Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Archives, No Passport Required
If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you've probably noticed that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is my favorite author. (He's been mentioned in not one, not two, but three posts.) Imagine my delight when I happened upon a New York Times article the other day that said his archives--all of his letters, manuscripts, photos, computers, typewriters, you name it--is going to the University of Texas in Austin. The NYT is even shows a handful of them.
But I have mixed feelings about that.
Part of me is thrilled because I can one day travel to UT Austin to explore his archives (it's officially added to my bucket list) and don't have to worry with the challenges of international travel (not that I'm opposed to it... I love travel, but stateside travel is easier and cheaper). But another part of me thinks there's something wrong with Gabo's archive being in Texas.
He was, after all, banned from the United States for several decades because of his political activities and friendship with Fidel Castro. Furthermore, Gabo was born in Aracataca, Colombia and spent much of his life living in Mexico City. (He lived in Mexico City because the Colombian government ousted him when he was a journalist for exposing some of their corruption. This is detailed in the introduction of his book Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.) It seems logical that his archive should go one of the two places.
But, alas. Money talks, and it speaks loudly. UT Austin's Harry Ransom Center, which seeks to "[advance] the study of the arts and humanities by acquiring, preserving, and making accessible original cultural materials," is incredibly well-funded. So much so that neither the Ransom Center nor the Garcia Marquez family would state the transaction price. Though both parties lips are sealed on the price, one can make an educated guess: earlier this year, The Guardian reported that the Ransom Center bought Ian McEwan's archive for two million, and, let's be honest, he's nowhere near the literary level of Gabo.
Then again, the important thing about an archive is to make sure it's preserved and accessible, which, for the future, means some kind of digitization efforts. And, as it happens, digitization is hella expensive (more on this in a future post). I can't help but wonder if that even played into the family's decision to sell the archive to UT Austin at all or if it was just about the money. Is it possible the libraries and museums in Aracataca didn't have the funding or resources to store, maintain, and make accessible the collection? Perhaps. Is it possible the libraries and museums in Mexico City wouldn't have the necessary means to bear responsibility for the collection? Much less likely.
At least UT Austin has the mission of preserving manuscripts and has successfully preserved manuscripts of Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, and Lord Byron. And they do digitize collections--library and academia gods be praised.
But I still have mixed feelings.
To some degree, it seems the family did too. An article from the Associated Press posted on Yahoo News says the family wanted the majority of the archive to go somewhere where it would be well-preserved, but they have saved a few artifacts for Colombia and Mexico City. The family stated the typewriter on which One Hundred Years of Solitude was penned will go to the National Library of Colombia, but the artifacts they intend to leave in Mexico City were not named. And an article in The Guardian highlights the bubbling feud between the Garcia Marquez family and the Colombian government over the novelist's literary remains residing in Texas.