World / Latin America

Garcia Marquez once free boarder in Xinhua Havana bureau

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-04-22 12:09

BEIJING - In many of the unescapable sticky summer nights in Havana in the 1960s, a thirty-something young man slept on a sofa in the Xinhua bureau in the Cuban capital.

Two decades later, he won the Nobel Literature Prize and became world-known as a master of magical realism. That young man was Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The great Latin American writer passed away last Thursday at the age of 87, which triggered worldwide mourning and remembrance. Many Chinese netizens posted famous phrases from his works, especially the epic 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, to show their grief and respect.

But few people know Garcia Marquez was once a free boarder in Xinhua Havana bureau five decades ago.

Pang Bing'an, Xinhua's former vice president and first correspondent dispatched to Cuba, recalled an anecdote about Garcia Marquez, then a correspondent for Cuba's Prensa Latina news agency, while dismissing reports saying Garcia Marquez had worked as a stringer for Xinhua.

In April 1959, Pang went to Cuba to set up Xinhua Havana bureau and was its first chief correspondent. His office was located in the same building with Prensa Latina, which had just been established by the new Cuban government after the Cuban revolution.

In the same year, three Chinese technicians sent by Xinhua moved to the building to help Prensa Latina set up a radio station.

Garcia Marquez, an admirer of Cuba's revolution, became a correspondent in 1960 for the Cuban news agency in Bogota and New York.

As Prensa Latina had limited accommodation, Garcia Marquez had to lodge for free in the Chinese technicians' room when he returned to Havana.

Pang recalled his encounters with the literary legend. "He had an ordinary appearance at that time. I did not expect him to become such a celebrity later," he said.

"When I went to meet the technicians on the 17th floor, I saw several times Marquez sleeping there," Pang said.

"When I saw his photo in 1982, when he was awarded the Nobel prize, I recognized it was the young man who slept on the couch of our room," he said.

Pang, who later established a friendship with other Latin American writers such as Carlos Fuentes and Pablo Neruda, said it was a pity he did not get to meet Garcia Marquez again after he became a Nobel laureate.

Although Garcia Marquez did not write stories for Xinhua, he devoted himself to journalism, even after he won the prize in 1982.

"Marquez's experience as a reporter has laid a solid foundation and provided abundant materials for his literary works," Pang said.

Garcia Marquez spent more time in Colombia in his later years, founding a journalism institute in the port city of Cartagena.

In 1998, Garcia Marquez used his Nobel prize money to buy a majority interest in Colombian news magazine Cambio and was a prodigious contributor to it before falling ill with lymphatic cancer the next year.

"I'm a journalist. I've always been a journalist," Garcia Marquez once said. "My books couldn't have been written if I weren't a journalist because all the material was taken from reality."

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