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Linguists' meeting bars Nobel laureate

By Giles Tremlett

MADRID, SEPT. 19. It was, perhaps, an unwise thing to say to the great and good of the Spanish language, but when the Colombian Nobel laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, suggested spelling ought to be scrapped, he did not expect to become a stranger.

The greatest living author in Spanish has been barred from the International Congress of the Spanish Language, a meeting organised every four years by national academies of the Spanish-speaking countries.

Magdalena Faillace, Argentina's Secretary of State for Culture, who is hosting the meeting, said the author of One Hundred Years Of Solitude was excluded because he had ``made trouble'' at the same conference eight years ago.

``Spelling, that terror visited on human beings from the cradle onwards, should be pensioned off,'' Mr. Garcia Marquez told that meeting, held in Zacatecas, Mexico.

News that Mr. Garcia Marquez had been vetoed provoked Jose Saramago, the Portuguese Nobel prize winner, to say he would send his invitation back to the organisers.

Ms. Faillace said that it was the academies of language that had insisted the Colombian Nobel winner be banned.

News of his exclusion, and of Mr. Saramago's refusal to go, provoked a flurry of phone calls this week. At one point Mr. Garcia Marquez was invited but declined, claiming he did not like to speak in public.

The head of Spain's Royal Academy of Language, the ``mother'' of all the other acadamies, denied they vetoed Mr. Garcia Marquez's presence.

Mr. Saramago, meanwhile, has finally agreed to go but he is still demanding to know whose idea it was to veto his fellow Nobel prize winner. ``The Argentine academy must tell us if it is true that he was not invited because of his `trouble-making' at Zacatecas,'' he said.

Next month Mr. Garcia Marquez is to publish his first novel in a decade, Memories of My Sad Prostitutes. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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