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University Of Texas Paid $2.2M For Garcia Marquez Archive

F3rn4nd0, Edited by Mangostar
Wikimedia Commons

AUSTIN — The University of Texas’ literary archive said Wednesday it paid $2.2 million for the works of Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a price the school sought to keep secret until ordered to make it public by the state attorney general’s office.

Officials at the university’s Harry Ransom Center refused in November to reveal the price to The Associated Press, saying it would hurt negotiations for future purchases. The attorney general ruled Feb. 19 that the school failed to prove harm by disclosure and ordered the contract released.

Ransom Center spokeswoman Jen Tisdale revealed the $2.2 million figure to the AP, but the university did not immediately release the contract. The Garcia Marquez collection spans more than 50 years and 10 books, including his acclaimed 1967 novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The university previously had disclosed the prices of such purchases and the effort to keep the cost of the Garcia Marquez 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 Garcia Marquez collection acquisition was negotiated by new director Stephen Enniss. He had previously worked at the privately held Folger Shakespeare Library and Emory University's Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.

“Protecting the confidentiality of sale prices of cultural property, which is the practice followed by the vast majority of the Ransom Center’s research library peers, would have allowed the center to compete on equal footing in the highly competitive marketplace for major archives,” Enniss said.

Garcia Marquez 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. (AP)