17 January 2009

Yet another reason I love Colombia

Being able to buy García Márquez novels at supermarket check-out counters.

(The last photo, from top to bottom: Cien años de soledad, El amor en los tiempos del cólera, El general en su laberinto, and La mala hora.)

I read El otoño del patriarca in a week, rushing to finish it before I had to leave Santa Marta (since it was A.'s copy and I couldn't bring much back with me because then I'd have even *more* to haul back from England in the summer. Which makes me wonder, because no matter how firmly I've resolved not to buy books, I seem to accumulate them regardless. Evidently, there is no escape.). The last three days consisted of swimming through 100 pages each--and I do mean swimming. This 398 page novel consists of six paragraphs. SIX. There are very specific reasons for this--which I'll probably investigate later. I know he was heavily influenced by Faulkner and the modernists, and when I finally read our copy of El olor de la guayaba (lengthy conversations he had with his friend Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza), I'll know more. There's a whole section dedicated to this novel of his.

I think the reason I was able to sail through it so easily is that I didn't get hung up on trying to remember what was said at the beginning of each sentence. Sound strange? Ok. It's as if he's structured this novel like a flowing river. Each sentence is an individual current in this river, and you have to let yourself get swept away by it. Float along, see the sights, take in all that he's telling you. But don't get caught up in trying to remember the sequential order of things or where you started from, because then you'll spend your time trying to arrange and sort and categorize, reading it will become a chore, and you'll (ironically) miss what you were supposed to experience along the way.

Yes, he's very deliberate about the decisions he made. There is no dialogue punctuation, which helps the sensation of being carried along by something greater--a lone sailor in a rowboat. It's a little scary, but once you stop worrying about who is telling the story (there seem to be many voices telling it, many "I"s, the voices of various people in this coastal city) and simply take in the words as they come, it's an entrancing experience. I've felt like this reading Faulkner, Woolf, and Joyce, but never quite this strong. Probably because I was reading great chunks of it at a time and simply enjoying the story--the intrigue, the horror, the tragedy, and (yes!) the humor. (What a marvelously wicked sense of humor García Márquez has!) I could almost hear the voice of this lonely, monomaniacal dictator--his verbal tics and repeated sayings, his "que carajo" and "no seas pendejo" and frequent pleas to his mother, Bendición Alvarado (of the sewing machine and myriad birds).

The best reading experience I've had in a long time.

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