Monday, June 27

The refuge of García Márquez’s memorable friend | Culture

“And that guy, who the hell knows him?” It was the only answer that Guillermo Angulo (Anorí, 93 years old) got when he arrived at the indicated address in Rome and asked a fat lady who sang opera with a towel on her head about Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian compatriot with whom he had exchanged correspondence and whom I needed to locate. It was the 1950s, and they both planned to study film at the Experimental Center of Cinematography in Rome. But Gabo had already left for Paris, where after several attempts Angulo finally found that “young man with a coastal face, immersed in a thick blue Hemingway-type sweater, wrapped in a woolen scarf, and also tucked into a well buttoned montgomery ”, as he recalls in his book Gabo + 8 (Planet).

That intense friendship with Gabito that he was born in the French capital lasted beyond Stockholm, the city where years later he would receive the Nobel Prize for Literature dressed in white liqui liqui, and continued until his death between Mexico, the United States, Barcelona and Colombia, says Ángulo, which is together to the journalist Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, one of the last surviving friends of García Márquez’s generation. The book, full of anecdotes of Colombian cultural life, feeds the legends and literary images that García Márquez himself made famous, and opens a window to his close friendship with personalities such as the writers Álvaro Mutis, Manuel Mejía Vallejo and Alberto Aguirre, the architect Rogelio Salmona, photographer Hernán Díaz or Carmen Balcells, his literary agent. What Angulo describes as the intelligentsia. It also delves into the premonitory character of the inhabitants of Macondo who face in One hundred years of loneliness a plague of memory caused by collective insomnia.

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Guillermo Ángulo, surrounded by orchids, outside his home in Choachí, in the department of Cundinamarca.
Guillermo Ángulo, surrounded by orchids, outside his home in Choachí, in the department of Cundinamarca.Ivan Valencia

Gabo + 8 delves into recent years without memories of the Colombian nobel, and adds to the list of editorial novelties Gabo and Mercedes: a farewell, Rodrigo García’s book about his parents. They both explore an intimacy the family was always very wary of. It was precisely Rodrigo, the eldest son of the author of One hundred years of loneliness, who called Guillermo Angulo a day before the death of the nobel to tell him that they had decided to take him to his home in Mexico City, number 144 on Fuego Street in El Pedregal de San Ángel, so that he could die in peace. “It doesn’t happen in the morning,” he told her. He traveled immediately to say goodbye to his friend, but García Márquez passed away shortly after noon on April 17, 2014, while he was in mid-flight. She didn’t get to see him alive, but she did get to kiss the body goodbye. “It’s good that you came, Anguleto, because that way sadness is better distributed ”, Rodrigo received him.

“For a long time he had been dying little by little, from memory to memory, from oblivion to oblivion, from image to image, from word to word, in an indefinable period that lasted just over ten years,” Angulo writes in Gabo + 8. “Finally came the emptiness of words and memories, which are life. Gabo, when he was as memorable as Funes, had said: “Wasn’t life itself also an invention of memory?”

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“Losing your memory is dying,” says Angulo. Much of what he writes about Gabo is seen in his own wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, he tells EL PAÍS in his country residence, the Orchidiosis of La Tegualda on Coachí, a couple of hours by road from Bogotá. The English-style house amid lush tropical vegetation has a history. It was built by the conservative politician Miguel Abadía Méndez after he ceased to be president, between 1926 and 1930, and there he died of natural causes in 1947. When he found out, García Márquez no longer stopped saying “the house of the dead”, for Superstition never returned, and Angulo remembers that both were born precisely under the government of Abadía Méndez. The farm is an oasis alien to the pandemic and the social upheaval that Colombia has been experiencing for two months.

Guillermo Angulo's house in Choachí was built by the conservative president Miguel Abadía Méndez, who ruled between 1926 and 1930.
Guillermo Angulo’s house in Choachí was built by the conservative president Miguel Abadía Méndez, who ruled between 1926 and 1930.Ivan Valencia

An intellectually trained photographer in Mexico, among his many professions, Angulo does not usually portray his friends, but with Gabo he made several exceptions –included in the book–. The first when she met him in the French capital, with the Hemingway type sweater. Later he took the famous image that the Nobel himself certified in his handwriting as “the only photo of me taken by Anguleto while writing One hundred years of loneliness”. And at the end, when he felt that García Márquez was going to die, he invited him to the garden and to the study of his home in Mexico to do some portraits. His favorite, which he titled “Gabo in his labyrinth,” reflects “the confusion he was in.” It shows him lost in forgetfulness.

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Diplomat, journalist, documentary maker, writer and orchidologist, Guillermo Angulo, who defines himself as a “curious person”, has also had the life of a novel. The FARC kidnapped him on March 17, 2001, and five and a half months later he regained his freedom. When he arrived in Bogotá, he received a phone call from Gabo from Europe. After an hour of detail, the nobel told him he had a book to write. “No, because a writer friend of mine has already written one on the subject and no one will read mine,” he replied. Refers to News of a kidnapping, that García Márquez published in 1996 and of which a film version is currently being filmed in Colombia, in which his daughter-in-law is a producer. This avalanche of detailed anecdotes is told among his beloved orchids, while listening to the murmur of the river and the songs of the birds. He looks like an oak tree and exhibits a sharp lucidity at 93 years old. He confesses that the deterioration of age worries him, but consoles himself with pragmatism. “I don’t have much time to lose my memory either.”

Angulo checks her orchids outside her home in Choachí.
Angulo checks her orchids outside her home in Choachí. Ivan Valencia

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