Rodrigo García is a film and television director, writer, cinematographer and son of the late Nobel winner Gabriel García Márquez, affectionately known as Gabo, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. When García’s world-famous father began his long slide toward dementia, García began taking notes. “Writing about the death of loved ones must be about as old as writing itself, and yet the inclination to do it instantly ties me up in knots,” he writes. “I am appalled that I am thinking of taking notes, ashamed as I take notes, disappointed in myself as I revise notes.”
All who have loved García Márquez’s works will rejoice that his son overcame that angst, dutifully waiting until after his father’s death in 2014 and his mother’s death in 2020 to publish his intimate, endearing tribute, A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes: A Son’s Memoir of Gabriel García Márquez and Mercedes Barcha. García’s notes, acutely observational, are simultaneously infused with love, respect and the pain of loss. He admits that his relationships with his parents were complicated. Their lives had public, private and even secret components, and García frets about crossing lines that might leave his parents helplessly exposed. Still, from his dying father’s bedside in Mexico City to his last moment with his mother (shared digitally, as COVID-19 prevented him from traveling), García is a guardian of their dignity.
Yet this memoir’s details are indeed intimate. We're ushered into García Márquez's study as he works, until the renowned author slowly realizes he no longer can. García’s mother rises above her grief, insisting that she is a woman, not a widow, as she entertains the flow of mourning guests from around the globe—even the complete stranger who manages to con her out of quite a bit of cash. We follow García into the crematorium as he gazes upon his father for the last time, tempering that blow with the thought that García Márquez might have enjoyed flirting with the funeral worker who gave his body a little makeup, a final flourish on his way out.
Fittingly, García begins each chapter with an excerpt from one of his father’s works, and it’s this connection between life and art that holds this intense memoir together. As one epigraph from Love in the Time of Cholera puts it, “he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.”