Home » The books that Gabo gave to Fidel Castro are the ones that the character in his posthumous novel reads

The books that Gabo gave to Fidel Castro are the ones that the character in his posthumous novel reads

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By JUAN CARLOS ZAPATA

Gabriel García Márquez gave books to Fidel Castro that could take him out of the routine of official, political, economic and military reports. García Márquez said that his friendship with Castro was due more to books than to politics and ideology. He pointed out that Castro was a good reader.

In the posthumous novel In August See You, published on March 6, Ana Magdalena Bach is also a good book reader, and at least three of the four books she reads are the same ones that the Nobel Prize winner once gave to the president and dictator of Cuba.

In an interview he held in 1996 with journalist Estela Bravo, broadcast by Cubavisión, García Márquez repeated that their relationship was consolidated thanks to books. Castro and García Márquez became friends in mid-1976, and were friends ever since.

In the interview, which can be found on YouTube, he explained that Castro, immersed in reading reports, documents and government affairs, was tired and stressed from these “sterilizing” readings, so he promised to bring him books. to rest”, and began to bring him bestsellers such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was the first of many.

This happened the time they met, when he traveled to Havana, to the island, to collect data and write the report on the presence of Cuban troops in Angola. Before she had traveled the country to write a series titled Cuba from cover to cover. A report that was nothing more than pure propaganda about a non-existent socialist paradise.

Dracula is also the first book with which Ana Magdalena Bach travels to the island, the setting of the novel, to put flowers on her mother’s grave. It is an unidentified island, but located in the Caribbean. On that trip, the woman has a first love affair outside of marriage that turns her world upside down. “Suddenly, like the ray of death, she was struck by the brutal awareness that she had fornicated and slept for the first time in her life with a man who was not hers.” That first lover of hers leaves her a $20 bill on page 116 of the book. Is there an encrypted message from García Márquez in the page number? We can’t guess. Nor do we know which edition García Márquez read or which one Ana Magdalena Bach reads. But in the paperback edition of Austral, there is an entry in Mina’s diary that is dated August 1st, and has to do with dead people, tombstones and graves. August and tombs and a cemetery as in the novel, and the page numbering more or less coincides.

Dracula is also the novel that Ana Magdelena Bach reads “with the fervor of a masterpiece.” And Fidel Castro thought the same thing when he started reading it. And in the interview García Márquez explained that Castro “was in some military maneuvers… He was working all day, I gave him the book at around eleven at night and the next day he arrived at the maneuvers without sleeping a minute. He told me: The damn book you brought me hasn’t let me sleep. In any case, Castro was not someone he wanted to sleep at night.

Ana Magdalena Bach is a woman who is 46 years old at the beginning of the novel and 50 at the end. She was studying Arts and Letters when she got married and could not continue at university. She is the daughter of a “Montessorian primary school teacher.” And about Ana Magdalena herself—it must be one of the inconsistencies that is talked about so much in the work—we are hinted that she is a teacher because when she arrives at one of the hotels, the price of the room “was a quarter of her price.” “monthly teacher salary.” Her father was a musician. Her husband is a musician. Her son does too, and although her daughter also has an aptitude for music, what she wants is to be a nun. Her mother, Micaela, had died eight years before that first trip, and her last wish was to be buried on that island.

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Before Bran Stoker’s Dracula, Ana Magdalena Bach read love novels, and after that El Lazarillo de Tormes, The Old Man and the Sea and The Stranger. More recently she “had gotten deeply into supernatural novels.” After Dracula, she was trying to read “the Anthology of fantastic literature by Borges, Bioy Casares and Ocampo.”

“He told that first lover that he was reading Stoker’s Dracula. He had read it at school, and was still impressed with the episode of the count who landed in London transformed into a dog. She agreed, and she didn’t understand why Francis Ford Coppola had changed it in his unforgettable film.

On the second trip, the following August, they began reading The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, “which I had had on my books for more than three months.” But what a coincidence that this is another of the books that García Márquez gave to Fidel Castro. Just like The Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. “Books with very good literature, but distracting, entertaining, that is, at the same time that they teach, they entertain,” he explained to the Cubavisión journalist.

The Year of the Plague is the last work, recorded in the woman’s penultimate trip, and among its pages she finds the business card left by another lover, there will be no more, while she bathes. The next day she wanted to read it, but she couldn’t concentrate.

