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How to Convert a Nonbeliever

March 6, 2014 | by

Gabriel García Márquez is eighty-seven today.


Márquez in 1984. Photo by F3rn4nd0, via Wikimedia Commons.


You describe seemingly fantastic events in such minute detail that it gives them their own reality. Is this something you have picked up from journalism?


That’s a journalistic trick which you can also apply to literature. For example, if you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you. But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky, people will probably believe you. One Hundred Years of Solitude is full of that sort of thing. That’s exactly the technique my grandmother used. I remember particularly the story about the character who is surrounded by yellow butterflies. When I was very small there was an electrician who came to the house. I became very curious because he carried a belt with which he used to suspend himself from the electrical posts. My grandmother used to say that every time this man came around, he would leave the house full of butterflies. But when I was writing this, I discovered that if I didn’t say the butterflies were yellow, people would not believe it.

—Gabriel García Márquez, the Art of Fiction No. 69




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  1. Edvard | March 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    I don’t know if you have watched How I met your mother, but this reminded me of 18th episode, season 4.
    Marshall: I was thinking, we’re paying Ted’s firm for two more months, can’t we just let him keep working? He’s had a rough year, he should be happy for once.
    Barney: Marshall, what you’re suggesting is a lie that requires a long term commitment. A nice guy like you can’t pull that off.
    Marshall: I could too.
    Barney: Lie to me right now.
    Marshall: I have a spaceship.
    Barney: What kind of fuel powers your spaceship?
    Marshall: Okay, I don’t have a spaceship.
    Barney: See, that’s your mistake! When telling a lie, distract from the original lie with more lies! Like this, I have a pony. Ask me a question.
    Marshall: What color is your pony?
    Barney: Well when I first got Dandelion she was a lovely chestnut brown but her stable is located next to a chemical plant and she’s turned a sickly grayish/off white. The vet says there’s nothing he can do to fix her.
    Marshall: Oh my god, is Dandelion gonna be okay? (Barney gives him a knowing look) Nice! Dandelion’s not even sick, is she?

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