Thursday, March 15, 2007

Two giants of literature, one black eye and 30 years of silence

It is possibly the most famous literary feud of modern times: Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel prize-winning author, and Mario Vargas Llosa, his fellow giant of Latin American literature, have refused to talk to each other for three decades.

Once great friends, the two writers have steadfastly refused to talk about the reasons behind their spectacular bust-up, and so have their wives.

Now two pictures have appeared in which a youthful García Márquez shows off a black eye, and the photographer who took them has shed light on the origins of the feud. Not surprisingly, perhaps, it involves a woman.

Rodrigo Moya, a close friend of García Marquez, took the black-and-white pictures in 1976 but has kept them secret until this week. He decided to publish them to coincide with García Marquez’s 80th birthday and has broken his silence in a tongue-in-cheek account of the night in which GarcÍa Marquez and Vargas Llosa brawled, entitled “The Horrific Story of the Black Eye”.

The photographs, which first appeared in La Jornadain Mexico show a shiner under GarcÍa Márquez’s left eye and a cut on his nose. In one, the Colombian novelist is looking deadly serious. In the other, he grins broadly from under his moustache, as if acknowledging that the picture would one day become a classic.

According to Mr Moya, various Latin American artists and intellectuals had gathered in Mexico City for a film premiére in 1976. After the film, García Márquez went to embrace his close friend, Vargas Llosa. “Mario!” he managed to say, before receiving a “tremendous blow” to the face from the Peruvian author.

“How dare you come and greet me after what you did to Patricia in Barcelona!” Vargas Llosa reportedly shouted, referring to his wife.

Amid the screams of some women, García Marquez sat on the floor with a profusely bleeding nose, as the Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska ran to get a steak for his eye. Two days later, Mr Moya took the photos of his friend’s black eye.

The long feud between the two literary heavyweights has also been one of the most colourful. The two men had been close friends – so much so that Mr García Márquez is godfather to Mr Vargas Llosa’s second son, Gabriel.

After the cinema fight, however, the two stopped speaking and embarked on radically different paths. García Marquez stuck to his Leftist leanings, developing a close friendship with the Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Vargas Llosa became an ardent admirer of Margaret Thatcher and ran for President of Peru on a Right-wing platform. He has been one of President Castro’s most outspoken critics.
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