Andrés Caicedo lived by the YOLO philosophy before it was cool and left behind one of the most important Latin American novels of the 20th century.
I admit that when I was about to turn 20, I used to believe that I had to cherish those first five years, since after 25 it all would become much more difficult. I bet most of you felt like this too because it’s absolutely true. Those first five years of our twenties are really cool: you’re adult enough to pursue whatever you want, while at the same time, you’re young enough to feel like you can mess things up and still be justified somehow. It’s not that once you pass that milestone in your life everything goes downhill; it’s just that you have to get into more serious stuff. The thing is that you get all that anxiety about growing up, but when you actually reach that age, you realize it’s not that bad either. However, for the author we’re going to discuss today, that was out of the question, and he was very clear that life after 25 wasn’t worth living.
He didn't want to be a "traditional" Latin American writer.
Born in Cali in 1951, Andrés Caicedo is considered one of the most emblematic Colombian writers of the twentieth century. With only one novel, a couple of short stories, film scripts, and several reviews under his belt, he managed to captivate a whole generation, but more importantly, he did so by going against the popular trend that would put Latin America on the literary map. We’re talking about the era of magical realism, with great authors like García Márquez and Julio Cortázar. However, for him, magical elements weren't necessary to make a story special and intriguing. He saw reality as the best form of fiction, and thus, he centered his work in a portrayal of the current social issues and anxieties of his generation.
His characters are part of the dark underbelly of Colombian society.
He focused his work on exploring those aspects of everyday life that ended up making him who he was. He experienced and witnessed many aspects of the reality lived in Colombia at the time, from the clash of classes to the traditions and customs of his people, something he portrayed in his few works, but more importantly, he gave a spotlight to those ignored by society: the marginalized and outcast characters filled with knowledge we could all learn from. Now, you might think this isn’t that relevant, but what makes him one of the most original authors of the twentieth-century literary scene in Latin America is the way in which his characters delve into the irrational and sometimes nonsensical nature of humanity, always tainted by a coat of dark humor.
A trip to the US changed his worldview forever.
He was a young man who liked seizing the moment, an attitude that led him to drop out of college in 1971 to join a theater group, something he was really passionate about. During this time, besides acting for the company, he wrote some scripts that he wanted to turn into international hits. In 1973 he traveled to Los Angeles and New York in the hopes of selling some of his scripts, and although it ended up being an unsuccessful quest, it was a life-changing trip. He decided to make the most of the trip, and as if he were a sponge, he soaked up as much as he could. His experiences there later showed up in his only novel, which became a classic.
His only novel is a love letter to music and youth.
¡Que viva la Música!, published in English as Liveforever, tells the story of María del Carmen Huerta, a teenager from a wealthy family who lives under very strict social norms. Tired of the sheltered life she’s been forced to live, she decides to run off and enjoy life on her own terms. This ends up taking her to a world where drugs and alcohol reign. However, unlike the many stories we know that explore this matter, this novel doesn’t precisely have a moral message; on the contrary, it becomes the story of a life journey that encourages the reader to live and enjoy life without restraints. It’s an invitation to parties and hedonism that goes hand in hand with his own perception about life, that our youth is the only important moment we will ever experience and that even reaching adulthood is lame and idiotic.
He was very serious about what he preached, and knowing he was near the age he had settled as the only one worth living, he had a couple of failed suicide attempts; he had still things to do. It wasn’t until he finished his novel and sent it to the house that was meant to publish it when he felt he had done his job in this world. The day it was published, March 4th, 1977, he killed himself with pills. He had many unfinished works that were published posthumously, and, despite his young age, he managed to give a voice to a generation that was being ignored in literature. He talked to young people like no one had, and even when his idea of life might be seen as erratic, he ends up giving us a very good lesson on life: don’t miss anything because once it passes, you can never get it back.
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