García Márquez’s Global Reach

Credit: Gabriel García Márquez Papers, Harry Ransom Center

One of Gabriel García Márquez’s passports is on exhibit at the Ransom Center in Austin, Texas.

When Whitman College sociology professor Álvaro Santana-Acuña was in high school, he came across a story that would change his life.

It was called “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” and it was Santana-Acuña’s first introduction to the work of Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize–winning Colombian author who died in 2014. The story spurred him to pick up One Hundred Years of Solitude, “which I read from cover to cover in three days, and like many other readers around the world I was completely mesmerized by the story of Macondo and the Buendía family,” he said.

Santana-Acuña would go on to write a book about One Hundred Years of Solitude, titled Ascent to Glory, due out in July from Columbia University Press. And he was able to put his encyclopedic knowledge of the author to good use, curating Gabriel García Márquez: The Making of a Global Writer, an exhibit that opened this past February at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

“It was a way of sharing with visitors the findings of my book on One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is a novel that cut García Márquez’s life into two parts,” Santana-Acuña explained. “He became an entirely different person in public after the publication of this novel.”

The exhibition draws from García Márquez’s vast archive, which the Ransom Center acquired in 2014 and includes an incredible range of material—there are two handwritten notes about singer Shakira (whom García Márquez calls “a grand and unstoppable artist”) and a letter to President Clinton congratulating him on his re-election.

Credit: Gabriel García Márquez Papers, Harry Ransom Center

The typescript (with handwritten title page) of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, first published in Spanish in 1967 and translated into English for publication in 1970, is on exhibit at the Ransom Center.

Most precious to Santana-Acuña, however, are two copies of the final typescript of One Hundred Years of Solitude. “I remember feeling out of a breath when I first touched it,” he recalled. Visitors to the exhibition, which remains temporarily closed but will reopen later this summer, will be able to see one of the typescripts while listening to a recording of García Márquez reading the first chapter of the novel, an experience that Santana-Acuña said gave him “goosebumps.”

The exhibit spans García Márquez’s whole life. In the first gallery, the author’s natal chart is on display; the next one boasts a first edition of Leaf Storm, the author’s first book, published in 1955, flanked by a William Faulkner typescript and a James Joyce galley (García Márquez cited both authors as major influences).

One of Santana-Acuña’s favorite items is housed in the seventh gallery: “a beautiful letter written by a nine-year old Ukrainian girl, who calls him a ‘genius’ and at the bottom of the letter drew flowers for him.”

Santana-Acuña recommended that visitors to the virtual version of the exhibit take a look at García Márquez’s photographs. “There are plenty, and some of them give us an intimate understanding of the writer at work in his studio as well as about the man, the father, and the friend,” he said.

He also urged visitors to examine García Márquez’s scrapbooks. “García Márquez accumulated over his career twenty-one scrapbooks full of newspaper and magazine clippings from publications all over the world,” he said. “It is a really good way of seeing how his writing reached millions globally.”