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García Márquez: Banquet Speech

García Márquez: Banquet Speech

García Márquez’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 1982

Sus Majestades, Sus Altesas Reales, Amigos:

Agradezco a la Academia de Letras de Suecia el que me haya distinguido con un premio que me coloca junto a muchos de quienes orientaron y enriquecieron mis años de lector y de cotidiano celebrante de ese delirio sin apelación que es el oficio de escribir. Sus nombres y sus obras se me presentan hoy como sombras tutelares, pero también como la evidencia, a menudo agobiante, del compromiso que se adquire con este honor. Un duro honor que en ellos me pareció de simple justicia, pero que en mí entiendo como una más de esas lecciones con las que suele sorprendernos el destino, y que hacen más evidente nuestra condición de juguetes de un azar indescifrable, cuya única y desoladora recompensa suelen ser, la mayoría de las veces, la incomprensión y el olvido.

Es por ello apenas natural que me interrogara, aliá en ese transfondo secreto en donde solemos trasegar con las verdades más esenciales que conforman nuestra identidad, cuál ha sido el sustento constante de mi obra, que pudo haber Uamado la atención de una manera tan comprometedora a este tribunal de árbitros tan severos. Confieso sin falsas modestias que no me ha sido facil encontrar la razón, pero quiero creer que ha sido la misma que yo hubiera deseado. Quiero creer, amigos, que este es, una vez más, un homenaje que se rinde a la poesía. A la poesía por cuya virtud el agobiante inventario de las naves que enumeró en su Iliada el viejo Homero está visitado por un viento que la empuja a navegar con su presteza intemporal y alucinada. La poesía que sostiene, en el delgado andamiaje de los tercetos del Dante, toda la fábrica densa y colosal de la Edad Media. La poesía que con tan evidente como milagrosa totalidad rescata a nuestra América en Las Alturas de Machu Pichu de Pablo Neruda el grande, el más grande, y donde destilan su tristeza milenaria nuestros mejores sueños sin salida. La poesía, en fin, esa energía secreta de la vida cotidiana, que cuece los garbanzos en la cocina, y contagia el amor y repite las imágenes en los espejos.

En cada línea que escribo trato siempre, con mayor o menor fortuna, de invocar los espíritus esquivos de la poesía, y trato de dejar en cada palabra el testimonio de mi devoción por sus virtudes de adivinación, y por su permanente victoria contra los sordos poderes de la muerte. El premio que acabo de recibir lo entiendo, con toda humilidad, como la consoladora evidencia de que mi intento no ha sido en vano. Es por eso que invito a todos ustedes a brindar por lo que un gran poeta de nuestras Américas, Luis Cardoza y Aragón, ha definido como la única prueba concreta de la existencia del hombre: la poesía.

Muchas gracias.

[© The Nobel Foundation, 1982. Gabriel García Márquez is the sole author of his speech.]

Translation by Darrell J. Dernoshek

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Friends:

I thank the Swedish Academy of Letters for having honored me with a prize that places me with many of those who guided and enriched my years as a reader and as an ordinary celebrant of that delirium without appeal that is the trade of writing. Their names and works come to mind today only as guardian shadows, but also as the evidence, often exhausting, of the commitment acquired with this honor. A difficult honor that in them it appeared to me to be simple justice, but within myself I understand as one more of these lessons by which destiny usually surprises us, and that make more evident our condition of the playthings of an undecipherable fate, whose sole and devastating rewards usually are, most of the time, incomprehension and obscurity.

It is for that reason, hardly natural, that I ask myself, there in that secret background where we usually go back and forth between the most essential truths that form our identity, what has been the constant sustenance of my work, that could have called the attention of this tribunal of such strict judges in such a compromising manner. I confess without false modesty that it has not been easy for me to find the reason, but I want to believe that it has been the same one that I would have wanted. I want to believe, friends, that this is, once again, a homage paid to poetry. To poetry through whose virtue the exhausting inventory of ships, that old Homer spelled out in his Iliad, is visited by a wind that pushes it to sail with its timeless and hallucinated swiftness. The poetry that supports, in the thin scaffolding of the tercets of Dante, all the dense and colossal factory of the Middle Ages. The poetry that with a totality as evident as it is miraculous rescues our America in The Heights of Machu Picchu by the great, the greatest, Pablo Neruda, and where its thousand-year-old sadness pours out our best dreams without a way out. Poetry, after all, that secret energy of everyday life that cooks the garbanzos in the kitchen, and spreads love and repeats the images in the mirrors.

In every line that I write I always attempt, with more or less success, to invoke the illusive spirits of poetry, and I attempt to leave in every word the testimony of my devotion for its virtue of prediction, and for its permanent victory against the deaf powers of death. The prize that I have just received I understand to be, in all humility, as the consoling evidence that my intention has not been futile. It is for that reason that I invite all of you to toast what a great poet of our Americas, Luis Cardoza y Aragón, has defined as the only concrete test of man’s existence: poetry.

Thank you very much.

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