Friday, April 18, 2014

Thoughts on the passing of Gabriel García Márquez (and Heberto Padilla)

Great writers are not necessarily great human beings. Louis-Ferdinand Céline was a rabid anti-semite and Nazi collaborator. Ernest Hemingway after about the age of 40 curdled into a nasty bully. William S. Burroughs spent much of his life as basically a sex tourist with "boys" whose ages can only be speculated at. Gabriel García Márquez was a great writer, but he was also a dictator's tool who, when the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla was imprisoned for his political beliefs (his words alone), sided with Fidel Castro, Mr. Padilla's jailer. Heberto Padilla paid the price for his convictions with jail, a forced grotesque "public confession" straight out of Stalin-era Soviet Union, a lonely exile and finally dying largely unremembered in Alabama. I wonder how many of those floridly praising García Márquez now - not just the man's magnificent writing but also his public image as some sort of pan-Latin American secular prophet - ever imagined what it would have been like to be in Heberto Padilla's position, rotting in prison and having a fellow author, who one would have thought would have been a natural ally, instead supporting your imprisonment as the price to be paid for a tyrant to create his kingdom?

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