Sunday, August 18, 2013
Reading Journal: Collected Novellas, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1990)
My first foray into the rarefied air around this Nobel winner, the collection contains three novellas: Leaf Storm, (1955); No One Writes to the Colonel (1961). and Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1983). The first - which is Marquez's first book ever, and, Wikipedia tells me, took seven years to find a publisher - tells of a man going against the people of his town to give an outcast a decent burial. The second is about a war veteran waiting day after day, year after year, for his army pension to start coming in. The final story's a reconstruction of the circumstances of a murder, stringing along the suspense and making you question how it will finally happen right up until the final page. As a group, I'm sure Marquez never intended for them to be interpreted as a group, (though he's still alive, we could ask him), but each story has an element of the absurd, an incredible level of pathos, less magic than the magic realist style he became known for after One Hundred Years of Solitude (I hear), and, most interestingly to me, a persistent sense that death is always in the room. My favourite - and Marquez's, too, (Wikipedia again) - was Leaf Storm; he liked it because it was first and in a way his purest and most personal work, but I enjoyed it most because of the shifting narrative voice: the story's told in turns by an old man, his daughter and his grandson, which keeps the account interesting because each of the three has a different opinion that colours the telling. My least favourite was the final story, I just thought it dragged on, but I have to say, that was the point: everyone knows that Santiago Nasar has been killed, and before that, everyone knew that he was going to be killed - the story's entirely in the lead-up, the foretelling and not the death itself. In all, I'm glad I started with three shorter works instead of one of the longer novels, as it was a chance to see his style varying and evolving as well as to get acquainted with his preoccupations... not to mention, a first visit to Macondo (in Leaf Storm), the town to which we will return in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Or I will, at least. Trans. Gregory Rabassa (LS, CDF) and J.S. Bernstein (NWTC).