Gabo, Colombia and Us.
Caroline Doherty de Novoa,
Victoria Kellaway and Richard McColl
Fifteen years ago, if you’d told any of us that we’d end up living in Gabriel García Márquez’s homeland, we would have thought you were crazy. And yet the three of us now call Bogotá home, convinced to move here because we fell in love with a Colombian or with Colombia herself.
Upon arrival, each of us soon found that many other writers from across the world had chosen, for one reason or another, to build their lives here too, some forever, others just for a period (or at least that’s what they tell themselves). Many arrived already knowing that they were writers, others found the calling when they got here.
We’d cross paths with these writers virtually on Twitter and Facebook as they shared their experiences with a hashtag #Colombia. And then we’d come across them in real life at cafés. Bogotá has coffee shops on every corner, and they are often full of people sitting quietly in corners tapping industriously on their keyboards or in groups plotting, planning and debating. Wherever you go, the air is infused with creativity and purpose.
As we got to know each other, we’d compare notes on what had prompted our respective moves to Colombia, our impressions of our new home, and all the projects we’d been emboldened to start here.
In time, we started to notice a recurring theme, regardless of the particular circumstances that had led each person here, they were all excited by Bogotá’s burgeoning literary scene and, at some point in their lives, they had been touched by the work of Gabriel García Márquez.
Many of us had read Gabo’s books before arriving in Colombia, and yet most of us admitted that living here had deepened our understanding of his stories, allowing us to better interpret what he was trying to tell the world. Similarly, we all found that his words contained the secret code to unlocking the enigma that is Colombia—as if Gabo were taking us by the hand and guiding us gently through his homeland—a place where nature and myth dominate over reason, and where everyday life is infused with an exuberant cocktail of love and tragedy, political strife and community, family and feuds.
Last year, when he died, we felt we had to honor him in some way, this man who had been so important to us all. The best way to do this, we thought, would be to collect the real life stories that had sprung from our relationship with his work and his homeland. And so, what you have in your hands, is the personal essay collection that resulted from those conversations.
The breadth and depth of Gabo’s work is sometimes forgotten behind the label of “magic realism.” Together with the magic, he wrote about dictators, shipwrecked sailors, kidnappings, conflict, repression, love, exorcisms, and so much more. It is therefore no surprise that the stories collected here vary so much in viewpoint and theme.
It is a testament to the universality of Gabo’s appeal that the writers in this collection hail from nine different countries, and include novelists, journalists, food writers, bloggers, political commentators, short story writers, anthropologists and humanitarian workers.
With their unique stories, they join us in paying homage to one of the greatest writers of the last century. We count ourselves lucky to have persuaded them to share their stories in this anthology, and we are privileged to join them here.