last, I want to spread out reading his entire canon over the course of several years. But after Love in the Time of Cholera, I read One Hundred Years of Solitude, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor. Even better, I've got more waiting on my shelf: In Evil Hour, Of Love and Other Demons, The General in His Labyrinth, Strange Pilgrims, and Living to Tell the Tale. And there are still plenty more of his works that I don't yet own (but will one day).
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's words speak to my heart in the most direct, inexplicable way. It was his words that taught me how to love, and his words I hear when I think of embodiments of love. His prose is that of the most eloquent hopeless romantic, and it is undeniable how deeply he loved. He showed me narratives of falling in love like I had never seen nor heard nor imagined before. But to call him a "romance writer" would be the understatement of the century. He wrote the words hearts feel, but cannot justly articulate. He is the man that--in another life, if things had been different, if we weren't separated by thousands of miles, age, and language--I could have so easily fallen in love with. If souls could speak, they would quote Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
I knew Gabriel Garcia Marquez wasn't young when I discovered him--his first work was published in 1955--but I still vividly remember the day in 2012 when it was announced that, due to his declining health (primarily dementia), he would never write another novel. The news made my heart ache in a way that, even as a voracious reader and ardent lover of literature, I didn't think was possible.
I remember again, earlier this year, when it was announced that Garcia Marquez had died. He was 87 and it was April 17, 2014. Again the tears slipped down my face. But April 17, 2014 was also the day I found my own love--one not merely confined to another's words. I think Gabo would find it appropriate that he who taught me so much about love left this earth on the day I found a love of my own. Gabo's words were like a roadmap guiding me to the person who could teach me about love even better than Gabo himself could.
I'm filled with gratitude every time I think about Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the gift of his words. So although I didn't make an official ofrenda to him at Dia de Los Muertos, these words are my ofrenda.