September 8, 2016

Gabriel García Márquez is so money (and he doesn’t even know it)


Courtesy of the Banco Central de Colombia.

Courtesy of the Banco Central de Colombia.

Two years after his death, Gabriel García Márquez’s national icon status continues to grow in his native Colombia. The literary lion, best known for One Hundred Years of Solitude (which continues to serve as a towering introductory literary mindfuck for untold numbers of schoolchildren) is widely beloved in his home nation, where his cremains were laid to rest last year. (Despite his letters controversially ending up in Texas.)

And now, Colombia has upped the ante by emblazoning Márquez’s face on a high-value banknote. Anne Quito reports for Quartz:

The portrait of García Márquez, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1982, appears twice on the obverse of the newly-released 50,000 COP banknote. The full-length image surrounded by a kaleidoscope of butterflies is a reference to a leitmotif in his 1967 opus, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The 50,000 note ($17 USD) is the second-highest denomination issued by the Colombian central bank and has 50 anti-counterfeiting design elements, central bank governor José Darío Uribe said in an Aug. 19 speech.

Among the security features is a quotation from García Márquez’s Nobel prize acceptance speech, printed in microtext. The gist of the passage in Spanish heralds “a new and sweeping utopia of life,” explained Uribe. “This message today, if anything, is more urgent than when uttered for the first time Stockholm in 1982.”

Quito points out that this puts Márquez in the vaunted pantheon of authors who stare out from money, which includes Hans Christian Andersen, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, and Ichiyō Higuchi. 

I’m transfixed by the use of the Nobel speech quote as a security feature. With any luck, this can begin a renaissance of impossibly literary counterfeiting measures. I, for example, would be tickled by a watermark that is the entirety of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, or, failing that, a security band made of Mary MacLane bons mots. I am resolute in my claim that there is no greater or more satisfying act than buying books, and it’s got to feel pretty goddamn good to buy one with the author’s face on your money.


Liam O’Brien is the Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.