‘Gabo’ and Total Control

Those of you who pay attention know how feel about Gabriel Garcia Marquez ‘Gabo’; may he rest in peace. Now I know it’s classless to speak ill of the dead – nevertheless it’s our job, we writers, to try to arrive at a greater understanding.

So on that note, here goes. Literary fiction most often has political leanings; even if inadvertent or accidental. And I have always been troubled by Gabo’s politics. Specifically his affinity for dictators. His love affair with Fidel Castro, with Allende. His sympathies to Colombia’s authoritarian left. I was reading an article one time somewhere on this topic which caught my attention. In the article, the contributor (I can’t remember who or in what venue), who had known Gabo, was making the case that Gabo really wasn’t a communist. What the issue was, according to this writer, was that Gabo was infatuated with power. This love affair – of people who could control others – brought him into common cause with Latin America’s communists because, while the military regimes were content to let people salute them during the parades and go home to mind their own business, the communists wanted to own people’s souls. They didn’t only want money, prestige, position, respect, fear – they wanted people to think only of them, dream only of their ideas, interact only with their projects, committees, or parties. They valued and used art to this end, while the oxygen-less soldiers were keen to simply burn books.

Total control. For Gabo, total rapture. Hence, putting his tremendous talent at the service of those who drown the human spirit. Not much of a defense, is it?

Now why does this bother me? We all have the right to our political leanings, despite what others think. As I pondered this conundrum, I think I stumbled upon the source of my vexation. The reason that most artists tend toward communism is because they are dreamers. I too am a dreamer, so I can understand this; even if I don’t share their utopianism – at least not in the way they seek it. Communism sells the world that great idea that after the mayhem – a new world will emerge, one without conflict where there are no poor. Forget that implementing that vision is impossible, throwing people to the mercy of those who seek the kind of total power it would take to try and destroy and remake society. That’s not the point. The point is that communism is idealistic – as are artists, building utopias in their minds – creators all who live in the worlds of their own making more than in the one that they find so wanting.


This I could have forgiven Gabo of.

But attracted to a tyrant – because he was a tyrant? Tsk tsk – that is just sad.

True art is iconoclastic; and true artists, writers not entertainers, do so to defy power. To say things that are forbidden – to bring up topics that challenge. Gabo’s politics defy that tradition.

Alas – not that it matters. One time, 40 years ago, Gabo and Vargas Llosa got into a terrible fight, I think it was in a bar. They never made up – but agreed to never tell the world what the fight was about. Some say it was about a woman. I don’t think so – I think it was about this. Because as Gabo became more enamored with authority, Vargas Llosa was finding his utopian idealism through liberalism. I imagine that this great divergence caused the rupture.

Just lazy thoughts typed into my Iphone as I fly in quiet over West Africa.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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