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Let him rest

On a cold evening in April 2014, I arrived early for a meeting. I didn’t know the neighborhood well, so I meandered through the streets remembering what Gandalf told Bilbo: “Not all those who wander are lost.”

I was hoping to find a fancy coffee shop, but all I found was a cafeteria de barrio, one of those typically Bogotáno places where you definitely won’t get a cappuccino with cream and liquor, but you can still enjoy a tasty perico, the local version of a white coffee.

I’m a cappuccino junkie, so I was tempted to continue my search, but I was drawn in by the cookies in the window, the kind with erratic chocolate lines scribbled on top. They are a particular weakness of mine. They always remind me of the long walks I’d take with my mom when I was little, and she’d buy me a cookie as a treat. Others might look at them as a cheap everyday sweet, but to me they are a delicacy.

I ordered at the counter and then turned around to find a table. In the corner were two old men chatting animatedly; they mentioned something about a book. I sat down at the table just in front of them, intending to listen in on their conversation. After all, the art of subtle eavesdropping is something every writer should master.

I especially love eavesdropping on old people. I love how they jump quickly from one topic to another, without ever really reaching any conclusions. One of the men said to his friend, ‘Either way, you can’t deny two things; his literary greatness and the fact that he didn’t serve the country at all.’

Literary greatness? They could only have been talking about Gabriel García Márquez.

As the first guy ranted about how little Gabo had done for Colombia, his friend concentrated on drinking his coffee, patiently biding his time, waiting for his turn to speak. When the first one finally stopped for breath, the second one replied, ‘Why did he exile himself? I say, stay in the country and declare who your enemies are.’

The first guy barely registered a response to this. Instead, he clambered down off the Gabo soapbox and onto another one, this time listing all his complaints about the President.

I never really understand it when people complain about Gabriel García Márquez. So what if he had left wing leanings? Lots of people do. And what does “serve the country” really mean anyway? He put Colombian literature on the world stage. He wrote more than ten books, including a masterpiece like One Hundred Years of Solitude, and a whole bunch of short stories. He won the Nobel and had a long career as a journalist. As a writer, isn’t that the most we can ask of him? That he did his job well.

And so what if he chose to live in Mexico instead of Colombia? What does it matter? Maybe he wasn’t in “exile” but just liked the cultural environment, his life and friends in Mexico better. Isn’t doing whatever you want, whatever you enjoy, whatever brings you pleasure, one of the greatest gifts that life has to offer?

I looked at my watch. It was nearly time for my meeting. I finished my coffee and cookie and left the old men to their rants. As I stepped out into the chilly evening air, I thought about Gabo, and I hoped that, wherever he was, he couldn’t hear the grumblings of people who dislike him, like that pair of old friends in the cafeteria. Let García Márquez rest in peace, I thought. Doesn’t he deserve that?

Mainly distinguished for his love for books and writing, Juan Manuel is forever letting his heart and soul swim in literature. He is the founder of Haki Storytelling, a 100% easy going human being and 100% Bogotano; two characteristics that do not necessarily go hand in hand. He studied Industrial Engineering, and has recently focused his career towards innovation and creative processes, which has certainly livened up his writing. He is a member of the writing collective the Bogotá Writers and a columnist for El Clavo magazine. He also writes for the Creative Mornings Bogotá chapter and Young Marketing. He likes silly jokes and sushi, amongst other things, and everything he does must have happiness as its final goal. He is extremely afraid of the mundane status quo, because he firmly believes that change is the key to life. He is often to be found reading in coffee shops and is always on the lookout for the best cappuccino in town.

Image credit: Alejandro Lopez wikiart

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