April is really the cruelest month.
We mourned the best of our writers this April. On the 17th day of it, Gabo left this world forever, leaving us forlorn, heart-broken.
Yes, it’s Marquez indeed that I talk about, and I do not refer to those mourners across the global literary podiums. This grief is from the hearts and literary sensibilities of the tens of thousands of Marquez readers in Kerala, the coconutland, that tiny geographical strip at the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. Yes, the same place which produced the first ever democratically elected communist government in the world, fully literate, with excellent development indices, and which exports about ninety percent of its manpower to geographies across the globe.
If you didn’t know it, Gabo was actually an NRK, or non-resident Keralite, and he, in fact, introduced YOU to OUR style of writing. You know it as magical realism, a technique which was prevalent in Malayalam literature, much much before you read Gabo’s works in Spanish. Our resident ace wordsmith, the late O V Vijayan, built his legendary world of ‘Khasak’ (Legends of Khasak) about the same time Gabo created Macondo in Spanish.
That’s right, we heard you; very few of us read Spanish, so when Gabo’s words took the world by fire, Malayalam was the very first language in the world which received his translations, of course after the English version of the book in 1970. He was one of us, so much one of us, that they even said that ‘Marquez is ‘the best known Keralite writer in Latin America’ and the ‘first Malayalam author who has won the Nobel.
Look, he just happened to live elsewhere and speak a different tongue. But we gave him what he so deserved back home, a cult status. We named our children Marquez or Markose as we spell it here, we christened our homes, eateries and even a magazine after Macondo. We gobbled up whatever he wrote, and the generation of writers that grew up after Gabo penned his first book really believed in magical realism. When he first fell ill, we held prayer meetings on streets, and sent over a get-well card through a messenger, right to Mexico City, yes, with a lovely bouquet of flowers.
Yes, it also mattered to us that Che Guevara and Castro were his soul mates; in fact, we have an entire garment business running on these two guys.
At the annual film fests (yes, we are renowned for that too), we pulled down doors to the cinema halls, when they screened films made from Gabo’s works. We saw one of these just last year, ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’. We discussed Gabo’s words threadbare when his biography came out and wrote dissertations on them like no other people in the world.
Yes, we have loved our Victor Hugo, Kafka, Sartre, Camus and the entire range of Russian Masters. But there has been nobody like you Gabo. And there will never be.