Ten Years without Gabriel García Márquez: An Oral History


Oral History

Gabriel García Márquez. Photograph by Daniel Mordzinski.

Gabriel García Márquez died ten years ago this April, but people all over the world continue to be stunned, moved, seduced, and transformed by the beauty of his writing and the wildness of his imagination. He is the most translated Spanish-language author of this past century, and in many ways, rightly or wrongly, the made-up Macondo of One Hundred Years of Solitude has come to define the image of Latin America—especially for those of us from the Colombian Caribbean.

I have been writing about Gabo since 1995, when I met him for three days during a journalism workshop he led and decided that he himself would make an interesting subject. Colombia’s god of magical realism reminded me of my grandfather, I wrote in my first piece about him, which was later published in the Winter 1996 issue of The Paris Review. In the early 2000s, I began interviewing his friends, family, fans, and naysayers for an oral biography that appeared in an early form in the magazine’s Summer 2003 issue. When he died in 2014, I was putting the final touches on the book that came of it: Solitude & Company, my collection of voices about the prankster who lifted himself from the provinces and won the Nobel Prize. A few days after his death, his agent and confidant, Carmen Balcells, told me, close to tears, that the world would now see the rise of a new religion: Gabismo. I was interested in this prediction, as a journalist.

And so I kept abreast of the story of Gabo’s life and legacy after he died. His archives were transferred to the University of Texas at Austin. In 2020, his wife, Mercedes Barcha, whom he called his sacred crocodile, died. In Colombia, the itinerant school of journalism that he started—the one where I attended his workshop—became the Gabo Foundation. And then there were unexpected developments: in 2019, Netflix announced a series based on One Hundred Years of Solitude—an adaptation he’d sworn would never occur. (Macondo has been rebuilt by art directors somewhere in the interior of Colombia.) In 2022 a journalist reported that he’d had a daughter, who was born in Mexico City in 1990 and whose existence he’d kept secret from the public. And this week, a novel, Until August, is being published posthumously in Spanish, English, and twenty other languages. It’s the story of a forty-six-year-old married woman who decides she’ll have a one-night stand every August 16, the day she makes a solo overnight trip to the unnamed Caribbean island where her mother is buried to put gladioli on her grave.

I decided, last year, to turn on my recorder again and ask about these past ten years since Gabo died. As I’ve continued to follow his story, Gabo, always a prankster, continues to surprise.


GABRIEL ELIGIO TORRES GARCÍA (García Márquez’s nephew): The last time we saw him, his cancer had already metastasized and his memory was affected, but he could still speak and carry on a conversation. He arrived and exclaimed, “When were all these people born?”

GUSTAVO TATIS GUERRA (poet and journalist): He looked like a lost grandfather—hugging his sisters, his nephews, his family, but still very lost.

GABRIEL ELIGIO TORRES GARCÍA: He was always coming up with these literary and poetic phrases, but at the same time he was just such a prankster.

MILAGROS MALDONADO (art promoter and friend of García Márquez’s): He said that what scared him most in life was losing his memory as he aged. I didn’t know that was a thing in his family.

GUSTAVO TATIS GUERRA: He resolved the whole oblivion thing with a hug and a smile, saying, “I know that I love you. I know I love you.” 

CAROLINA SANÍN (writer): Everyone has an anecdote about García Márquez. We all want a sense of familiarity with the most powerful man Colombia has ever produced—the magician, the only king we’ve ever had, maybe even a father figure. We have that need to see him as an ordinary man. But although he did in fact die, he wasn’t ordinary. We have to incorporate this concept of genius. Rodrigo and Gonzalo’s father is not the one who wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude. Homer and Kafka wrote it, as does everyone who ever reads it. The writer of the book and the book itself do not coincide.

MIGUEL IRIARTE (poet and the director of La Cueva, the cultural center named after Gabo’s buddies’ favorite dive bar in Barranquilla): Gabo’s Gabbings is the first entry in my list of gabadas, a glossary equal parts ridiculous and festive that I came up with to inject a bit of playfulness into a time of sadness. The list ended up growing longer … but here, I’ll recall a few—gabería, gabismo, gabitis, gabota, de Gabo a rabo. There are over fifty such gabadas now. And all of them stem from the same little root, Gabo’s Gabbings—1. A prankish Caribbean virtue about which the dignified know little and which is brimming with the life and work of García Márquez.

