A single sentence is a complete short story when it’s been written by the breathtaking Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Garcia Marquez, the Colombian-born winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature some three decades ago, died last month at 87, leaving the world a poorer place. His first best-seller, One Hundred Years Of Solitude (1967, but the library’s English translation is dated 2001, by Gregory Rabassa ), was written obsessively, to the denial of all else, over many months. Some of his characters are as mad as he was.
“Rebecca got up in the middle of the night and ate handfuls of earth in the garden with a suicidal drive, weeping with pain and fury, chewing tender earthworms and chipping her teeth on snail shells.”
Garcia Marquez (and his family) were on the cusp of utter financial ruin when the final draft was finished, shipped off, and instantly hailed as a masterpiece.
“Aureliano Segundo appeared with a chest full of money, a can of paste, and a brush, and singing at the top of his lungs… he papered the house inside out and from top to bottom with one-peso banknotes.”
And One Hundred Years is an impressive work.
“The company physicians did not examine the sick but had them line up behind one another in the dispensaries and a nurse would put a pill the color of copper sulfate on their tongues, whether they had malaria, gonorrhea, or constipation. It was a cure that was so common that children would stand in line several times and instead of swallowing the pills would take them home to use as bingo markers.”
It’s the tale of an imaginary town and the Buendia family that founded it in 1800-and-somesuch.
Each personality is finely sketched, each anecdote a wonder, no word out of place, carefully woven into a vast quilt. And Garcia Marquez’s magic realism adds a layer of enchantment to this story of family, culture and country.
“Before they took him to the execution wall, Father Nicanor tried to attend him. ‘I have nothing to repent,’ Arcadio said, and he put himself under the orders of the squad after drinking a cup of black coffee…. ‘Bastards!’ he shouted. ‘Long live the Liberal Party!’”
Follow up One Hundred Years with the equally impressive Love In The Time Of Cholera, a love story like no other (1988, translated by Edith Grossman, 2003).
The young Fermina Daza is enraptured by the odd character who worships her. The two correspond, although her notes are far less passionate: “In reality they were distracted letters, intended to keep the coals alive without putting her hand in the fire, while Florentino Ariza burned himself alive in every line.”
Her father finally sends her away, as the young man is quite unsuitable, and she eventually rejects sad little Florentino Ariza.
But Ariza never forgets her, spending his life focussed on career and money. On a personal level, he refuses to ever make a real commitment to another, dabbling in endless flings and secret liaisons. Until, finally, after many decades, Daza’s husband dies.
Ariza returns to court the now 70-something Daza, on the very day of her husband’s funeral. She is – unsurprisingly – appalled. He is – unsurprisingly – patient.
You can also read some Garcia Marquez short stories here, for free: http://www.vox.com/2014/4/18/5628546/gabriel-garcia-marquez-stories-you-can-read-this-weekend .
Countless writers owe Garcia Marquez a debt. James Cañón is one, a Colombian who moved to New York City and penned the multiple award-winning Tales From The Town Of Widows, which unashamedly honours Marquez with a reference to 100 Years of Solitude within is first dozen or so pages.
The library has the French version, Dans La Ville Des Veuves Intrepides (2008 as translated from “the American” by Robert Davreau; Cañón did indeed write it in his second language).
The guerillas have come to the town of Mariquita, and taken all men over the age of 12, to fight for the leftist cause against the conservative government. Those who refused were shot.
And so Mariquita is now a city without men. Dans La Ville alternates the tales of the children, housewives and hookers left behind – some are starving, some become entrepreneurs, some are power-mad little monsters. And finally, they remake themselves, coming out from behind the men to rule their own lives.
These interconnected tales alternate with very short profiles – a page or three — of the boys and men with guns who are engaged in an endless civil war.
Dans La Ville Des Veuves Intrepides is another great read, and comes recommended by library coordinator Sabin Thivierge.
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Canadian icon and passionate environmentalist Farley Mowat died this month, at 92, in Port Hope, Ontario. He was at times economical with the truth.
From the CBC: “Mowat defended himself, stating in the mid-1970s that he ‘eschewed the purely factual approach,’ but was not interested in writing fiction. ‘My métier lay somewhere in between what was then a grey void between fact and fiction,’ he wrote.
“He delivered an even stronger defence during a 1999 Harbourfront International Festival of Authors discussion with Peter Gzowski…. When Gzowski challenged Mowat about the volume of facts needed in writing non-fiction, the passionate writer declared: ‘F–k the facts!’ “
Mowat believed that truth was not dependent on accuracy.
Most notably, Mowat wrote Never Cry Wolf, and the 1956 Governor General award-winning Lost in the Barrens, as well The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float (which won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in 1970).
“More than 17 million copies of his books, which have been translated into dozens of languages, have been sold worldwide. The gregarious writer was a consummate storyteller, whose works spanned non-fiction, children’s titles and memoirs,” notes the CBC.
– Eleanor Brown, May 16, 2014