Fractured Compass

June 17, 2006

On Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Filed under: What I Saw and Read — roundapple @ 8:30 am

One day, many years ago, I began reading One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien Anos de Soledad) by the Colombian author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Gabo). The feeling I got then was a wondrous sense of discovery, like entering into a world I never imagined. Gabo has a way with words and situations which only his Spanish (or should I say Latin American) heritage allows. There never was a moment of dullness or torpor in those few days I read the novel. The prose had a cadence that seemed like poetry. The melodramatic became magical because of words and rhythm. The leftist orientation didn’t sink in because words kept lifting up the story, or stories, in the air where it/they were kept afloat. The characters with long Spanish names seemed like second nature by the middle of the book. And the ending (the last few paragraphs) was a tour de force, a coda that you would read again and again for its melancholy, grandeur and sense of loss.
Flowing lines that meander like a maze. Contrast that with the equally outrageous but succinct fictions of one other great Latin American writer, Jorge Luis Borges. Borges seems so obsessed with the logic of the possible and the imagined but writes in terse, equally effective prose.
Together with the Russian expat Vladimir Nabokov, whose Pale Fire (more than Lolita) is an acrobatic performance on tightrope, they are the trio that makes you think there is more to reality than the real. (Did I forget Kafka whose stories border on insanity?)
Reading his autobiography, LivingTo Tell the Tale, Knoft, 2003), today you get a sense of how he did it. You wonder at the stories that made up his life. Snatches of supposed real-life stories that sound surreal populate the book. As if this was one more episode or a retelling of One Hundred Years. Yet the feeling is one of being planted on solid ground, and you ask yourself whether all this can be true. Of course, it doesn’t matter if they are fictions. It doesn’t matter even if Gabo seems to have developed a sense of his own self-importance or hubris in his old age. With his achievements, he can be excused that and almost anything else.
He has recently published another work of fiction (Memories of a Melancholy Whore) which I hope to read.


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