MILAGROS MALDONADO: I’d fallen in love with García Márquez from the moment I read Solitude in Chichiriviche, a small town in Venezuela. I jumped for joy in front of the sea just for having seen my reality reflected—not just in the individual sense but in our collective way of talking about the Caribbean.

JAIME ABELLO BANFI (the director of the Gabo Foundation): Anyone who said “Gabo is dead” and thought people would gradually stop reading him was dead wrong.

GUSTAVO TATIS GUERRA: I’ve seen him in two separate dreams. In one of them, it’s as if he never died—dressed in white, always talking effusively, the way it was when we were still able to talk with him, especially when we hosted all those gatherings, like when he offered to baptize the son of a friend of ours. We were like seven pairs of godparents.

GUSTAVO ARANGO (the author of two books about García Márquez): A truly personal loss. The writers you love are family. I think of the years of silence and oblivion. Those years of disconnection fascinate me. What they call in the movie industry a fade-out.

DASSO SALDÍVAR (García Márquez’s Colombian biographer): I was already feeling as though, yes, Gabo was gone, but then again here he was—he was even more present in the wake of his death because he was on his way to becoming a pure legend. Because we would soon enough be reading Gabo’s work as classics. Without the social scandals of the powerful, but in his purest form. And that part of it made me happy.

GUSTAVO ARANGO: He was very anxious about fame.

DASSO SALDÍVAR: Luisa, Gabo’s mother, didn’t appreciate all the fame. Her favorite daughter was Aida Rosa, the nun.

GABRIEL ELIGIO TORRES GARCÍA: He enjoyed going downtown, where he’d be recognized. He said he wished fame were like a light bulb—that it could be turned on and off.

GUSTAVO TATIS GUERRA: He always celebrated his birthday, March 6, with an accordion group, listening to vallenatos. To that last birthday in Cartagena, he invited a bunch of accordion groups, one of which included Leandro Díaz. All of a sudden, the two of them, Leandro and Gabo, get up and dance to “The Crowned Goddess.” A year before his death. Those two masters.

DASSO SALDÍVAR: Everyone has three lives. A public life, a private life, and a secret life. Gabo said that to Gerald Martin, his English-language biographer. As if to say, very delicately, Just behave yourself. Right?

GUSTAVO ARANGO: I find that story about his three lives curious. He started talking about it in the nineties.

GUSTAVO TATIS GUERRA: And in each of those three lives, women were always the protagonists.

MILAGROS MALDONADO: I never heard him talk about the three lives but I don’t doubt that he did, because when he wrote his memoir, Living to Tell the Tale, he told me, with a happiness that bounded on outright joy, “And you, you’re not in there.” So I must belong to the secret life.

GUSTAVO TATIS GUERRA: It was always a nod and a wink. When García Márquez mentioned the secret life on French television, back in 1997 I think, I was surprised by that revelation. That wink. That first hint of his secret life that might just have to be looked into.

GUSTAVO ARANGO: It was right around the time his daughter was born in 1990 that he began to talk about the secret life. He’d never spoken about the secret life before, though he already had one.

GUSTAVO TATIS GUERRA: So on that day, April 17, 2014, I was in San Antero having lunch with a couple of others when suddenly the news came that García Márquez had died. The three of us sat there talking about the rumors that he’d had a secret daughter.

MILAGROS MALDONADO: Mercedes was very self-assured. Really, she was incredibly tough. So I don’t think she was going to get into a lover’s quarrel about it. I don’t know but I just don’t see her doing that sort of thing. You don’t go all in like that. It’s just that she was such an amazing person. Truly extraordinary, very confident.

DASSO SALDÍVAR: Mercedes was just always so sure of that love, and of Gabo’s love for her. Their love was a truly profound thing, something that went beyond reverence, beyond even time. The most beautiful thing about them wasn’t their fidelity, it was their loyalty. Fidelity is such an easy thing to break, but when it comes to love, the most important thing of all is loyalty, and the two of them had it.

NADIA CELIS (writer and scholar of Caribbean literature): I knew about it. It was a public secret among the extended and extensive García Márquez circle in Cartagena. There was no judgment, as having kids outside of marriage was a very common practice in that milieu, especially among powerful men. There was a kind of pact to not discuss it publicly, mostly out of respect to Mercedes.

GUSTAVO ARANGO: How does it affect García Márquez’s work one way or another, whether he has a daughter or not? For him, it must have been personally significant, having a daughter—I mean, considering that acutely feminine sensibility of his.

