This article by Maggie Galehouse appeared in The Houston Chronicle.
Gabriel García Márquez’s lyrical novels brim with romance, politics and magical realism. Students and scholars from around the world will be able to “see the work behind the scenes” now that the Nobel Prize-winning author’s archives have been acquired by the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin.
“For the study of literary art, these drafts are really outstanding,” said José Montelongo, who specializes in Latin American literature at UT. “Seeing the struggles, the parts where he’s changing his mind and crossing things out … .”
García Márquez’s archive is another huge literary “get” for the Ransom Center, known for having one of the strongest collections of 20th- and 21st-century British and American literature in the world.
The humanities research library holds 42 million manuscripts and a wealth of papers from writers including James Joyce, Washington Irving, Phyllis Wheatley, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Faulkner.
“This acquisition marks an important extension of the center’s literary holdings,” Ransom Center director Stephen Enniss said. “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.”
Written mostly in Spanish, García Márquez’s papers include original manuscripts of his well-known novels – among them “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1967), “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” (1981), “Love in the Time of Cholera” (1985) and “Memories of My Melancholy Whores” (2004). The archive also contains drafts of the Colombian-born author’s 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, correspondence and photographs taken over the course of his life, and some of his computers and Smith Corona typewriters.
The university was approached in 2013 by a representative of the family, Ennis said Monday. “García Márquez was alive then, of course, but we remained in contact with the family about trying to work out an agreement. It was important to see the archive first-hand and form a judgment about how it would be used by students and scholars.”
García Márquez died in Mexico City at age 87 in April.
In July, Enniss and Montelongo, interim Latin American bibliographer at UT’s Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, traveled to García Márquez’s home in Mexico City to look over the author’s papers. The acquisition of the writer’s archives prompted the collaboration between the two UT facilities, Ennis said; the Benson Collection is one of the premier libraries in the world for Latin America and Latin Studies.
“His widow, Mercedes Barcha, was there,” Montelongo said. “He has two sons, one in California and the other in Paris. The one in France, Gonzalo García Barcha, received us with his mother. It was a one-day visit, but we had lunch with them and got to talk to them about Gabriel García Márquez’s life and the material we were examining.
“Márquez built a studio in the back yard at some point, so we could see where he used to write.”
The Ransom Center purchased the archive from Márquez’s estate, but will not be disclosing the price, Enniss said. The collection is in transit now and should arrive soon.
“It will take some months to catalog the collection,” Enniss said, “and if all goes well we hope to open the archive for research use in time for a public celebration of Gabriel García Márquez and his work in the fall of 2015.”
UT President Bill Powers said the university, “with expertise in both Latin America and the preservation and study of the writing process” was the natural home for the collection. “Our students, our faculty and the state of Texas will benefit from it for years to come,” Powers said.
Mexican poet and novelist Homero Aridjis said Monday it was an “ideological irony” that García Márquez’s papers would now rest on American soil. The Colombian was outspoken in his opposition to U.S. policy in Latin America.
But Aridjis said it was likely a practical decision based on money, quality of care for the collection and better accessibility.
“The University of Texas, they catalog, take good care of the archives … and make them available to researchers,” Aridjis said.
There was disappointment in Colombia, where the National Library said Monday it had been negotiating for the collection since late last year.
In addition to García Márquez, the Ransom Center is home to the papers of several other Nobel laureates, including 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 literary world of Márquez’s creation is so unique, so particular,” Montelongo said. “People feel connected to it in many different ways. He was known worldwide, translated into many languages.
“I studied in Canada for a couple years. I used to ask my friends – people studying science or law or business, from Japan or South Africa or Europe – what they read. It wasn’t Hemingway. It wasn’t Proust. It was Márquez they had all read and they all had an opinion and personal responses to the books. In the archive, you can see the work behind the scenes to create those great novels.”
For the original report go to http://www.houstonchronicle.com/life/books/article/UT-s-Ransom-Center-gets-literary-coup-with-5915136.php#/2