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Papers reveal Gabriel Garcia Marquez was under Mexican surveillance for years

October 21, 2009 |  6:33 am

Gabowithcastro

Acclaimed author Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- known for the magical realism of his novels "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera" -- moved to Mexico from his native Colombia in the 1960s. And for years, his sympathy for left-leaning causes -- particularly his friendliness with Fidel Castro -- earned him surveillance in his adopted country.

On Monday, the Mexican newspaper El Universal reported (English translation) that in 1982, the year he won the Nobel Prize for literature, Garcia Marquez was described as a Cuban "propaganda agent" in papers of the now-defunct Mexican intelligence agency DFS. Those papers, which are stored in Mexico's National General Archive, show that Gabo's phone was tapped and his actions monitored.

The Latin American Herald Tribune reports:

A wiretapped conversation between Garcia Marquez and the director of Cuba’s Prensa Latina news agency, Jorge Timossi, reveals that the author made over the publishing rights for his book, "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," to the Cuban government.

"The above proves that Gabriel Garcia Marquez, besides being pro-Cuban and pro-Soviet, is a propaganda agent at the service of the intelligence agency of that country," a DFS document said.

The biography "Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life" by Gerald Martin is on the verge of Spanish-language publication in Mexico, bringing renewed attention to the 82-year-old author. Although Martin's book was in the works for 17 years and incorporated 300 interviews, it didn't include these DFS documents. And as El Universal speculated, (English translation), the new agency CISEN most likely has a Gabo file of their own -- one that is, they write, "gordo." We'd call it "fat."

Police surveillance is troubling, and when authors are monitored because of their ideology, all readers should take notice. Garcia Marquez's life seems not to have been too adversely affected by the surveillance -- but the organization PEN is dedicated to helping writers who are not so lucky. And their numbers are large.

That said, it must be enticing for a biographer -- one who has spent decades trying to unfold the truths of a around someone as complicated as Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- to know that pages and pages of mundane details of his life have been archived. Even if that record was kept for unpleasant reasons.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Fidel Castro and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 2000. Credit: Rafael Perez / Reuters

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