Friday, December 09, 2016

Booknote: Yo no vengo a decir un discurso

Gabriel García Márquez, Yo No Vengo a Decir un Discurso. New York: Vintage Español, 2010.  ISBN: 978-0-307-74345-9.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: public speaking, literary
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County Public Library

This book is a collection of speeches by Gabriel García Márquez ranging fro 1944 to 2007. These texts were written by him and meant to be read to an audience, despite the fact that, by his own admission, he was terrified of public speaking. The speeches truly give us a glimpse of his life and beliefs. We start with his first public speech delivered at his high school graduation when he was seventeen years old. The book ends with a speech he delivers at the Academias de la Lengua and to the Spanish monarchs as he turned 80 years old. Through his speeches, we get a sense of his feelings, his passions, his values, the things he cared for.

The book contains 22 speeches. Some are brief; others are longer. They all offer us plenty to think about on a wide variety of topics. Some topics he covers in his speeches include:

  • how he started writing
  • poetry
  • the new millennium
  • Latin America
  • ecology and environmentalism
  • and he argues why journalism is the best job in the world
 He also includes speeches he delivered as tributes to friends. Makes me wish that someone like García Márquez would deliver my eulogy when my time comes; I'd rather if be him, but he has already passed on. Anyhow, these more personal speeches are filled with moving words and plenty of humor. His speech for his friend Alvaro Mutis basically had me laughing through most of it.

Overall, his speeches are works of art in terms of language. He can be blunt and direct, but he can also embellish and be evocative. Many  of his speeches feature rich and textured imagery, at times bringing in magical realism. If you have read his fiction, you will certainly enjoy and appreciate this book. If you are not familiar with this writer, this collection may entice you to go find some of his fiction as well.

At the end of the book, you can find a note from the editor briefly explaining how he worked closely with the author to put the book together. We learn that many of these speeches were untitled, usually only known by the event where they were delivered, and the author gave them titles for the book. On revisiting these speeches, the author said,

"Leyendo estos discursos redescubro cómo he ido cambiando y evolucionando como escritor" (138)

"Reading these speeches I rediscover how I have been changing and evolving as a writer" (translation  is mine)

This is definitely a book I would be happy to add to my personal collection.

5 out of 5 stars.

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Additional reading notes (again, the English translations are mine):

The image of complacent intellectuals spending their life in congresses, conferences, so on:

"No es inverosímil: un intelectual complaciente podría nacer dentro de un congreso y seguir creciendo y madurándose en otros congresos sucesivos, sin más pausas que las necesarias para trasladarse del uno a otro, hasta morir de una buena vejez en su congreso final" (36).

"It is not bizarre: a complacent intellectual could be born inside a congress and keep on growing and maturing in other successive congresses, without any pauses other than the necessary ones to travel from one to the other, until dying of a good old age in his final congress"

The author describing his friend Mutis as teacher.  This is also what good librarians do, and what I aspire to:

"Los instiga a la poesía contra la voluntad de sus padres, los pervierte con libros secretos, los hipnotiza con su labia florida y los echa a rodar por el mundo, convencidos de que es posible ser poeta sin morir en el intento" (76). 

He urges them to poetry against their parents will, he perverts them with secret books, he hypnotizes them with  his florid tongue, and he sends them out into the world convinced that it is possible to be
a poet without dying in the attempt."

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This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

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