GUSTAVO TATIS GUERRA: This sort of thing has happened before on his father’s side of the family. The story of Gabo’s secret daughter also had a lot in common with the literary universe of García Márquez and his ancestors.

CATALINA RUIZ-NAVARRO (journalist and feminist activist): What surprises me is this pact that exists to never mention it and to continue to talk about Gabito as if he were good, kindly, pristine, beautiful, exemplary, even divine.

TERESITA GOYENECHE (journalist and writer): Here’s the debate about what it means to be an author—is someone an author because they’ve produced a work of literature, or are they an author because of the person they are, because they’re a public figure, because of how they operate and what they represent in the public eye. Their work becomes part of who they are in the public sphere. This man, who at some point in recent history showed us Cartagena writers that there were other faces across this country in which we could recognize ourselves, also had a private life outside the reach of the spotlight, a private life that some people find reprehensible. I don’t know if the story about his daughter is newsworthy simply because it involves someone whom the public feels is theirs, who belongs to them. As if they need to be in the know.

DASSO SALDÍVAR: I know many more things, but I’m not going to tell you. At least not for now.


Photograph of Gabriel García Márquez and Milagros Maldonado, sent to her by Mercedes Barcha. Courtesy of Milagros Maldonado.


STEPHEN ENNISS (director of the Harry Ransom Center): One day I simply received a phone call asking if the Center would be interested in purchasing the papers of García Márquez. That’s a pretty remarkable question to pose, and there’s only one answer.

ELIZABETH PAGE (former head of communications for the Ransom Center): We have manuscripts, photographs. Some correspondence. I love the family albums.

STEPHEN ENNISS: We also have three of his computers. Although for correspondence, it seems that he relied heavily on the telephone.

ELIZABETH PAGE: It’s all kept at freezing temperatures.

DIEGO GARCÍA ELIO (Mexican publisher who grew up with García Márquez’s two sons): Well, Gabo’s studio behind the house on Calle Fuego was hell. He kept the temperature over a hundred degrees.

ELIZABETH PAGE: We scanned over 27,000 documents. The interest in the collection has been extraordinary. People from all over the world consult it, especially from Latin America. That’s why it was also very important that it be accessible in Spanish.

STEPHEN ENNISS: We acquired the collection pretty quickly. Gabo had passed away, but Mercedes was there in the house still. One of our colleagues and I traveled to Mexico City to see the materials that had been offered to us. Gabo’s office was in a separate building behind the house and I remember walking into that lovely, lovely office of his with the walls lined with books and art and seeing his desk. And looking behind the desk and seeing the paper shredder. That was not what I was hoping to see there.

DIEGO GARCÍA ELIO: I gave a number of things to the Ransom Center, like the two manuscripts that my mother had of The General in His Labyrinth with different endings. He would always run nearly finished manuscripts past her so she could read them. They took the books that were first editions inscribed to him by his contemporaries. They took all the copies with dedications, but they left behind all the books he actually read, his normal reading material. Anyway, the studio in Calle Fuego is still full of his paintings, his photos, his desk, his computer … all of that is there, just as it was.

MILAGROS MALDONADO: He wrote from the moment he woke up until noon, come rain or shine, with a pair of Coke-bottle glasses so thick and foggy that I don’t know how he could even peer through them … then again, he didn’t need his own vision to be clear because he was really looking inwardly. That damn guy wasn’t waiting for inspiration to strike—he wasn’t thinking, I’m not going to write today just because I’m inspired. Forget all that. Plus, he had his own independent hideaway behind the house on Calle Fuego in Mexico. Nobody bothered him there. On the walls hung the Reverón and the Tamayo paintings that I had found for him.

DIEGO GARCÍA ELIO: And his personal assistant is still sitting in the same spot she was when he died. Mónica has been and still is the family secretary. You can see the place but you have to book a tour. The rest of the house isn’t open to viewings but eventually it will be. Anyway, it’s all there, they didn’t haul off everything.

STEPHEN ENNISS: What he really valued was finished work, and so he did not save multiple drafts of his writings. So most of the manuscripts that are in the archives tend to be very late-stage manuscripts with lighter revisions. But the exception is that final novel. Perhaps because he had not finished it before he died, he had retained multiple drafts of that novel while he was still working on it.

MILAGROS MALDONADO: He cut no corners when it came to his work. He didn’t have the typical lack of discipline found in most costeños, who will stay home from work after a late night of drinking and partying. He’d be there the next day going at it.

