Hear Gabriel García Márquez’s Extraordinary Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, “The Solitude Of Latin America,” in English & Spanish (1982)

From the very begin­ning of Europe’s incur­sions into the so-called New World, the ecol­o­gy, the peo­ple, and the civ­i­liza­tions of the Amer­i­c­as became trans­mut­ed into leg­end and fan­ta­sy. Ear­ly explor­ers imag­ined the land­scape they encoun­tered as filled with marvels—creatures that arose from their own uncon­scious and from a lit­er­ary his­to­ry of exot­ic myths dat­ing back to antiq­ui­ty. And as the native peo­ple assumed the char­ac­ter of giants and mon­sters, sav­ages and demons in trav­el accounts, their cities became repos­i­to­ries of unimag­in­able wealth, ripe for the tak­ing.

Fore­most among these leg­ends was the city of El Dora­do. Sought by the Span­ish, Ital­ians, and Por­tuguese through­out the 15th and 16th cen­turies and by Wal­ter Raleigh in the 17th, “El Dora­do,” says folk­lorist Jim Grif­fith, “shift­ed geo­graph­i­cal loca­tions until final­ly it sim­ply meant a source of untold rich­es some­where in the Amer­i­c­as.” A cou­ple hun­dred years after Raleigh’s last ill-fat­ed expe­di­tion, Edgar Allan Poe sug­gest­ed the loca­tion of this city: “Over the Moun­tains of the Moon, down the Val­ley of the Shad­ow, ride, bold­ly ride… if you seek for El Dora­do.”

These colo­nial encoun­ters, and the fever­ish accounts they pro­duced, “con­tained the seeds,” says Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez in his 1982 Nobel Prize accep­tance speech, “of our present-day nov­els.” El Dora­do, “our so avid­ly sought and illu­so­ry land,” remained on imag­i­nary maps of explor­ers well past the age of explo­ration: “As late as the last cen­tu­ry, a Ger­man mis­sion appoint­ed to study the con­struc­tion of an inte­ro­cean­ic rail­road… con­clud­ed that the project was fea­si­ble” only if the rails were made of gold.

As Márquez’s work has often recount­ed, espe­cial­ly his epic One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, oth­er com­modi­ties suf­ficed when the gold didn’t mate­ri­al­ize, and the strug­gle between con­querors, adven­tur­ers, mer­ce­nar­ies, dic­ta­tors, and oppor­tunists on the one hand, and peo­ple fierce­ly deter­mined to sur­vive on the oth­er has made “Latin Amer­i­ca… a bound­less realm of haunt­ed men and his­toric women, whose unend­ing obsti­na­cy blurs into leg­end. We have not had a moment’s rest.”

Márquez’s speech, “The Soli­tude of Latin Amer­i­ca,” weaves togeth­er the region’s found­ing his­to­ry, its lit­er­a­ture, and its bloody civ­il wars, mil­i­tary coups, and “the first Latin Amer­i­can eth­no­cide of our time” into an accu­mu­lat­ing account of “immea­sur­able vio­lence and pain,” the result of “age-old inequities and untold bit­ter­ness… oppres­sion, plun­der­ing and aban­don­ment.” To this cat­a­logue, “we respond with life,” says Márquez, while “the most pros­per­ous coun­tries have suc­ceed­ed in accu­mu­lat­ing pow­ers of destruc­tion such as to anni­hi­late, a hun­dred times over… the total­i­ty of all liv­ing beings that have ever drawn breath on this plan­et of mis­for­tune.”

From the utopi­an dream of cities of gold and end­less wealth, we arrive at a dystopi­an world bent on destroy­ing itself. And yet,“faced with this awe­some real­i­ty,” Márquez refus­es to despair. He quotes from his lit­er­ary hero William Faulkner’s Nobel speech—“I decline to accept the end of man”—then artic­u­lates anoth­er vision:

We, the inven­tors of tales, who will believe any­thing, feel enti­tled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the cre­ation of the oppo­site utopia. A new and sweep­ing utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for oth­ers how they die, where love will prove true and hap­pi­ness be pos­si­ble, and where the races con­demned to one hun­dred years of soli­tude will have, at last and for­ev­er, a sec­ond oppor­tu­ni­ty on earth.

You can hear all of Márquez’s extra­or­di­nary speech read in Eng­lish at the top of the post, and in Span­ish by Márquez him­self below that. The lat­ter was made avail­able by Maria Popo­va, and you can read a full tran­script of the speech in Eng­lish at Brain Pick­ings.

via Brain Pick­ings

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read 10 Short Sto­ries by Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez Free Online (Plus More Essays & Inter­views)

Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez Describes the Cul­tur­al Mer­its of Soap Operas, and Even Wrote a Script for One

William Faulkn­er Reads His Nobel Prize Speech

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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