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18 Sep 2004 00:00
It was, perhaps, an unwise thing to say to the great and good of the Spanish language, but when the Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez suggested spelling ought to be scrapped, he did not expect to become a pariah.
The greatest living author in Spanish has been barred from the International Congress of the Spanish Language, a meeting organised every four years by national academies of the Spanish-speaking countries.
Magdalena Faillace, Argentina’s Secretary of State for Culture, who is hosting the meeting, said the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude was excluded because he had “made trouble” at the same conference eight years ago.
“Spelling, that terror visited on human beings from the cradle onwards, should be pensioned off,” García Márquez told that meeting, held in Zacatecas, Mexico.
News that García Márquez had been vetoed provoked José Saramago, the Portuguese Nobel Prize-winner, to say he would send his invitation back to the organisers.
Faillace told Spain’s El Pais newspaper that it was the academies of language that had insisted the Colombian Nobel Prize-winner be banned.
News of his exclusion, and of Saramago’s refusal to go, provoked a flurry of phone calls this week. At one point, García Márquez was invited but declined, claiming he did not like to speak in public.
The head of Spain’s royal academy of language, the “mother” of all the other acadamies, denied they vetoed García Márquez’s presence.
Saramago, meanwhile, has finally agreed to go but he is still demanding to know whose idea it was to veto his fellow Nobel Prize-winner.
“The Argentine academy must tell us if it is true that he was not invited because of his ‘trouble-making’ at Zacatecas,” he said.
“They mustn’t think that we are stupid.”
Next month, García Márquez is to publish his first novel in a decade, Memories of My Sad Prostitutes, according to El Pais.
A million copies of the book are to be distributed in Spanish-speaking countries.—Guardian Unlimited .
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