STEPHEN ENNISS: The novel was part of the archive from the beginning, even though it was unpublished. We were delighted that a previously unknown and unread work by Gabo would be in the archive. The permission that we received to digitize the collection did not extend to the unpublished novel, and so the novel is not online with the other digitized content. It was never online.

GUSTAVO ARANGO: The first thing I did when I arrived in Austin was dig up that novel.  When he died, in 2014, there was a lot of talk about it. I knew it was there—it was the first thing I asked the archivists about. When I read it, in a single sitting, the feeling I came away with was just that it lacked an editor’s touch. It was complete, it was well developed, it had a very clear ending

NADIA CELIS: I went to Austin in 2016 to explore his definition of romantic love and how it related to power. That’s when I read the novel. I knew that the manuscript was there, and that it was not to be published. I read bits and pieces here and there and it made sense to me that it was not meant to be published. It didn’t seem ready at all.

GUSTAVO ARANGO: I knew that the family had decided not to publish it. They’d made that announcement years before, persuaded by a reader at Carmen Balcells’s agency who, while Gabo was still working on the novel, said, No, it’s a long, repetitive story. That reader buried the novel while Gabo was still in the process of writing it. After that, Gabo didn’t really have it in him to work on it anymore. The reader’s report is right there with the novel itself. They blocked it just as it was about to break from the gates.

STEPHEN ENNISS: There was a sense from his sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo both, I believe, that since their father had not seen it through to completion, it would remain as an unpublished manuscript. That was the original thinking, and that’s why it wasn’t included in the digitization.

GUSTAVO ARANGO: The novel needed some adjustments. You can see where he changes words, reconstructs sentences in his own handwriting, but the novel itself was complete. We all hear the story about the editor Maxwell Perkins, who worked with Thomas Wolfe, among others, and practically rewrote his authors’ books, but here that wasn’t necessary.  It wasn’t about rewriting, just reorganizing and polishing.

ANNE McLEAN (the translator of Until August): I was asked to read the manuscript of En agosto nos vemos at the end of March 2023 and I was so excited I could barely speak. I’d been extremely honored to be asked to translate a book of García Márquez’s journalism five or six years before, but I had no idea there was any unpublished fiction in existence.

FABIO RODRIGUEZ AMAYA (novelist and painter): Outrageous, to publish a novel I’m sure he never even finished. The same thing happened with Saramago.

ANNE McLEAN: His novels, which I first read thanks to the brilliance of Edith Grossman and Gregory Rabassa, lured me to travel to Colombia back in the late eighties, and then to learn Spanish. So, even though I already had my hands full last spring, with several contemporary Colombian and Spanish novels on the go, as well as Julio Cortázar’s letters, there was never really any chance I would turn down the opportunity to translate this novel.

GUSTAVO ARANGO: Reading the novel is just plain exciting. You feel the ease, the fluidity of the Gabriel García Márquez that you’ve come to know and love. It’s not that small-town setting anymore—it’s still the Caribbean, but with a more modern and urban setting. Every August 16, the protagonist returns to bring flowers to her mother’s grave.

JAVIER MUNGUÍA (co-editor of Las cartas del Boom): Yes, this married woman living on an island goes every year to her mother’s grave and there, for the first time, she’s unfaithful to her husband. A couple of excerpts were actually published when Gabo was still alive … two chapters appeared in El País. A translation of one appeared in the New Yorker in 1999.

ANNE McLEAN: I think I might have taken his state of mind into consideration when I first read the book in Spanish—I was on the lookout for uncharacteristic imperfections in the prose—but once I was translating, I was concentrating on recreating the novel’s narrative voice, which we know he began to invent at least a quarter of a century ago, long before he started to lose his focus.

GUSTAVO ARANGO: He started working on the book in the nineties and released two chapters of it, and then he published his last novella, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, in 2004. But meanwhile, he was working on Until August, back around 2000. He was enthusiastic, but also running out of steam.

FABIO RODRIGUEZ AMAYA: Memories of My Melancholy Whores brings a close to his life as a writer. People can say whatever they want, but his writing is beautiful. That book is the story of his nostalgia. It’s an homage to Barranquilla.

DASSO SALDÍVAR: Gustavo read the manuscript in Austin and took notes, and then he wrote a beautiful article that was published in Mexico’s El Universal titled “In Defense of Gabo’s Posthumous Novel.”

