LIFESTYLE

U of Texas paid $2.2M for Garcia Marquez archive, including manuscripts and typewriters

The University of Texas has paid $2.2 million for the personal archive of Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, which documents his life and work of the world-acclaimed Colombian author.

The acquisition was announced in November but the school had sought to keep the price secret until ordered to make it public by the state attorney general's office.

"The University of Texas at Austin — with expertise in both Latin America and the preservation and study of the writing process — is the natural home for this very important collection," said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin, on its website. "Our students, our faculty and the state of Texas will benefit from it for years to come."

The archive spans more than 50 years and includes original manuscript material, predominantly in Spanish, for 10 books, including "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (1967) and "Love in the Time of Cholera" (1985). 

In addition, the University states on its website, it includes "2,000 pieces of correspondence, including letters from Carlos Fuentes and Graham Greene; drafts of his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech; more than 40 photograph albums documenting all aspects of his life over nearly nine decades; the Smith Corona typewriters and computers on which he wrote some of the 20th century's most beloved works; and scrapbooks meticulously documenting his career via news clippings from Latin America and around the world."

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Ransom Center spokeswoman Jen Tisdale revealed the $2.2 million figure to the AP, but the university did not immediately release the contract.

The university previously had disclosed the prices of such purchases and the effort to keep the cost of the García Márquez archive secret drew attention from literary and legal circles for its potential impact on future archive purchases and Texas public records law.

In 2005, the Ransom Center paid $5 million for the Watergate coverage from reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It paid $2.5 million for the archive of writer Norman Mailer in 2008 and $1.5 million for Nobel prize-winning author J.M. Coetzee's archive in 2011.

The Ransom Center acquired those collections under former director Thomas Staley, who retired in 2013. The García Márquez collection acquisition was negotiated by new director Stephen Ennis. He had previously worked at the privately held Folger Shakespeare Library and Emory University's Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.

García Márquez died in Mexico City in April. The Texas purchase of the archive has drawn criticism in Colombia and his longtime home of Mexico by those who question why the material would reside in a country he often criticized. His family insisted the collection wasn't put out to the highest bidder and was offered to the Ransom Center because of its reputation as a world-class literary archive.

The Ransom Center has extensive archives on writers Jorge Luis Borges, William Faulkner and James Joyce. Other Nobel laureates included in its collection are Samuel Beckett, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck.

The school announced the purchase on Nov. 24 and the AP asked for the price the same day. Ransom Center officials refused, initially citing state law protecting details of contracts in a competitive bidding process. The AP filed a formal request for the contract under state public records law, and the University of Texas System asked the attorney general's office for permission to withhold the price.

Attorney General Ken Paxton's open records division said the school cannot keep the contract and purchase price secret.

"We find you have failed to demonstrate the release of the information at issue would cause specific harm to the university's marketplace interests," the ruling said.

The ruling also said that even in a competitive bidding process, state law generally does not allow withholding a final bid once a contract has been executed. Open records advocates had warned that a ruling in favor of the school would have crippled a major portion of the state's public records law.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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