“Gabo” goes to Texas

Manuscript by Gabo at the University of Texas.
Manuscript by Gabo at the University of Texas.

The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin acquired Monday the archive of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez (1927–2014).

The archive documents the life and work of “Gabo,”Colombia’s Nobel Laureate who obtained critical acclaim and a worldwide readership with novels and short stories set in a literary landscape of “magical realism” along the Colombian coast.

Born in Aracataca (Magdalena), García Márquez began his career as a journalist in the 1940s, reporting from Bogotá and Cartagena and later serving as a foreign correspondent in Europe and Cuba. In 1961, he moved to Mexico City. Alongside his prolific journalism career, García Márquez published many works of fiction, including novels, novellas and multiple short story collections and screenplays. He published the first volume of his three-part memoir “Vivir Para Contarla” (“Living to Tell the Tale”) in 2002. The Nobel died April 17th 2014 at his home in Mexico City after a long fight with lymphatic cancer.

Spanning more than half a century, García Márquez’s archive includes original manuscript material, predominantly in Spanish, for 10 books, from “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1967) to “Love in the Time of Cholera” (1985) to “Memories of My Melancholy Whores” (2004); more than 2,000 pieces of correspondence, including letters from Carlos Fuentes and Graham Greene; drafts of his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech; more than 40 photograph albums documenting all aspects of his life over nearly nine decades; the Smith Corona typewriters and computers on which he wrote some of the 20th century’s most beloved works; and scrapbooks meticulously documenting his career via news clippings from Latin America and around the world.

“García Márquez is a giant of 20th-century literature whose work brims with originality and wisdom,” said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “The University of Texas at Austin — with expertise in both Latin America and the preservation and study of the writing process — is the natural home for this very important collection. Our students, our faculty and the state of Texas will benefit from it for years to come.”

Highlights in the archive include drafts of García Márquez’s unpublished novel “We’ll See Each Other in August,” research for “The General in His Labyrinth” (1989) and a heavily annotated typescript of the novella “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” (1981). The materials document the gestation and changes of García Márquez’s works, revealing the writer’s struggle with language and structure.

“Heir and admirer of literary innovators like Jorge Luis Borges, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, García Márquez experimented with intricate narrative structures, with lush and winding long sentences, with the clash of the ordinary and the impossible,” said José Montelongo, interim Latin American bibliographer at the university’s Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. “He was a master of the short form in novellas that read like Greek tragedies set in the Caribbean, as well as a consummate long-distance literary runner, master of the sprawling, genealogic novel in which everything fits, including history and crime and love and miracles. Above all, he was an intoxicating stylist with the primal instincts of a storyteller.

As one literary critic has put it, García Márquez’s imagination was so powerful and original that he will be remembered as a creator of myths, a Latin American Homer.”

The archive will reside at the Ransom Center alongside the work of many of the 20th century’s most notable authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, William Faulkner and James Joyce, who all influenced García Márquez.

Stephen Enniss, director of the Harry Ransom Center believes “the acquisition marks an important extension of the Center’s literary holdings. García Márquez has had as important an influence on the novel of the second half of the 20th century as James Joyce had on the first half.”

Other Nobel laureates represented in the Ransom Center’s collections are Samuel Beckett, J. M. Coetzee, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Doris Lessing, George Bernard Shaw, Isaac Bashevis Singer, John Steinbeck and W. B. Yeats. The rare “Gabo” archive arrived at Austin  in 40 boxes. On Monday, Colombia’s Ministry of Culture “regretted” the decision that his historical archive will be housed overseas, but “respected” the García family decision.

Future plans relating to the archive include digitizing portions of the collection to make them widely accessible and a university symposium to explore the breadth and influence of García Márquez’s life and career.”We are delighted that Gabo’s archive will live at the great and unique Ransom Center, where generations of scholars and lovers of his work will be able to deepen their appreciation and understanding of his life and of his literary legacy,” said Rodrigo García, one of the author’s sons.



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