Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Farewell He Never Wrote

By Shlomo Maital


One of the world’s greatest writers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, has died, age 86. He wrote 100 Years of Solitude,   and my favorite, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, an amazingly creative mixture of journalism and fiction. Marquez himself was a journalist, at times, and was born in Colombia in 1928. He set Chronicle in a Colombia village.

After his death, Marquez’ poem The Puppet, written after he was diagnosed with supposedly fatal cancer in 1997, was widely quoted.   However, it turns out that he never wrote it. Instead it was written by a Mexican ventriloquist named Johnny Welch.

   I think Marquez would have loved the irony of the world’s press quoting a poem he never wrote, as a tribute to his writing skill.

   Here is the full poem. Marquez could well have written it, or better, if he so chose. It’s worth reading and heeding.

                                                   The Puppet

“ If for a moment God would forget that I am a rag doll and give me a scrap of life, possibly I would not say everything that I think, but I would definitely think everything that I say. I would value things not for how much they are worth but rather for what they mean. I would sleep little, dream more. I know that for each minute that we close our eyes we lose sixty seconds of light. I would walk when the others loiter; I would awaken when the others sleep.  I would listen when the others speak, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream. If God would bestow on me a scrap of life, I would dress simply, I would throw myself flat under the sun, exposing not only my body but also my soul.    My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hatred on ice and wait for the sun to come out. With a dream of Van Gogh I would paint on the stars a poem by Benedetti, and a song by Serrat would be my serenade to the moon. 

    With my tears I would water the roses, to feel the pain of their thorns and the incarnated kiss of their petals…My God, if I only had a scrap of life… I wouldn’t let a single day go by without saying to people I love, that I love them.  I would convince each woman or man that they are my favourites and I would live in love with love. I would prove to the men how mistaken they are in thinking that they no longer fall in love when they grow old–not knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love. To a child I would give wings, but I would let him learn how to fly by himself. To the old I would teach that death comes not with old age but with forgetting. I have learned so much from you men…. I have learned that everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain without realizing that true happiness lies in the way we climb the slope.  I have learned that when a newborn first squeezes his father’s finger in his tiny fist, he has caught him forever. I have learned that a man only has the right to look down on another man when it is to help him to stand up. I have learned so many things from you, but in the end most of it will be no use because when they put me inside that suitcase, unfortunately I will be dying.”