Hannes Wallrafen reisde in 1988, 1989 en 1991 naar Colombia om door hem bedachte scènes, die de sfeer van de verhalen van de schrijver Gabriel García Márquez uitstraalden te fotograferen. Dat hij hier wonderwel in geslaagd is blijkt uit de inleiding die García Márquez geschreven heeft :"Wanneer je verder probeert te komen met het onderzoek naar dit soort mysteries, wil je eigenlijk dieper doordringen in de ontelbare, geheimzinnige rijken van de schepping, terwijl alleen geïnspireerde kunstenaars het voorrecht hebben er even in te mogen kijken zonder er een verklaring voor te zoeken. En onder die bevoorrechte lieden bevindt zich natuurlijk een man die de menselijke slavenarbeid fotografeert, zoals deze zwervende Hollander die gelijk met mij, maar via andere kanalen, in dezelfde haven is aangekomen, zonder er ook maar het minste vermoeden van te hebben dat wij alle twee het gelukkige slachtoffer van hetzelfde poëtische bedrog zijn."
Een ander fragment uit de inleiding van Gabriel Garcia Márquez:
"Ik heb altijd grote bewondering gehad voor lezers die op zoek gaan naar de werkelijkheid die achter mijn boeken schuilgaat. maar ik heb nog meer bewondering voor de mensen die die werkelijkheid ook nog vinden, want daar ben ikzelf nooit in geslaagd. In mijn Caribische geboortedorp Aracataca is dit blijkbaar dagelijks werk. In de laatste twintig jaar is daar een generatie slimme jongetjes opgegroeid die de mythenjagers op het spoorwegstation opwachten en hen meenemen om hun de plaatsen en de dingen en zelfs ook de personages uit mijn romans te laten zien: de boom waar José Arcadio de oude was vastgebonden, of de kastanjeboom waaronder kolonel Aureliano Buendía is gestorven, of het graf waar Ursula Iguarán- misschien wel levend- in een schoenendoos werd begraven."
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Gabriel García Márquez, in his introduction to this unique collection of photographs, describes the effect of his first encounter with Hannes Wallrafen and his images of the Colombian Caribbean: "I was strangely moved when in the soporific March heat of a ramshackle office in Cartagena de Indias, Hannes first showed them to me. I did not find any images equivalent to those which in some sense underpin my novels, and yet the poetic quality was the same ."
Here, in this exploration of the magic reality of Macondo, the remarkable poetry of Wallrafen photographs is evoked by accompanying extracts from the novels and short stories of Márquez in a way which transcends mere verisimilitude. The mirror, in this case the photography, must be seen for what it is: a beautiful fiction.
" Trying to dig deeper in scrutiny of these mysteries is an attempt to invade the innumerable and slippery realms of creation, which only the most illuminated artists have the privilege of revealing without any explanations. And among them, clearly, there?s an occasional photographer of human bondage like this wandering dutchman who, while sailing along different currents, has arrived at the same port as I, with neither of us suspecting that we have both been the lucky victims of poetry?s same tricks."
HANNES IN MACONDO
GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ
I have always had great respect for readers who go off in search of the reality hidden behind my books.I have even greater respect for those who find it, because I've never been able to. In Aracataca, the Caribbean village where I was born, this seems to have become an everyday occupation. Over the last twenty years a whole generation of sharp children has grown up there, lying in wait for the myth-hunters at the railroad station so they can introduce them to the places, things, and even the characters from my novels: the tree that old Jose Arcadio was tied to, or the chestnut tree in whose shade Colonel Aureliano Buendia died, or the tomb in which Ursula lguaran was buried - alive, perhaps - in a shoebox.
These children haven't read my novels, of course, so their knowledge of the mythical Macondo can not have been acquired through them. The places, things and characters they show tourists are real only to the degree that the latter are willing to accept them as so. That is to say, behind the Macondo created by literary fiction there is another Macondo, even more imaginary and mythical, created by readers and authenticated by the children of Aracataca with a third visible and palpable Macondo which is, without a doubt, the falsest of them all. Fortunately, Macondo isn't a place, but a state of mind that allows people to see what they want to see and to see it as they see fit.
