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CriticasGabriel García Márquez's fascination with politics and power is no secret—just remember Aureliano Buendía or El otoño del patriarca (The Autumn of the Patriarch, Plaza & Janés, 2000). But according to the authors of this controversial new book about Gabo's friendship with Fidel Castro, the Colombian Nobel's obsession with power exceeds his literary interests: It's about being close and loyal to those in the highest political ranks. As the authors reconstruct one of the most mysterious and controversial friendships of our time, Esteban, a Spanish literature professor, and Panichelli, a Belgian philologist, suggest that Gabo's attraction to power has ruled over questions of ethics and literature. The authors introduce this daring thesis by recalling Gabo's response to the infamous arrest of Cuban poet Herberto Padilla in 1971. While most Latin American boom authors signed two letters condemning the case, Gabo refused to confront the dictator, even then when he hadn't yet met him. For the authors, this obsession with power explains why Gabo has nurtured friendships that contradict his anti-imperialist discourse, like the one with President Clinton, and why he continues to deny the human rights abuses that take place in Cuba despite widely publicized reports on torture. Although they never discredit the author's literary competence, Esteban and Panichelli question Gabo's journalistic objectivity. Several of his articles on Cuba depict a utopian paradise where "there is not a single human being without shoes, a home, without his three daily meals..." Gabo, they argue, has either "allowed his passion to blind his understanding of the island,or chosen to display submission to those who control the power in Cuba." Much has been written about García Márquez's literature, but after more than five years of painstaking research, the authors have provided a fascinating look at his political persona. The book is important for showing the contradictions between the humanist values that the Nobel propagates and his neglect to apply them to his writings and public statements about Cuba, and for exposing the paradoxical nature of Gabo's unconditional support of a dictator known for his repression of intellectuals. At times, though, Esteban and Panichelli try so hard to prove their thesis they end up sacrificing their objectivity. The authors suggest that Gabo received the Nobel partly due to his political connections and imply that his efforts to help political prisoners are simply ways to clear his conscience for supporting the authoritarian regime. Still, it is refreshing to see a demystified Gabo. In a 1961 speech, Castro set the rules for artists and intellectuals: "Within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing." After reading this book, it is clear that there's only one foreign intellectual that abides by Castro's famous manifesto. Highly recommended for all libraries and bookstores.
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—Carmen Ospina, "Críticas"