Cortázar was deceived, or perhaps he allowed himself to be deceived. Vargas Llosa was always more cautious, like Carlos Fuentes. While García Márquez, directly, was one more in the conspiracy. They were all friends of Sergio Ramírez (79 years old) and they all passed through Nicaragua attracted, with more or less sympathy, by the Sandinista revolution. The Nicaraguan Cervantes prize was a guerrilla and vice president after the overthrow of Somoza. Today he lives in exile due to the persecution of his former partner in the Sandinista Front, Daniel Ortega, who became a dictatorial leader. From the Guadalajara Book Fair, Ramírez reviews the many visits of the authors of the boom when his country was “so wildly sweet.”
The quote is from Julio Cortázar, who thus titled one of his last books in life. The author of Hopscotch it had landed for the first time in Nicaragua in 1976, still in the run-up to the revolution that would start three years later. He passed through Costa Rica first, invited by the government to give a talk at a theater. But he crossed paths with Ramírez, exiled in the neighboring country, and Ernesto Cardenal, the poet and Sandinista priest. Both invited him to visit Solentiname, the archipelago where Cardenal was building his religious, literary and political community related to liberation theology, one of the engines of the uprising against Somoza.
The clandestine trip was by plane and boat on the San Juan River that separates Costa Rica from Nicaragua. “We spent the whole weekend there,” recalls Ramírez. “On Sunday morning Ernesto celebrated his mass. They were dialogued masses where priests and peasants participated, many of whom later became guerrillas ”. That Sunday Cortázar also participated in the homily. Ramárez recalls that his intervention was about the arrest of Jesus in the garden.
All these conversations are collected in The Gospel of Solentiname, the archives of the Cardenal’s masses. Inspired by the poet and guerrilla priest, Cortázar would later write Apocalypse in Solentiname, which begins with the plane trip and ends with the murder of the Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton at the hands of his companions accused of being a CIA agent after a summary trial. Despite the critical touch of his story with the dogmatic drifts of the Central American insurgencies of the time, Cortázar “was always very enthusiastic about the revolution,” recalls Ramírez.
Fascinated, he changed the beaches of Martinique for those of Nicaragua as a vacation spot. “He had great naivety in the face of politics, he had no folds or gabelets, he believed in one thing and gave himself up.” To the point that, according to Ramírez, he was deceived more than once. For example, when Tomás Borge, one of the darkest Sandinista leaders, invited him to his house. “It took him to a humble, simple house, like a set. When the real one was gigantic, with a garden and a swimming pool ”. More than 30 years later, the Nicaraguan writer is still not clear if “deep down Cortázar would see something.”
Mario Vargas Llosa was already at the antipodes of that naivety. The two had also met before the outbreak. It was in 1978 in Denmark during a congress of the International Association of Writers (PEN), then chaired by the Peruvian Nobel Prize winner. Ramírez had traveled there to seek support in the face of the imminent uprising.
Already in the middle of the revolution, Vargas Llosa visited Nicaragua for the first time for a series of reports for a Peruvian television program. Shortly after, he would repeat the visit on the occasion of some reports commissioned by The New York Times. Ramírez recalls that his friend “had already come back with the Cuban Revolution but I believe that Sandinismo opened a new window for him, although always critical.”
At the end of the 80s, during the last blows of the revolution, Ramírez also remembers the visit of Carlos Fuentes, accompanied by the American novelist Willian Styron, famous for his political commitment, and the daughter of Jane Fonda. The two writers had arrived at the invitation of Sandinismo to participate in a meeting with the Costa Rican president in the framework of the peace negotiations. “Fonda’s daughter came because she wanted to know the experience of the revolution. He was 14 or 15 years old and he liked it so much that he wanted to stay. Poor Fuentes was very worried ”.
Gabriel García Márquez was met for the first time in a recording studio in Bogotá. It was 1977 and the Colombian Nobel Prize winner was filming an adaptation of his third novel, Bad time. Ramírez had traveled there to propose something to him: “We needed him to speak with Carlos Andrés Pérez so that he would recognize a hypothetical provisional government.” El Gabo agreed to collaborate with the conspiracy and traveled to Venezuela to speak with the president. “From there, and thanks to his intervention, he began supporting the Sandinista Front, which was key.”
The author of One Hundred Years of Solitude He spent long periods in revolutionary Nicaragua. He used to go out a lot and liked to mix with people. Once he went on the radio and spent two hours answering questions from readers about his books or whatever occurred to them. Together his wife Mercedes always stayed at Ramírez’s house. Sometimes more than a month. “Gabriel, Julio, Carlos, Mario. All very good friends ”.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.