Much before we discovered the ‘global village’, there was one writer who built a bridge between the God’s Own country and Latin America. And he became a household name among us like Vaikom Muhammed Basheer, M T Vasudevan Nair or O V Vijayan. And he is the most popular Malayalam writer in the words of N S Madhavan! Gabriel García Márquez, the writer who needs no introduction!
Though Marquez literally happened to the Malayalis in the 80s after his winning Nobel Prize for 'One Hundred years of Solitude', a wide array of his works got published here within years, mostly without copyright, thanks to the small-time publishers. Though his celebrated works got published through the brand of DC Books, it was the small-timers who played a major role in making Marquez a household name in Kerala.
And that opened Kerala’s doors directly to the skies of Latin America’ magic realism, thus creating an equation with the legends like Jorge Luis Borges, Yuan Rulfo among others. However, Marquez was unbeaten in the popularity though one can agree or disagree whether he is the best of Latin American writers. During the good old days of the library movement, people waited for weeks to get a chance to read ‘Ekanthathayude Nooru Varshangal’, the Malayalam translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude, a phenomenon we experienced very rarely for titles like MT’s ‘Randamoozham’
When One Hundred years of Solitude was published in 1984, Malayali readers felt no alienation from the fictitious town of Macondo and Melquiades the Gypsy became one among them, swinging between memories and forgetfulness and cracking the family tree with great pain.
However, even before that a small-time publisher from Guruvayur, Sikha, had introduced the great writer by publishing the excerpt of his celebrated autobiographic interview ‘The Fragrance of Guava, which was later published in complete format by Shalvy of Mulberry Publications, Kozhikode. Later, the titles like The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, No One Writes to the Colonel got published, which also gave a new identity to the little publishing in Kerala, that was so far dominated by one or two big timers. Even the short story, ‘Tuesday Siesta’, was debated at length because it was departure from his magic realism.
However, it was the Malayalam translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude that popularized Marquez in Kerala. The destination of the global tourist got addicted to the world of magic realism in no time. A few years back, when mysterious red rains were reported from some part of Kerala, someone commented that it is nothing strange because such miracles can happen in a state that celebrates Marquez and magic realism.
No doubt, for Malayalis Macondo was a neighbouring village bordering Vijayan’s Khasak in their world sans border, while R K Narayanan’s Malgudi still remained an alien land in a faraway planet. That was Marquez effect for Malayalis who started thinking globally much before globalization was invented!