García Márquez, poor scribblers and Michael Jacobs

A few hours before I heard of the death of Gabriel García Márquez, I learnt that a new beca, or grant, for travel writing, to be administered by García Márquez’s “new journalism”  foundation and the Hay Festival, had been set up. It’s in honour of my friend Michael Jacobs, who died in January, and is for $5,000 to be used to develop an in-depth article or travel book about Latin America or Spain. Michael knew from experience what it was to be short of both cash and time. At the memorial gathering in his honour last month in Shoreditch Town Hall, London, one of his old friends, Paul Stirton, recalled how the pair of them had once been commissioned to write a guide to art galleries in Europe, with a schedule that required they hare around five a day and write 1,000 words a night. When they arrived at one gallery to find it locked, Michael suggested he climb an outside wall, look in the windows, and shout down to Paul the “authoritative account” that their publishers had demanded.

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