Last year, 1 experienced personally the high point of this poetical havoc while travelling along one of the icy rivers that descend from the Sierra Nevada range of Santa Marta and flow into Cienaga Grande, the great swamp. It's a fact that the trip is made amidst dazzling waves of yellow butterflies and along a channel broken by frequent outcroppings of enormous polished white stones that are like prehistoric eggs, but the boatman assures tourists that when he was a child there were no stones that large nor were there any butterflies along the mountain streams, that they only
appeared after One Hundred Years of Solitude came out.
In contrast, some years back in the village of Fundación there was an exhibition of furniture and domestic articles whose owner swore were from my grandparents' house in neighbouring Aracataca. The enterprise failed because nobody believed that these things were authentic. Yet, they really were the leftovers from an auction that had taken place after the death of my grandparents and which the purchaser had kept in storage until someone suggested that he set up the illfated museum in which nobody believed. The difficulty is in knowing who is closer to being right, those who believe in illusions or those who don't believe in the truth?
In the midst of so many superimposed Macondos there's another that rises up: that of the Dutch photographer Hannes Wallrafen, which could well be the most probable of all Macondos in this world because it's backed up by the conclusive documentation of some splendid photographs. I was strangely moved when in the soporific March heat of a ramshackle office in Cartegena de Indias, Hannes first showed them to me. I did not find any images equivalent to those which in some sense underpin my novels, and yet the poetic quality was the same. Later on, giving it more thought, 1 felt 1 had discovered that Hannes and 1, each in his own way, had submitted the Caribbean coast of Colombia to the same set of poetic transpositions. It's not the direct reproduction of reality but the alchemy of fictional vision that, God willing, will end up someday being more real than reality itself. Manipulation? Of course, precisely what the alchemy of artistic creation has been and always will be. Because that's the way it has to be: the arts, like the prophecies of Nostradamus, can only be presented in codes and ciphers if they are to avoid self-defeat.
Hannes himself has told me of some experiences which mirror my own when 1 was getting my primary schooling as a writer by selling books on installment across the wilderness of the Guajira peninsula. Nobody could figure out who in a salt flat was going to buy a twenty-volume encyclopaedia or treatises on surgery or how such an adventure could possibly be of any personal value to me. Still, it was those trips that in
the end revealed to me the magic of a world without which my novels would have been impossible.
Hannes's experiences have been no less enigmatic or fruitful, although at first glance they may appear to be simple coincidences of everyday life. In his intensive exploration of the Caribbean he saw the dead crowned with roses, donkeys who performed miracles, statues of nobodies, people taking forever to die, wooden images of startled saints. He saw a man pushing a wheelbarrow that carried his own herniated scrotum. In the courtyard of the convent of Saint Peter Claver in Cartagena de Indias, he saw a woman sitting in a wicker rocking chair with two little girls dressed for their first communion dancing around her. In the market he saw a whole turtle being cooked alive in a pot of boiling water. As a child, 1 had witnessed the same sight, with one difference: the turtle had been cut up before being boiled and its heart was still beating in the pot. At lunch, in the midst of the already seasoned pieces, the heart continued beating. It was one of those extreme personal experiences that 1 never dared write about because 1 was afraid nobody would believe me.
Hannes insists, however, that he wasnt inspired by those apparitions of everyday life but, rather, by the secondhand ones that turn up in my books. Even though 1 still can't believe this, 1 can understand it. I pride myself on having a fine collection of great photographs and I can mention the numerous occasions when they have influenced my novels. The most memorable one for me was the photograph that
suggested the tone 1 was missing to give the final touch to my novel about a Caribbean dictator. I'd already given up hope when, one blazing summers afternoon in Rome, 1 saw a book of photographs on display in a bookstore on the Piazza di Spagna. It was placed in the window with the centre pages open and there was a photograph of an imperial palace somewhere in India, ravaged by the elements and devoured by the vegetation, on whose vines of yellow bellflowers monkeys were frolicking, as cattle wandered through the alabaster halls, At that ' moment The Autumn of the Patriarch was revealed to me in its entirety.
Trying to dig deeper in scrutiny of these mysteries is an attempt to invade the innumerable and slippery realms of creation, which only the most illuminated artists have the privilege of revealing without any explanations. And among them, clearly, there?s an occasional photographer of human bondage like this wandering Dutchman who, while sailing along different currents, has arrived at the same port as I, with neither of us suspecting that we have both been the lucky victims of poetrys same tricks.
Translated by Gregory Rabassa