BOGOTA – Gabriel García Márquez's fascination when touching the snow for the first time, his discomfort with fame, sleepless nights while writing One Hundred Years of Solitude. These are just some of the revelations in “Gabo. Letters and Memories,” by Plinio Apuyelo Mendoza, a longtime García Márquez friend, whose newly updated 2002 memoir of his experiences with the Nobel Prize winner has been re-released with 11 previously unpublished letters.
Published by Ediciones B in Spain and Latin America, and not yet translated into English, Gabo. Cartas y Recuerdos, offers a very human profile of the celebrated writer, whom Apuleyo Mendoza met in the late 1940s in a café in Bogotá, when both were aspiring journalists.
Apuyelo Mendoza, 80, recounts that Gabo was only 20 years old when they met, and Plinio five years younger. He would read the Colombian writer's manuscripts long before he broke through to international reknown.
But it was in Paris during the 1950s where the two would forge their friendship in the bars and cafes of the Latin Quarter. “Our friendship was born, three days after the arrival of García Márquez in Paris, when I invited him to dinner, and as we came out of the restaurant he saw the Boulevard Saint-Michel covered in snow,” Apuleyo Mendoza. He recalls his friend's “ecstatic and fascinated” face when he saw that “dreamy spectacle.”
In the French capital, García Márquez would wind up being fired from the Colombian newspaper “El Espectador” and began to “starve” while writing No One Writes To The Colonel, refusing monetary help from his friends.
Catastrophe or huge success
At the time, when the countries of Latin America were going through dictatorships, both friends decided to travel to the Soviet Union; “Socialism was a dream” remembers Apuleyo Mendoza. Even though, what they saw during their journey which also brought them to visit East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland, would provoke a “deep uncertainty” in their careers as journalists, coming back very “disillusioned from the Communist world.”
“We lost faith, but when the Cuban Revolution happened, we took it as something new,” says Apuleyo Mendoza, whom helped launch the magazine “Libre” in Paris, a catalyzer of the Latin American narrative wave.
Fidel Castro would eventually ask to meet García Márquez, and the two are “friends to today,” Apuleyo Mendoza confirms. He adds: “Gabo is not a friend of Communism, but what has remained is a strong friendship with Fidel.”
"Gabo. Letters and Memories" also recounts their experience as journalists in Caracas, Bogota and Havana where they shared the same devotion for literature. With the approval of one of García Márquez’s sons Rodrigo, of whom Plinio is godfather, the author has included eleven unpublished letters that the Nobel Prize winner sent him from Mexico while he wrote “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
“He would tell me about his anxieties and that he was worried about what his friends said about his work”, he thought “this could be a catastrophe or great success” and he understood it as a “long poem of everyday life”.
García Márquez considered fame “an inopportune visitor,” and Apuyelo Mendoza remembers how his friends promised that after his Nobel Prize offering, “nothing would change.”