One of the authors behind Was Gabo an Irishman talks to Charlotte Mackenzie about the inspiration behind the anthology, magic realism and her favourite Márquez book
Bogota Post: Where did the title of the anthology come from?
Caroline: The fact that I’m Irish might have given that away! The book brings together 23 writers, and a lot of them had tried to read into magic realism prior to coming to live in Colombia, finally understanding what Márquez was writing about. You come and live and breathe magic realism in Colombia.
We all come at it from a slightly different angle. I never saw the magic realism in Ireland until I read Gabo’s work and then lived in Colombia. I realised he could have lived in Ireland and probably ended up writing magic realism as well. It would have been a bit colder and rainier!
The writer from Hong Kong mentions that in Chinese mythology ghosts are mentioned all the time, which is similar to the ghosts that crop up in One Hundred Years of Solitude.
The title comes from being able to see magic realism in your own country.
BP: Why did you decide to create an anthology?
Caroline: Since moving to Bogota, I changed my professional career so that I could have more time to write. I discovered that in Bogota there are loads of writers from all around the world who have found themselves in Colombia because they fell in love with a Colombian, or they fell in love with the country. It’s got a very vibrant writing scene.
I was thinking that it would be nice to honour his work with narrative non-fiction in which people can talk about their relationship to his work, bringing together all these talented writers.
BP: Do you feel more connected to Márquez living in Colombia?
Caroline: I definitely understand his works better now. Everything from being able to visualise Love in the Time of Cholera when visiting Cartagena to understanding a bit more about Colombia’s past, such as the banana massacre in One Hundred Years of Solitude. So I definitely have a deeper understanding.
That’s also what the book is about; helping people who haven’t lived in Colombia to better understand his works.
BP: Do you feel that the term ‘magic realism’ is often a bit overused?
Caroline: Well, I recently met Juan Gabriel Vásquez. We were talking about how he respects Gabo’s works, but for him how realism is so much more important and it can get lost in the magic.
I do agree with that, people get swept up in the magic and forget the gritty realism in Gabo’s work.
BP: Will people who haven’t been to Colombia relate to the anthology?
Caroline: I hope so! There are universal themes; Gabo is one of the most popular writers from the last century. I write a very personal story about meeting my husband. There are also stories about Colombia and her politics, people seeking adventure….
BP: Which is your favourite Márquez book?
Caroline: My personal favourite is Chronicle of a Death Foretold perhaps because it’s one of the first ones I read. I tried to read One Hundred Years of Solitude and abandoned it!
It’s quite journalistic. In the opening line [of Chronicle of a Death Foretold] you know exactly what’s going to happen, and you know that no one is going to stop it. As a writer I learnt a lot from that.
BP: What do you think is the secret of the universal appeal behind Márquez’s work?
Caroline: The universality of his themes and the beauty of his works. In the anthology we have quotes between the stories and it was really hard choosing them!
Was Gabo an Irishman will be present at FILBo’s “Macondo”pavillion
Caroline Doherty de Novoa is an ex-lawyer who moved to Bogota in 2013. She is author of Dancing with Statues, a novel that explores conflicts in her native Northern Ireland and Colombia. When not writing, she also lectures in law at the Universidad Externado.