By Maria Bregman
My introduction to the literary talent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez happened many, many years ago, completely by chance. I was in the car with my parents when, through the static of the radio and the loud honking of horns, an expressive voice suddenly broke through: “I do not wear a hat to not take it off in front of anyone.” The announcer was talking about the work of the great Colombian writer. The radio broadcast was long, but all the subsequent information in it was just background for me – I was deeply contemplating the quote. Not taking off your hat in front of anyone… not bowing, not groveling, not fawning… here I agreed with the author, his position completely aligned with my worldview. At the same time, not taking off a hat, if it’s a gesture of respect or etiquette?
…The inevitable split personality turned into arguing apologists, each side with a strongly expressed and reasoned position. Remarkably, many years have passed, but they still couldn’t come to an agreement and continue to argue within me. For example, would a knight be so elegant in presenting himself to a lady if he didn’t wear a helmet and didn’t take it off when meeting her? And how could he show his peaceful intentions to a fellow traveler? And hostile without a helmet? Is it practical not to wear a hat when the sun is at its zenith? Does an exaggerated pride do harm to one’s own comfort and well-being?
Intrigued, I began to study the author’s work; articles, stories, fairy tales, and when reading the novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” I was struck by some quotes that had long gained fame:
“The rain lasted four years, eleven months and two days…”;
“The air was so damp that fish could have come in through the door and swum in through the rooms and out the windows.”;
“Who will distinguish the hero from the traitor, or the whore from the saint?”;
“The secret of a good old age is nothing but an honest pact with solitude.”
Getting to know the book turned into first and foremost snatching quotes, and only secondly reflecting on the work. I became more and more entangled in intersecting branching plot lines, the story of the Buendia family over many generations looped in time, magical realism, fantasy, and reality. Sometimes I would go back to the beginning of a chapter and start reading again to fully understand what was happening.
Social entropy in conditions of cyclically reversible, stopped (in Melquiades’ wizard room “always March and always Monday”) and linear time, the influence of natural phenomena – under the pen of a special authorial style of postmodernism, couldn’t help but amaze my girlish mind, open to perceiving everything new.
The pages were ablaze with fervent Latin American passion: “Leave,” Amaranta Ursula said with her lips. Aureliano smiled, grabbed her by the waist with both hands, lifted her up like a vase of begonias, and threw her on the bed face up. With one rough movement, before she could stop him, he tore her shirt off, revealing to him the dizzying nakedness of a freshly washed body; there wasn’t a single blemish on that body, not a single hair, not a single hidden mole that Aureliano hadn’t imagined in his mind during the night’s darkness. Amaranta Ursula defended herself with the agility of a wild female: writhing her fragrant body, smooth and flexible as a caress, she tried to fend off Aureliano with her knees and at the same time dug her nails into his face, but neither he nor she let out a sigh that could be mistaken for the calm breath of someone gazing at a peaceful April evening through an open window.It was a fierce struggle, a battle not for life, but for death, but from the outside it did not look like that, because it consisted of such slow, cautious, and solemn attacks and evasions that during the time between them petunias could have bloomed again, and Gaston in the next room could have forgotten his dreams of an astronaut – everything looked as if two quarreling lovers were trying to make peace in the depths of a transparent reservoir.”
“And they turned crimson with human cruelty:
“Locked in his workshop, Colonel Aureliano Buendia pondered these changes, and for the first time in all the long years of his silent solitude, he felt painful and firm conviction that it was a mistake on his part not to bring the war to a decisive end. Just one of those days, the brother of the long-forgotten by everyone Colonel Magnifico Visbal approached one of the troughs in the square together with his seven-year-old grandson to drink lemonade. The child accidentally spilled the drink on the uniform of a nearby police corporal, and then this barbarian chopped the boy into pieces with his sharp machete and with one blow severed the head of his grandfather, who was trying to save his grandson. The whole city looked at the beheaded body of the old man, when several men carried him home, on the head, which some woman held in her hand by the hair, and on the bloodied bag with the remains of the child.”
In the end, I came to the conclusion that 500 pages with so many characters are quite difficult to comprehend with just one mind. Then my heart got involved. Such a rare union sometimes happens, especially when the reader becomes a resident of the fictional town of Macondo on a level of sensations.
In addition to this complex, contradictory, but brilliant book, Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote many others during his long life (1927-2014), including “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” “Love in the Time of Cholera,” “No One Writes to the Colonel,” and “Of Love and Other Demons.”
Someday I will return to discussing the work of this writer, but for now, concluding my short narrative consisting of a large number of quotes (and you want to repeat Marquez endlessly), I will allow myself one more where the author himself tells about an episode of writing his most famous book:
“I had a wife and two little sons. I worked as a PR manager and edited screenplays. But to write a book, I had to give up work. I pawned my car and gave Mercedes the money. Every day she somehow got me paper, cigarettes, everything I needed for work. When the book was finished, it turned out that we owed 5000 pesos to a butcher – a huge amount of money. A rumor went around that I was writing a very important book, and all the shopkeepers wanted to take part. To send the text to the publisher, 160 pesos were needed, and there were only 80 left. Then I pawned Mercedes’ mixer and hairdryer. Learning about this, she said: ‘The only thing missing was for the novel to turn out bad’…
The work “One Hundred Years of Solitude” was published in 1967, almost instantly becoming a global bestseller. The New York Times named “One Hundred Years of Solitude” the first work after Genesis that everyone should read.
Fifteen years later, in 1982, the writer was awarded the Nobel Prize “for novels and stories in which fantasy and reality, merging together, reflect life and conflicts of an entire continent.”