Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

Fictional Boundaries in the "Journalistic Fiction" of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Rabee Jaber

Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

Fictional Boundaries in the "Journalistic Fiction" of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Rabee Jaber

Article excerpt

... novel and report are sons of the same mother.

--Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This novel is a work of fiction and any resemblance between its characters, events and places with real-life characters, events and places is purely coincidental and unintentional.

--Rabee Jaber

This article compares the narrative productions of the Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Aracataca, 1927-2014), winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature, and the prolific Lebanese writer Rabee Jaber (RabT' Jabir; Beirut, b. 1972), winner of the International Prize of Arabic Fiction 2012. The two writers have in common their work as journalists in addition to their output as narrative authors, in a context of persistent violence. Without providing detailed biographical information, I will allude to the context of violence in their respective societies and the presence of this violence in their journalism and fiction, to the extent that violence becomes a thematic element that traverses the two writers' output. This violence takes its own form in each writer--trauma and search for identity in Jaber; background violence in Garcia Marquez (although it emerges from civil wars of different origins in each case, supposed interethnic conflicts in Lebanon; political struggles between liberals and conservatives in Colombia)--and becomes a common denominator between their works.

Furthermore, in order to highlight the similarities, we note that both Jaber and Garcia Marquez produce narrative cycles in which they implicate themselves by suggesting links between intratextual events and characters, on the one hand, and the extratextual factual world, on the other. Thus, in Jaber's novels, in an obvious use of the mise en abyme technique, a journalist who is also a creative writer and who is sometimes called "Rabee" appears in Ralf Rizqallah fi-l-mir'at (Ralf Rizqallah in the Mirror, 1997), al-Vtirafat (Confessions, 2008), the trilogy Bayrut: Madinat al-'alam (Beirut: City of the World, 2003, 2005, 2007), Biritus: Madina taht al-ard (Biritus: An Underground City, 2005). In Jaber's Yusuf al-Ingilizi (Joseph the Englishman, 1998), Amrika (America, 2009) and Druz Balgrad (The Druze of Belgrade, 2011), we come across interlinked and overlapping events, names, and characters. There are identical episodes in Yusuf and Druz, and protagonists of Druze origin (like the novelist himself) who have Jaber as their family name, etc. Throughout all these novels, the theme of violence and civil conflict rises to the surface forming a sort of encompassing narrative of modern Lebanon from the nineteenth century until the last civil war (1975-1990).

On the other hand, in Garcia Marquez's narratives, within what is referred to as the Macondo cycle, it suffices to point out the presence of Colonel Aureliano Buendia in several novels--either as protagonist or through mere reference--and the pivotal setting of Macondo itself as cohesive elements of that narrative cycle. Besides, the constant references to a secular civil war between political trends--liberal and conservatives--in the background of the plot, along with more specific episodes, like the slaughter of banana workers as described in Cien anos de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1967), pose a clear link between the diegetic universe and the factual world in relation to the Colombian writer's own experience.

Thus, in both Jaber and Garcia Marquez, we observe the blurring of boundaries between fictional and factual, not only through the mention of events that may be understood as having occurred in extratextual experience, but also via the insertion of a character, a narrator, or a narratee, who assumes the role of a reporter. This latter aspect serves to cast a patina of veracity upon the events--at least due to the reporting style of the narration--in addition to insisting on the traumatic source of the creative impulse. This article argues that in both of these writers' fictional texts, there is a traversing of the line between the "fictional pact," which necessarily supports the diegesis, and a sort of "pact of veracity" and information that is basic to reportage. …

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