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Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Big in Iran

October 28, 2011 | 12:44 pm

A 14-year-old book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez has become a surprise hit in Iran. People are snapping up "News of a Kidnapping," a nonfiction account of the connected kidnappings of 10 prominent Colombians in 1990 by drug lord Pablo Escobar's organization. At CNN, Fareed Zakaria writes:

You won't find it on bookstore shelves here in Iran -- they're all sold out. Rumors have floated for weeks that the book has been banned. But any ban that might have been in place was lifted earlier this week. We had a hard time finding a copy for ourselves. What in the world is going on?

Mir Hossein Moussavi is an opposition leader here; he ran against President Ahmadinejad in 2009 and led the Green Movement protests after the election. But he's been under house arrest since February. In a recent meeting with his daughters, he compared his detention to Márquez's account of abductions by a drug cartel in Colombia. Moussavi's word spread. And just like that, "News of a Kidnapping" went viral....

The one lesson I have learned from watching countries like Iran that are distant, complex and often closed to outsiders is to be careful in drawing grand conclusions about the regime, its stability and its prospects. Clearly some Iranians support this regime for reasons of religious loyalty and belief and because they get tangible material rewards from it. Others fear it. And still others are waiting for the opportunity to reform or even replace it. The people who can read Márquez obviously do not make for a majority -- but they are surely a sign of a county where people are gasping for freedom.

The Colombia-born Marquez won the Nobel Prize in 1982. Now in his early 80s, he's one of the leading practitioners of magic realism, in works like his iconic novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude." His most recent book is the 2004 novella, "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" -- which was later banned in Iran.


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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Colombia in 2007. Credit:  Jairo Castilla / Associated Press