GUSTAVO ARANGO: I came out of the archives with the idea of starting a campaign to get the book published.

DASSO SALDÍVAR: When he was reading the novel, Gustavo called me in Madrid, saying, “Dasso, you know where I am? I’m reading Gabo’s novel.” “How is it?” I said. “Pure Gabo,” he tells me. “Pure Garcíamárquian to the core.” “Well, let me know,” I said. He said, “I just did.” Then we hung up.

NADIA CELIS: The text may satisfy some readers’ curiosity, impress them with its technical mastery, or resonate with their preconceived notions of the stereotypical Caribbean that are linked to his work. The book is just another example of the projection of male fantasies onto women’s sexuality that surfaces throughout García Márquez’s work, whose major premise about women’s desire is that all we truly want is men.

DASSO SALDÍVAR: I sent Gustavo’s article to Guillermo Angulo, who is a very good friend of Gabo’s sons. And he sent it to Rodrigo and Gonzalo. I also sent it to María Isabel Luque, Gabo’s agent at the Carmen Balcells agency. When she read it she said to me, “Dasso, what is this? How did Gustavo get permission to see it? How did he take all those notes?” And I told her, “Don’t worry, it’s on American soil, and he was allowed to read it. It’s such a great text. Read it and share it with Rodrigo and Gonzalo.” And that’s how they all got together and started talking about the novel.

JAVIER MUNGIA: There isn’t anything to corroborate their version. The fact is that each of them can say I helped get people talking about it, so the heirs would be more interested.

GUSTAVO ARANGO: At the archive, when they gave me the box with the folders, they told me I could not take pictures but that I was allowed to take notes. So, I transcribed long excerpts, about ten tight pages.

STEPHEN ENNISS: As I recall, once they made the decision that there was going to be a published novel, his family closed the access to the file.

GUSTAVO ARANGO: It’s not a lost novel. It’s a neglected novel.

JAIME ABELLO BANFI: The thing is, if Rodrigo and Gonzalo didn’t decide to publish it, someone else surely would. Pirated copies and all that.

NADIA CELIS: Have you seen that a pirated copy is already circulating in Colombia? A week to go before publication date. I received a pdf in a WhatsApp group, one that isn’t even made up of serious readers.

JAVIER MUNGUÍA: Well, it’s a given that it has been ten years since he died, that they want to publish it. It is Gabo’s last remaining novel—of course I’m going to read it when it comes out. As a passionate reader of Gabo’s, I’m extremely curious to see what the final work of fiction he attempted was like, right? When I first read him I was fifteen or sixteen years old in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, where I still live. They sold books in the supermarket and my dad brought me a copy of Solitude. I was already a big reader—Hesse, Kafka, Hemingway—but when I read that first paragraph, it was like being hit by a bullet. It was a whole other level, you know?

NADIA CELIS: Honestly, women readers don’t need someone akin to a grandfather dictating our path to freedom, sexual or otherwise.

MIGUEL FALQUEZ-CERTAIN (poet and novelist): We already know that the “readers” some publishers have can be a bit brazen and will turn down a work on a whim. Balcells entrusted that task to a reader, whose name we still don’t know to this day, who flatly rejected the novel, and because of that determination, both the agency and the family decided to shelve the project. If it were just a matter of a work being unfinished, to this day we wouldn’t know about Musil’s monumental work The Man Without Qualities. Or Kafka. But enough with the comparisons, which—as Cervantes has already stated in his great novel—are indeed odious.

DASSO SALDÍVAR: It seems that the Balcells agency’s reader was a big fan of Vargas Llosa and that’s why they wrote that report. Pretty bad taste in literature, obviously. [Laughs.]

GUSTAVO ARANGO: One of my arguments for publishing the posthumous novel is precisely the fact that My Melancholy Whores isn’t good closure. He becomes an open target for Me Too. It’s too easy to disqualify writers now. Authors are being attacked for what their characters are doing.

NADIA CELIS: I do not believe that Gabriel García Márquez ought to be “canceled,” as some have advocated. I remain an advocate for the García Márquez of his major novels, whose cautionary tales about humanity’s capacity for self-destruction resonate deeply. His narratives reflect the dangerous lust for power that threatens our very existence on this planet. Sadly, although he could see the dangers of this lust in interactions between the poor and the rich, between everyday citizens and their corrupt rulers, or between small nations and imperial emissaries, he overlooked the force that rendered his male characters complicit in every form of tyrannical power—their passion for domination and their tendency to assert their manhood through violence, beginning with the violence inflicted upon the women they “love.”

