Tags: english


Передсмертний лист Маркеса

During the summer of 1999 Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature and author of such classics as One Hundred Years of Solitude, was treated for lymphatic cancer. In the wake of that, there were persistent rumors about his failing health.

On May 29, 2000 these rumors appeared to be confirmed when a poem that was signed with his name appeared in the Peruvian daily La Republica. The poem was titled "La Marioneta" or "The Puppet," and it was reportedly a farewell poem that Garcia Marquez had written and sent out to his closest friends on account of his worsening condition.

The text of the poem, as well as the news of Garcia Marquez's worsening condition, quickly spread to other newspapers. On May 30 Mexico City dailies reproduced it. La Cronica ran a headline that read "Gabriel Garcia Marquez sings a song to life," and published the poem superimposed on a photo of the novelist on its front page. The poem was also read on many radio stations and spread quickly throughout the world via the internet.

The poem itself was highly sentimental and full of cliches that one would not have normally expected from the great writer. For instance, the poem declared at one point the author's desire to "live in love with love." (the entire text of the poem, translated into English, is reproduced to the right).

Nevertheless, many who read it were deeply moved by what they took to be the dying author's final message. For instance, one friend of Garcia Marquez, the Indian filmmaker Mrinal Sen, told the Hindustan Times that upon reading the poem he was flooded with memories from his 20 years of acquaintance with the author.

However, it soon became clear that Garcia Marquez's condition had not worsened recently, and he had not written the poem credited to him.

The poem turned out to be the work of an obscure Mexican ventriloquist named Johnny Welch. Welch had written the poem for his puppet sidekick "Mofles," but somehow his name had been replaced by the name of the Nobel Prize winning author.

Welch admitted that he was not a great writer, but told Mexico's InfoRed radio station that he was nevertheless "feeling the disappointment of someone who has written something and is not getting credit."

Garcia Marquez did not comment publicly on the poem. However, the week that the poem was published, a legitimate piece by him did appear in print. It was an essay on the Cuban castaway Elian Gonzales titled "Shipwreck on Dry Land."