If Gabriel García Márquez was one of The Beatles

You know García Márquez, ‘The Beatles’ and Mercè Rodoreda

During one week in April, between the 10th and the 17th, we commemorate three deaths that, at first sight, don’t seem to have any connection: On 10 April 1970, the death – that is, the break-up – of the Beatles was publicly announced; on 13 April 1983 Mercè Rodoreda passed away; on 17 April 2014 Gabriel García Márquez died. We are going to see, through the eyes of Gabo, how these three events are connected.

The parents of little Mercè didn’t allow her to dance. She was desperate, but they wouldn’t allow it. She says that once during the Fiestas de Gràcia, crossing Plaza del Diamante and its canopies, she was dying to dance: “In general, Rodoreda’s eagerness to dance, which her parents always repressed because it was deemed impermissible for a decent girl, has been identified by the author herself as the fundamental taboo that motivated her to write,” Gabriel García Márquez pointed out in an article published in the newspaper El País on 18 May 1983 on the occasion of the death of the Catalan writer (on 13 April 1983), which was entitled Do you know who Mercè Rodoreda was?.

Train station of Aracataca, hometown of Gabriel García Marquez

This 17 April, it has been five years since Gabriel García Márquez, nicknamed Gabo, 1982 Nobel laureate in Literature, died and for whom Barcelona and literary agent Carmen Balcells, as it is generally known, were key to his immense oeuvre.

García Márquez: “Mercè Rodoreda is the only author (male or female) whom I have visited without knowing beforehand, having been compelled to meet her by an irresistible admiration.”

In his afore-mentioned article, García Márquez explained that it made him very sad not to have heard about the death of one of the writers that he most admired. “Mercè Rodoreda is the only author (male or female) whom I have visited without knowing beforehand, having been compelled to meet her by an irresistible admiration.”

They didn’t know each other in person, but they did know each other through their texts: “I was struck by the fact that of everything I had written, she was most interested in the rooster from No One Writes to the Colonel, and she was struck by how much I enjoyed the raffle of the coffeepot in Diamond Square,” says Gabo. The Nobel laureate also explains that “few authors have expressed with such accurate and useful clarity the subconscious process of literary creation as has Mercè Rodoreda in the prologues to her books. ‘A novel is a magic act,’ she wrote.”

Born in Aracataca, a small village in the Colombian Caribbean, Gabriel García Márquez began to discover his vocation to be a writer while studying law. His first story, The Third Resignation, was published in the newspaper El Espectador in 1947. Shortly after, he started to work as a journalist for El Universal and gave up law studies.

In 1955, he published his first novella, Leaf Storm, which was followed by No One Writes to the Colonel six years later. It is a story in which the elements which would later shape his writing style already appear

In 1955, he published his first novella, Leaf Storm, which was followed by No One Writes to the Colonel six years later. It is a story in which the elements which would later shape his writing style already appear, elements which can be found in his masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude, where he creates an imaginary territory where the magical and the improbable collide with real, everyday events in surprising ways. This is how he creates a family tree that serves as his protagonist, the Buendía family, and an imaginary village, Macondo. A village which is said to be inspired by his native Aracataca, and which at one point, years later, became so famous that a referendum was held in order to change its official name to Aracataca-Macondo. The result was very close, and the petition was denied.

Having become an internationally renowned writer, he moved to Barcelona with his family, until in 1981 he set up permanent residence in Mexico. He continued to publish stories in both places, a play and his memoir Living to Tell the Tale and finally his last novel Memories of My Melancholy Whores, published in 2004.

“It is like destiny, or at least like magic, that in the same year, in the same month, nearly in the same week, One Hundred Years of Solitude is published and then the album The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is released worldwide.”

The Beatles in Stockholm, Sweden in 1963, unknown author.

And if we want to discern other magical, subconscious or paraconscious acts, we can see what historian Juan Esteban Constaín says on the website of Centro Gabo: “It is like destiny, or at least like magic, that in the same year, in the same month, nearly in the same week, One Hundred Years of Solitude is published and then the album The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is released worldwide. You could say that both works of art, each in its own way, crossed from the world of the black and white image to the world of color: because of the exuberance, the beauty, the overflowing of forms in each of them”.

To say it in the words of Robert Roda who adores García Márquez and who inculcated his daughter with the music of the Beatles: “At a time when the most modern music you could listen to in Francoist Spain was Dúo Dinámico, the Beatles were entering a new dimension of music. García Márquez, since his very first novels, broke the mould: the mastery of narrative language above the narrated story. You have to be a true master to achieve something like that.”

Gabo: “I have the sense that the world was like this from the time I was born until the Beatles began to sing. Then everything changed”.

In any case, we know what García Márquez saw in the Beatles, the same enlightenment that he felt when he first read Diamond Square: “I have the sense that the world was the same from the time I was born until the Beatles began to sing. Then everything changed.” Gabo explained this in another article on 16 December 1980 on the occasion of another death, the death of John Lennon. The article was entitled Sí: la nostalgia sigue siendo igual que antes (Yes: Nostalgia remains the same as it has always been). “The only shared nostalgia that you have with your children are the songs of the Beatles,” he emphasized.

Born in Liverpool in 1942, James Paul McCartney met George Harrison at grammar school at the age of only 11. At the age of 15, he meets John Lennon and together they start composing songs. After participating in various bands, they adopt the name The Beatles in 1960 and gain a certain fame at the Indra bar in Hamburg, playing songs by other artists.

It was not until their concerts at the Cavern club in McCartney’s native city of Liverpool that the Beatles started to play their own songs and shot to fame. From 1963 until their break-up in 1970, the band releases 13 studio albums and two live albums. Their world-wide fame reaches unprecedented heights and their concerts create serious problems of public order among their fans. The movies Help and A Hard Day’s Night are box office hits, but in 1966 the band stops performing live.


Cover of the first album by The Beatles, Please, please me, in 1963.

Through the eyes and texts of Gabo we can see that Rodoreda and the Beatles were two extraordinary points of reference for the Colombian Nobel laureate: “I will never forget that memorable day in 1963, in Mexico, when I heard for the first time, in a conscious manner, a song by the Beatles. Since then, I have discovered that the universe was perfused by them. In our house, where we scarcely had space to sit down, there were only two records: a selection of Debussy preludes and the first album by the Beatles.”

While recording the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, McCartney suggested creating an alter ego for the Beatles, the band Sargent Pepper. He says that they were tired of being who the were (Milles, Barry. Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Henry Holt and Company, 1998). Gabo, while writing the article on occasion of Lennon’s death, admits that he found himself “thinking about all this in front of a gloomy window where snow falls, with more than fifty years gone by and still without really knowing who I am, or what the hell I’m doing here.”

Gabo also specified that “Merce Rodoreda’s private life is one of the best-kept secrets of the very mysterious city of Barcelona. I don’t know anyone who could have known her well and who could say with complete certainty what she was like”

Gabo also specified that “Merce Rodoreda’s private life is one of the best-kept secrets of the very mysterious city of Barcelona. I don’t know anyone who could have known her well and who could say with complete certainty what she was like. Moreover, Rodoreda’s books allow only a glimpse of her almost excessive sensitivity to and love for her people and the life of her neighborhood, which is perhaps what gives her novels universal appeal.” Maybe the reason for all that was and is her affiliation to the Freemasons.

“I never knew why, upon our bidding farewell at the elevator, that she said to me, ‘You have quite a sense of humor’,” Gabo says of the only time he saw Rodoreda. The course of life and art can be magical and mysterious.