Moths of Ill Omen

Malcolm Deas

  • News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Edith Grossman
    Cape, 291 pp, £16.99, July 1997, ISBN 0 224 05002 8
  • Chapolas Negras by Fernando Vallejo
    Alfaguara, 262 pp, £15.00, March 1996, ISBN 958 24 0283 0
  • José Asunción Silva: Obra Completa edited by Hector Orjuela
    Unesco/Casa de la Poesía Silva, 747 pp, £40.00, April 1996, ISBN 84 89666 06 7

The Hispanic world is particularly reverential towards its writers, perhaps because, through the vagaries of world history, it has not much else to be reverential about. There are the turn of the century poets who could fill opera houses; the overcoated figures photographed on the Paris boulevards, making it, in what Latin Americans still sometimes call, with touching loyalty, the City of Light; the accounts, in the (unreadable) Sunday cultural supplements of La Prensa, El Universal, El Tiempo, or in certain beautifully printed but contentless monthly reviews, of breakfast conversations in New England when the revered poet was in residence on some campus or other. Matchless friends, great souls, universal intelligences, and often even accomplished cooks. Think how the shadow of Gabriel García Márquez has loomed over Colombia. Thirty years ago he published One Hundred Years of Solitude, the foundation stone of an unmanageable fame rivalled in the Spanish-speaking world only by Fidel Castro – a possible reason for their friendship – and not by many outside it.

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