Gabriel Garcia Marquez
During the summer of 1999 Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature and author of such classics as One Hundred Years of Solitude,
was treated for lymphatic cancer. Following this, there were persistent rumors about his failing health.
On May 29, 2000 these rumors appeared to be confirmed when a poem signed with his name appeared in the Peruvian daily La Republica.
The poem, titled "La Marioneta" or "The Puppet," was said to be a farewell poem Garcia Marquez had written and sent out to his closest friends on account of his worsening condition.
The text of the poem, as well as the news of Garcia Marquez's worsening condition, was soon reprinted in other newspapers. On 30 May, Mexico City dailies reproduced it. La Cronica
ran the headline, "Gabriel Garcia Marquez sings a song to life," and published the poem on its front page, superimposed on a photo of the novelist. Many radio stations read the poem on air, and the text spread quickly throughout the world via the internet.
The poem itself (reproduced below) was highly sentimental and full of cliches one would not have expected the accomplished writer to use. For instance, the poet declared his desire to "live in love with love."
Nevertheless, many who read it were deeply moved by what they believed to be the dying author's final message. One friend of Garcia Marquez, the Indian filmmaker Mrinal Sen, told the Hindustan Times
that upon reading the poem he was flooded with memories from his 20 years of acquaintance with the author.
However, it soon became clear that Garcia Marquez's condition had not worsened recently, nor had he written the poem. It was eventually identified as the work of an obscure Mexican ventriloquist, Johnny Welch, who had written it for his puppet sidekick "Mofles." An unknown hoaxer had replaced Welch's name with the name of the Nobel Prize winning author.
Welch admitted he was not a great writer, but told Mexico's InfoRed radio station that he was nevertheless "feeling the disappointment of someone who has written something and is not getting credit."
Garcia Marquez did not comment publicly on the poem. However, the week that the poem was published, a legitimate piece by him did appear in print. It was an essay on the Cuban castaway Elian Gonzales titled "Shipwreck on Dry Land."
Text of "The Puppet" by Johnny Welch (translated by Matthew Taylor and Rosa Arelis Taylor)
|If for a moment God would forget that I am a rag doll and give me a scrap of life, possibly I would not say everything that I think, but I would definitely think everything that I say.|
I would value things not for how much they are worth but rather for what they mean.
I would sleep little, dream more. I know that for each minute that we close our eyes we lose sixty seconds of light.
I would walk when the others loiter; I would awaken when the others sleep.
I would listen when the others speak, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream.
If God would bestow on me a scrap of life, I would dress simply, I would throw myself flat under the sun, exposing not only my body but also my soul.
My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hatred on ice and wait for the sun to come out. With a dream of Van Gogh I would paint on the stars a poem by Benedetti, and a song by Serrat would be my serenade to the moon.
With my tears I would water the roses, to feel the pain of their thorns and the incarnated kiss of their petals...My God, if I only had a scrap of life...
I wouldn't let a single day go by without saying to people I love, that I love them.
I would convince each woman or man that they are my favourites and I would live in love with love.
I would prove to the men how mistaken they are in thinking that they no longer fall in love when they grow old--not knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love. To a child I would give wings, but I would let him learn how to fly by himself. To the old I would teach that death comes not with old age but with forgetting. I have learned so much from you men....
I have learned that everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain without realizing that true happiness lies in the way we climb the slope.
I have learned that when a newborn first squeezes his father's finger in his tiny fist, he has caught him forever.
I have learned that a man only has the right to look down on another man when it is to help him to stand up. I have learned so many things from you, but in the end most of it will be no use because when they put me inside that suitcase, unfortunately I will be dying.
Links and References
- "'Farewell poem' Fools Readers," Los Angeles Times, June 01, 2000.
- Ashis Chakrabarti, "Marquez's latest poem is news of death foretold," Hindustan Times, August 17, 2000.