Books: Gabriel García Márquez, A Life

Jonathan Yardley reviews Gerald Martin's biography of Gabriel García Márquez with an eye on literature and a ear for politics. Perhaps the emphasis is due to some degree because it appears in the Washington Post, or perhaps Yardley is judging Martin for his pro-Latin biases.

I don't know which, but what I do know is after having worked with Latin and South Americas on and off for twenty years, and read, often by introduction by one of these colleagues, dozens of books is that it is not easy to separate love and art from the power of politics.

Context is essential in understanding why a writer is left, right or a centrist, just as it is with the humble reader. Experiences move us gently or forcefully in the winds that tousle our emotions and those experiences inform how we live and write.

If I had not broken bread or shared a lab bench with men and women whose lives were shaped by dictators, I may not have any appreciation for the insinuation of politics in much of South American literature.

But I did share those moments and I do appreciate, if not fully understand, how the border between North and South America is a wider gulf than just a land mass or the degree of latitude.

As a result, it is likely that Martin, who spent nearly two decades interviewing
Márquez was also influenced by the man's cultural and historical past as he was enchanted with his literary oeuvre.

Perhaps less crystallized, Márquez' work like Solzhenitsyn's is a direct result of that very culture and climate--fear and self protection, two manifestations of living in a restrictive, stifling, stultifying environment.

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