The Strange Pilgrim

April 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Tributes to Gabriel García Márquez will flow in for a while, but the loudest ones may already reside in the innumerable writers he influenced. He gave Latin American writers the courage and guile to take on the tyrants and dark epochs of their homelands, the hot caverns of the past, and perhaps most crucially, the yearning for a stable sense of identity amid backdrops of upheaval, migration, and disunity.

Michiko Kakutani writes in her appreciation:

In the end, it’s not politics, but time and memory and love that stand at the heart of Mr. García Márquez’s work. How the histories of continents and nations and families often loop back on themselves; how time past shapes time present; how passion can alter the trajectory of a life — these are the melodies that thread their way persistently through his fiction, reverberating in novel after novel, story after story. In later works, like the stories in “Strange Pilgrims” and the novella “Memories of My Melancholy Whores,” Mr. García Márquez wrote about older characters, falling under the shadow of mortality, but then, death had long been a focal point in his work, going back to his early novella “Leaf Storm,” and on through novels like “The Autumn of the Patriarch.”

García Márquez’s dreamscapes offer a grasp at controllable logic in a universe of institutional unfairness. On the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, Edwidge Danticat defends García Márquez’s method, nowadays applied with the neat, approachable label “magical realism”:

I am often surprised when people talk about the total implausibility of the events in García Márquez’s fiction. Having been born and lived in a deeply spiritual and extraordinarily resourceful part of the Caribbean, a lot of what might seem magical to others often seems quite plausible to me.

Of course a woman can live inside her cat, as the character Eva does, in García Márquez’s 1948 short story “Eva Is Inside Her Cat.” Doesn’t everyone have an aunt who’s done that? And remember that neighbor who died but kept growing in his coffin, as in the 1947 story “The Third Resignation”? What seems implausible to me is a lifetime of absolute normalcy, a world in which there are no invasions, occupations, or wars, no poverty or dictators, no earthquakes or cholera.

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