Friday, April 29, 2011
On first looking into Garcia Marquez : A classic beheld
Way back when I was in a grad school I remember a friend in Romance Languages (A.K.) touting a novel none of us (in English) had seen by a guy nobody'd ever heard of, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and of course we were skeptical - it's probably just some weird trendy flavor-of-the-month novel that the Romance Languages students are psyched about because finally they'll have something to read other than Cervantes - and of course the book was One Hundred Years of Solitude (title even better in Spanish, which I will probably misspell as Cien anos de soledad) and as soon as each of us read it we knew: this is a book that people will be reading 100 years from now. It was so obviously an immediate world classic - and Gracia Marquez obviously became the most highly regarded novelist in the world. I've read many of his books since Solitude, but never picked up his 1981 novella, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, till now - and of course it's great - much in the style of Solitude but obviously less grand and ambitious. Actually, its claim as a novella is a little thin - it's only 120 pages with a lot of space and could probably be a long chapter from Solitude, and maybe it was (there is some overlap of character and place references) - but it does stand alone. Like Solitude, it has a stunning beginning, looked back upon from many years after the event (a honor killing in coastal Colombian city) - also has that sense of a small community in which everyone is entangled in everyone else's life, achieved by the first-person plural narrative, but in this case the story told almost as a journalistic investigation, a man goes back to the town to probe people's memories and recollections and put together the story of the long-ago death.