In light of the passing of one of the greatest contemporary writers, Anam Sufi pays tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
April 17th, 2014 marks the date when the world lost one of its most influential contemporary writers; Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A Columbian novelist, short story writer, screen writer, and journalist, his works have been accredited to have given South America a voice that, owed to the timeless brilliance of his writing, will echo into eternity. Not only have his works acquired critical acclaim, but they have had a tremendous impact on the lives of people across the world; not the least of which includes me.
As an aspiring writer, I have always viewed Marquez as an inspiration in the way in which he fuses his cultural background with plot lines that manage to operate on a universal level. Despite addressing subject matters that deal with dictators in Latin America, a Pakistani living in Egypt is moved to tears. In this way, he was repeatedly successful and accomplishing what most writers can only dream of doing with their words; forging a common language of lyrical intensity that speaks to anyone and everyone in different ways.
Accordingly, for this week’s review, I thought it felicitous to take a look back at some of my favourite books that have informed the kind of writer I hope to be one day.
One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967):
One Hundred Years of Solitude provides a sweeping account of the violent history surrounding the establishment of Latin American identity. It follows the story of a family as it unfolds into generation after generation, revealing truths that reflect both the incidents that have shaped the continent in terms of politics and social structure. Moreover, the interactions between each character elucidate on man’s individual structure to establish identity and meaning. This book is one that I would recommend to everyone. Not only because it has largely informed various angles of the novel that I myself am currently in the process of writing, but also because it presents human nature and the reality of our behavioral trends in the most beautiful of ways.
The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975):
It is a hefty read. Perhaps that line is not the best to open with when trying to coax someone into reading this novel, but rest assured the effort will not prove unfruitful. The reason I say this is because the story consists of five sentences. No, it is not short, and yes, owed to a severe lack of paragraphs and the conventions of sentence fluency, it strains the eyes and burdens the reader’s attention. But of course, as will all fantastic works of literature, such a controversial decision on the part of the writer is done on purpose. The story follows the inner trappings of a Latin American ruler who, after his decades of rule come to an end, embarks on a journey where he reflects on his life and tries to come to terms with life outside of the spotlight. The run-along sentences inform the convoluted reality of a life that is shaped by the complex relationships and interactions demanded of a dictator; highlighting the gap between the leader and his inner circle, as well as between the leader and his subjects. The novel speaks volumes on the truths and fallacies that shadow human interaction, bringing to light the theme of veracity in the face of political and social fluctuations. Not only does the story address an aggregate tale of a country, told from the perspective of an ill-informed and slightly insane leader, but it also focuses on man’s inner desire to construct reality based on the comfort of a clean consciousness.
Love in the Time of Cholera (1985):
A beautiful story of unfulfilled love, Love in the Time of Cholera presents a timeless story that addresses the theme of perseverance propelled by love. Florentino and Fermina meet each other in their youth and fall passionately into one another. However, when Fermina’s father finds out about their interaction, he is quick to move his daughter so that she and Florentino can cease their soiree. In a fit of lover’s rage, Florentino swears to remain faithful to Fermina, despite her engagement to a well-to-do doctor who goes by the name of Urbino. Urbino and Florentino quickly evolve into a metaphor that depicts the polarity of modernity/progression and folkloric nostalgia. The characters’ lives fluctuate in and out of forgotten promises and revived passions; culminating in a climax that though simplistic in language, proves heartbreakingly moving. For anyone trying to make sense of unfulfilled and unexplored love, there is no better novel than this in terms of mastering the balance between acceptance and perseverance.
Chronicles of a Death Foretold (1981):
The first work that I read by Marquez, this novella takes place in small town that is heavily imbued in superstition, stigmas, and the importance of honour. It fluctuates between shifting accounts of what takes place, and attempts to make sense of one man’s death and why it happened. The complexity of the story is crafted with such precision that an attempt to fully explain it would be to take away from the narrative brilliance that it assumes. Touching on themes of human routine, guilt, honor, machismo, and fate, Chronicles of a Death Foretold is one of those books that when completed, leaves the reader in a haze of reflection. All of these themes surround the nature of people within social structures, and the ways in which communal being is (at times) at odds with individual truths. A short read, this novella is the epitome of perfection in terms of constructing contentious truths and the abstract and malleable reality of what truth really involves.
Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004 - 2005):
His last novella, Memories of My Melancholy Whores is a mesmerising tale that weaves lust, love, desire, and remorse into a tapestry of stunning proportions. To explain the plot line, I will quote directly from the blurb:
“An old journalist, who has just celebrated his 90th birthday, seeks sex with a young prostitute, who is selling her virginity to help her family. Instead of sex, he discovers love for the first time in his life.”
The allure of this novella is the way in which Marquez taps into the controversial, and the universally shamed, in order to shed a light of innocence on love and desire. Through sin he reveals sainthood, and I think this is why I admire Marquez’s writing style so dearly. He wholly capitalises on the spectrum of language, fusing opposing forces to reveal beauty at the end of the ugliest of roads.
Ultimately, Marquez will be remembered for a myriad of reasons, but especially for his mastery in magical realism. This magical realism is not only a reflection of Latin American culture, but of the power of literature; giving life to the fantastic.
Having significantly raised the bar in literature, Marquez will forever be remembered as a canonising force in the literary arena. I for one, am thankful for the treasures he has left behind, and mournful for the end of his contributions.