VANESSA ROSALES (writer and podcaster): I do want to read the novel. Female subjectivity has come to the forefront in the of literature the past decade—the Ferrante phenomenon, Annie Ernaux winning a Nobel prize, and all these women in Latin America writing from the most different political, bodily, socially contextual places. So it’s interesting to see how García Márquez imagines female freedom and desire.

JAVIER MUNGUÍA: I just saw that the cover of Gabo’s novel has been released. It’s a woman under a tree—they just announced it at the Frankfurt Book Fair. We were just talking about him and there he appeared. Somehow Gabo is always here. He’s always so very present.

Carlos Fuentes, William Styron, and Gabriel García Márquez. Courtesy of the Styron family.

ROSANNA BULMER (councilmember of the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts): Our first Cartagena Hay Festival took place in January 2005, thanks to Carlos Fuentes. He said to our director that we should look into having it there given that Colombia was coming out of a very dark time. It was one of my great desires and ambitions to go to Colombia—the home of Gabriel García Márquez. When we arrived, there was a reception planned for us in the naval base where the president stays when visiting. When we arrived I noticed that the building was very austere. We were greeted by the wife of President Uribe. We were about seventy people all together, everyone very friendly and welcoming. All of a sudden the room fell silent. Gabriel García Márquez had arrived. And I understood that he was like God in Colombia.

CARMEN BALCELLS (Gabo’s agent, who died in 2015): Gabismo will become a religion.

STEPHEN ENNISS: The typed manuscript of One Hundred Years of Solitude is certainly sitting comfortably alongside our Gutenberg Bible.

GUSTAVO TATIS GUERRA: I’ve dreamed of Gabo as always dressed in white, effusive, happy, brimming with projects and always saying this, which he repeated to me every time we saw each other—that there are no formulas for any literary creation. That you just have to write, write, write. There’s never a reason to stop. That was the advice he gave me.

GABRIEL ELIGIO TORRES GARCÍA: When I told my uncle that I’d written a novel and Hurricane Katrina had swept it away, he said to me, “Don’t worry, that novel wasn’t going to turn out well anyway. Now you’ve just got to rewrite it and it’ll be better for it.”

DASSO SALDÍVAR: I dreamed that I’d arrived at the house where he wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude and that Gabo and Mercedes had already left but had forgotten everything. Even the boxes. And that Gabo had left all his manuscripts, all the early versions. Everything. The files, too.  And I said to myself, “This is wonderful, what a feast I’m about to have!” But since they were gone, the lights out, and it was starting to get dark. I prepared myself to read it all, but by then, night had fallen, and there was nothing more I could do but fall asleep on the floor, because this wasn’t a dream anymore, it was a nightmare.

LAURA MORA (director of the upcoming One Hundred Years of Solitude television series): My mom tells me that I’m so involved in the project that I’m living in nineteenth-century Macondo. I haven’t had any dreams or nightmares, but look, someone did give me a votive candle. [She holds the candle up to the screen, and instead of bearing the image of the Sacred Heart or the Virgin of Guadalupe, it shows the face of Gabriel García Márquez with a white ruff collar reminiscent of the days of Cervantes or Shakespeare.] We light it on set.

JAIME ABELLO BANFI: Let me tell you what happened to me a couple of years ago at his house in Cartagena. Gabo had already passed and Mercedes had lent the place to someone very close to the family so they could celebrate a wedding. When I pick up my glass of champagne, out of nowhere it bursts in my hand. The server brings me another glass and boom! It shatters again. That moment changed everything for me. I was scared at first, but then, in the very next instant, I felt an overwhelming sense of astonishment. The first thought that came to mind was, Of course Gabo is here. He’s pranking us! He’s just playing one more prank on us!


Silvana Paternostro is the author of Solitude & Company: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez Told with Help from His Friends, Family Fans, Arguers, Fellow Pranksters, Drunks, and a Few Respectable Souls.

Portions of this oral history were translated by Ezra Fitz, who has translated over twenty books, by authors ranging from Jorge Ramos and the Grammy-winning musician Juanes to the novelists Alberto Fuguet and Eloy Urroz. Shorter works have appeared in Words Without Borders, BOMB, A Public Space, Harper’s, and elsewhere. He lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee, with his wife and two young children.