This will be a very unhappy post. Yesterday we learned that Gabriel Garcia Márquez is reportedly suffering from dementia.
This means that Gabo’s last publications will be Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004) in fiction and Living to Tell the Tale (2002) in nonfiction. He was working on a second part to the latter that unfortunately won’t see the light of day.
Alzheimer’s is in my family, and to me the advancement of that disease is a kind of death. Some might say it is the worst kind. Terry Pratchett, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, is fighting a very public battle for increased research on the illness. He’s also made it very clear that should his affliction reach a critical stage, he would rather not go on.
We’re especially saddened when this happens to artists because we’re so shaken by the reality that the mightiest minds are subject to deterioration. But it goes beyond that. We understand that writers continue writing into old age because they cannot stop. Even when they become mentally incapable of writing, that impulse lives on and rages against the illness. Knowing that this is happening to a revered author is difficult to bear.
But we need to remember something. Just because an author is unable to produce another work of art never, ever means that their conversation with you has ended. When you crack open another unread novel, story, poem, essay, or collection of letters, it goes on. When you reread their book for the tenth and eleventh time, it goes on. I’ve been talking, arguing, cursing, and laughing with authors long gone from this world, and so have you. The conversation does not end unless you let it.