Thursday, April 17, 2014

Garcia Marquez, 1927-2014

As many had feared when he went into the hospital, Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away at the age of 87.  My understanding is that his health had been poor for some time.

I'm certainly a big fan of his work, though I will admit he inspired a lot of really lousy followers who used magic realism indiscriminately.*

Of his major works, I like them in roughly this order:
The Autumn of the Patriarch
No One Writes to the Colonel
Collected Short Stories
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Love in the Time of Cholera
In Evil Hour

I'm not going to have time to go into any details about them.  This article is a decent overview of a few of them, in case you want to know if any of them are going to be up your alley (and if somehow you've never head of One Hundred Years of Solitude).

I actually did read The Autumn of the Patriarch first, in one of those great Avon Bard paperbacks (they also put out a lot of Jorge Amado and some Vargas Llosa).

I'm pretty sure I read the novellas and the short stories right after this. Slightly later I got around to One Hundred Years of Solitude.  (I have to say this order is not a bad one.)  Patriarch is not an easy book, and Garcia Marquz is clearly imitating Faulkner in long stretches, but it is still a considerable achievement.  

I've actually never read The General in His Labyrinth (and some of his later story collections), and I'm going to start The General this weekend, slightly reordering my reading list to accommodate this.**

* One of the few that used it relatively well was Ian MacDonald's Desolation Road (I see I'm not the only one that noticed the connection).  I definitely have mixed feelings about the use of magic realism in Rushdie's Midnight Children and other works.

I thought Nicholas Dickner did not really pull off the magic realism in Nikolski.  I also thought that the magic realism in Michael Crummey's Galore were the weaker aspects of the book.  (Canada just doesn't seem like a fertile ground for magic realism.)  On the other hand, I wasn't totally put off by elements of the fantastic in Michel Tremblay's The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant (it's at least possible that Tremblay wrote his earlier works without being directly inspired by Garcia Marquez).

Edit (3/21): Several papers are reporting that there may be one more piece of fiction coming from Garcia Marquez.  He had written a few short stories and had reworked them into a novella called We’ll Meet in August, but he was struggling with the ending.  So his family is deciding if this would be a worthy legacy to be his last published work.  It certainly sounds more substantial than Nabokov's The Original of Laura (which really was a mistake letting it come out) and not quite as dreadful an editorial burden as Ralph Ellison's Juneteenth.  Personally, I hope it is published, but I do have quite a few late stories left before I run through all of GGM's work. Then in a year or three, I'll probably go through all his works again, this time in proper chronological order.

** I should have added that Elizabeth Jane Howard died recently (early January), and while I do have one novel of hers on my short-list TBR pile (Falling), I didn't move her up in the list, mostly because I have no real attachment to her, just a general curiosity about her work.  I know there is no way I can tackle her The Cazalet Chronicles (The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion, Casting Off and All Change) before I get to Toronto, but it does appear that they are available from the library there. Maybe I'll put off reading her major works until I've gotten through more of my TBR pile, and then will read her in conjunction with Iris Murdoch and going through Pym for a second time. Or perhaps that is actually a bad idea, and I'd prefer more contrast during those months. I guess only time will tell.

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