To the memory of Carmen Balcells and Claudio López de Lamadrid
Gabriel García Márquez called journalism “the best job in the world,” and he identified more as a journalist than a writer: “I am basically a journalist. All my life I have been a journalist. My books are the books of a journalist, even if it’s not so noticeable,” he once said.
These fifty journalistic pieces by García Márquez, published between 1950 and 1984, were selected from the hundreds compiled in Jacques Gilard’s monumental five-volume collection, Obra periodística
, in order to provide readers of his fiction a sample of his writings for the newspapers and magazines for whom he worked a great part of his life. He always considered his training as a journalist the foundation of his work in fiction. In many of the writings collected here, readers of his novels and short stories will find a recognizable narrative voice in the making.
Those who want to delve into the subject can find an exciting and erudite explanation of García Márquez’s journalism career in the prologues of Gilard’s compilation. As Gilard wrote, “García Márquez’s journalism was mainly an education for his style, and an apprenticeship toward an original rhetoric.” The first works of journalism published as books were the reportage Relato de un naúfrago
(The Story of a Ship-wrecked Sailor,
1970) and an anthology of articles written in Venezuela, Cuando era feliz e indocumentado
(When I Was Happy and Undocumented,
1973). Crónicas y reportajes
(Chronicles and Reportages
), a selection made by the author, was published in 1976 by the Instituto Colombiano de Cultura. A compendium selected by García Márquez’s journalist col- leagues, Gabo periodista,
published in 2012 by the Fundación para el Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano and Mexico’s Conaculta, also provides a detailed chronology of his career.
Although some of his first fictional stories were written before he worked as a reporter, it was journalism that allowed the young García Márquez to leave his law studies and start writing for El Universal
in Cartagena and El Heraldo
in Barranquilla. He later traveled to Europe as a correspondent for El Espectador
of Bogotá. Upon his return, and thanks to his friend and fellow journalist Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, he continued to write in Venezuela for the magazines Élite
until moving to New York City in 1961 as a correspondent for the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina. Later that year he settled in Mexico City with his wife, Mercedes Barcha, and his son Rodrigo, where he published No One Writes to the Colonel,
began working in screen- writing, and later devoted all his time to writing One Hundred Years of Solitude
. Although his work as a writer would occupy most of his time, he always returned to his passion for journalism. During his lifetime he founded six publications, including Alternativa
“I do not want to be remembered for One Hundred Years of Solitude,
nor for the Nobel Prize, but for the newspapers,” he said.
The Scandal of the Century
takes its title from the masterful reportage sent by García Márquez from Rome and published in fourteen consecutive installments in El Espectador
in September of 1955. In those five words we find a condensed journalistic headline with a touch of literary hyperbole. The subtitle’s fantastical and evocative imagery is signature García Márquez: “In Death Wilma Montesi Walks the Earth.”
Among the pieces are press releases, news reports, columns, op-eds, features, and profiles. The reader will also find a few literary pieces published concurrently in the press or in literary magazines.
In selecting these writings, I have tried to avoid any academic, stylistic, or historical categorization. As a reader and editor of García Márquez, I have chosen texts that contain a latent narrative tension between journalism and literature, where the seams of reality are stretched by his unstoppable narrative impulse, offering us the chance to once again enjoy the “storyteller” that he was.
In these works, readers will also see the journalistic skills that García Márquez brought to his works of fiction. “But those books have such an amount of research and fact checking, and historical rigor,” he said of his novels, “that in fact they are basically great fictional or fantastic reports, but the method of investigation and the way of handling the information and the facts is that of a journalist.”
The reader will find journalistic texts from his youth in which the budding narrator tries to find a reason to cross the line into literature, as in the opening story about the president’s barber, early snippets of narrations where characters or places that will populate One Hundred Years of Solitude
begin to appear; a reportage from Rome about a young woman’s mysterious death in which the country’s political and artistic elites appear to be implicated, where García Márquez attempts a mixture of police procedural and the society pages that brings to mind La Dolce Vita;
an investigation into tracking of women from Paris to Latin America that ends with an interrogation; overseas wire dispatches presented as short stories; reflections on his craft, as he does in many of the articles written for El País
in later years; and dozens of other stories that bring us back the García Márquez we miss.
For this edition, I have worked with Anne McLean to bring to the English translation the same feeling of immediacy of the original, avoiding any notes, as García Márquez advised in his article “Poor Good Translators,” included here. Remembering Gregory Rabassa’s masterful work on One Hundred Years of Solitude,
he writes, “He never explains anything in a footnote, which is the least valid and unfortunately most well worn resource of bad translators.” The same goes for the decision not to x some mistaken Italian names or the incorrect lyrics of some Beatles songs. About that, he writes that a text should “pass into the other language just as it was, not only with its virtues, but also with its defects. It is a duty of loyalty to the reader in the new language.” Finally, a paragraph and a half, missing in Gilard’s edition from a section titled “A crucial half hour” within “The Scandal of the Century,” was restored from the original version found in Crónicas y reportajes
I owe a special debt to Carmen Balcells and Claudio López de Lamadrid, who put this project in my hands. I had already worked with García Márquez on his memoirs, and we had spent a lot of time in his house in El Pedregal working on I’m Not Here to Give a Speech
. As always, my immense gratitude to Mercedes, Rodrigo, and Gonzalo for their suggestions and advice. The legacy of the journalistic work of Gabriel García Márquez continues its journey through the Fundación para el Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano, lead by Jaime Abello, through workshops where hundreds of journalists from around the world have been and still are trained every year. My greatest thanks to Gabo himself, for his confidence and support of my work. And especially for his friendship.
Copyright © 2019 by Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.