In these two works, García Márquez did not reveal specific pages, so there is little more to add. On the other hand, regarding his relationship with Castro, he noted in the interview that he went from bringing him bestsellers to bringing him his manuscripts so that he could read them before they were published, although the first of his works that he provided to him was Tale of a Shipwrecked, which was already published, and then the unpublished breaking latest news of a Death Foretold. Regarding Story of a Castaway, Castro warned him:

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—There is an error there because you say that the ship left at such a time and arrived at such a time. A Navy destroyer cannot develop that speed.

He noted that Castro “did the math” and that Castro “has a strange ability to do mathematical calculations.” So he assured him that “it is absolutely impossible for (the destroyer) to do it at that speed.” So García Márquez reviewed the hours and verified that “there was indeed an error that had been creeping into the book for a long time.”

In the originals of breaking latest news of a Death Foretold, he discovered another error in “the weapons and the caliber of the weapons.” And it happened that Castro read as if “he were an editor, the exact word, a book editor” who “points out contradictions, anachronisms, inconsistencies that are passed on to professionals because he is a very thorough reader and also very constant and it pays off a lot.” reading”, and that is why some friends kept him informed and up to date about literature, since “he really likes literature.” “The novel is following very closely.”

For the prologue of Fidel Fidel, a long interview with the journalist Gianni Mina, García Márquez had announced that Castro in his office of the presidency of the Council of State kept “a shelf of books that very well reflect the breadth of his tastes: from treatises from hydroponics to love novels.” Love novels. Like Anne Magdalene Bach.

There is one more novel that appears in See You in August. There is no reference to whether García Márquez gave it to Castro. This is The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. It is relevant because the woman “read the third story, the ‘Martian Chronicles’, without surprises.” And the third story takes place in August, and is a musical story, as is the entire Nobel posthumous novel, except that Bradbury’s is a story of a terrible song. The third story is dated August 1999 and is called “Summer Night.” “What do those words mean?… Where does that song come from?… What language is that?… Why did you play that music?”

From here on out we fall into the realm of conjecture. Why did she line up the novels she gave to Castro? Why does the play take place on an island? And an island with deteriorated taxis, old models, eaten away by saltpeter. A village with depressing misery, with a “destitute people.” An island that gets worse every year. A poor, destitute cemetery. A village with such a “number of black fishermen with their arms mutilated by the premature explosion of dynamite sticks.” An island of sexual encounters, music and orchestras, bolero singers, jazz and surprising versions of classical pieces. An island from which you can see “the Miami plane with more than an hour delay in the incessant sky.”

In the end, one does not know if Ana Magdalena Bach is the same García Márquez who returned to the island and to his house in Havana and each time he did so he found it worse. For some reason, one of his last political operations was to try, at the beginning of the 90s, when the Soviet Union fell, to bring about changes in Cuba. And he did it with the support of Carlos Andrés Pérez, Felipe González and Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Pérez, Castro and García Márquez met on the island of La Orchila in Venezuela. Pérez, González and Castro met in Brasilia, at the Spanish embassy. There were meetings in Mexico. But then came Hugo Chávez’s coup attempt against Carlos Andrés Pérez and he no longer had any more international push. He just had to survive. Subsequently, Chávez’s help screwed Castro into power, and the reforms that García Márquez aspired to were forgotten. To this day, the crisis is still alive in Cuba.

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Other opinions

“Readers are lucky because In August See Us contains the magic of Gabo’s style. It surprises us with unthinkable combinations between words, with musical phrases and with dazzling passages that will stick in our memory. He is the usual García Márquez accountant, but in the autumn of his almost eighty years.”

Alvaro Santana Acuña in La Vanguardia on 03-03-2024.

**

“The center of the novel is a great character, Ana Magdalena Bach, a woman who is around fifty, and the reader will not allow me to reveal more than one thing, since she appears at the beginning of the novel: she wants to catch those that could be the last pages of his erotic desire provided in furtive opportunities.”

José María Pozuelo Yvancos at ABC Cultural on 03-9-2024.

**

“The first pages are magnificent and the end bears the indelible stamp of García Márquez; There is even a fiery core that radiates from the anecdote and answers the big questions about freedom and destiny that the writer has always asked himself.”

Carlos Granés on ABC from 08-03-2024.

The entry The books that Gabo gave to Fidel Castro are the ones that the character in his posthumous novel reads was first published in EL NACIONAL.

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