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Meeting the Dominant Class

Garcia Marquez eventually went back to Bogota, partly as a way of quitting his legal studies at the university, but mostly to get on with a career. Things had not changed. There “could have been no worse time to become a journalist,” writes Martin, because censorship prevailed through the whole period: Garcia Marquez “began to practice journalism because of the Violencia, but the Violencia limited what a journalist could do.”27 Government censorship led to self-censorship among journalists, many of whom, like Garcia Marquez, had developed an enthusiasm for Castro. It was very clear to them what the dominant fraction was. For some of them the way to escape was through fable, but for Garcia Marquez this censorship accentuated the attraction of exile. His alienation was legendary at the newspaper, where reporters “predict that if Garcia Marquez is sent on a foreign assignment [even to] to Haiti he will never come back.”28 The great irony is that censorship would later help his career in Spain.

The major addition to his aesthetics in this period was film. As Bell-Villada notes, “he would soon become the first-ever regular film critic in Colombia.”29 The revolutionary politics of Castro did not yet recast anything in his writing. His first publications in a unique key were two famous newspaper articles, one about a catastrophic landslide in Medellin, the other on a shipwrecked sailor who survived three weeks at sea. Even though this was news reporting, his stories sought the mythic aspects. Both series were immensely popular and perceived as anti-government, simply because the government should have done something about the illegal cargo and conditions on the ship. Only in this sense were they political. The shipwreck story ran fourteen days and was reprinted in what the editor claimed was “the biggest print run any Colombian newspaper has ever published.” This was Garcia Marquez’ first experience at the center of the attention space. The newspaperman known as Gabo to his best friends had only recently appeared, but Martin writes that “now the great story-teller ‘Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ had finally appeared on the scene.”30

On the strength of the two newspaper series, Sipa Editions of Bogota printed a small edition of his stories, La Hojarasca.31 The book was full of typos but reviewed well, mostly by friends. On this wavelet of acclaim, El Espectador decided to send Garcia Marquez to cover the 1955 Four Power Conference in Geneva, offering the opportunity of exile that Apuleyo Mendoza had already taken. Before he left, Garcia Marquez self-searchingly wrote, “I never had realized that I was a stateless person, just as much as the millions who are displaced by violence.”32 This self-created estrangement, going into a “necessary exile,” was to furnish his writing with a new dimension, though he couldn’t quite articulate it yet. Though he was supposed to return in a few weeks, a large farewell party was held. He even wrote a Dear Jane letter to his fiancee. Martin writes that “when the chance came to get away—and to Europe—he seized it with alacrity, despite many protestations to the contrary.”33

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