“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”--- The opening line of One Hundred Years of Solitude.
I was gone for a bit; nothing interesting, a cold, work, a bout of depression and I'm back. Depression is, for me is like the psychological flu that comes around on a schedule. It can be bad or worse and this bout was not so bad, but it is always uninteresting.
Today, as many people have been, I've been thinking of the passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the great Colombian journalist and novelist. There are many terrific things written about him since his death, and I have no great insights into his career or his body of work. I always thought the first sentence of One Hundred Years Of Solitude was one of the best opening lines of any novel. How could a person read that sentence and not continue reading?
Greatness of a writer, I think is a collaboration of the writer and their times. That is, the work finds a usefulness in the world and GGM's work found a use. It seemed to help define a cultural imagination and an identity. He didn't do this all on his own, it was a job that needed doing before he came along whether he knew it or not. There was a culture of course, and there was imagination, but he gathered it together in narratives that captured the current conflicts and dramas and he gave dignity to the characters.
It really is a kind of miracle how a writer does this and avoids the pitfalls that surround the storyteller on all sides. Particularly the storyteller with political skin in the game as GGM did. He was a radical leftist and yet he mostly avoided both narcissism and sanctimony, which, again I believe, drags down much contemporary political writing today. Of course, the Latin American tradition in literature is influenced by indiginous and hybrid religious culture which have both a great respect for metaphor and a high tolerance for rational contradiction. This is the fertile ground for writers like Isabelle Allende, Marquez, Carlos Fuentes and Alfredo Vea Jr. who could/ can impart important contemporary commentary in their storytelling without sacrificing wit, passion, or the dream world of our souls.
Anyway... there are better writers writing about him... I've been thinking that, these writers stood for/ stand something. and I ask myself what do I stand for? What does my writing stand for? This is what just thinking about great writers does.
Good Friday, light rain
and the sun breaks through the clouds
like a promise kept.
jhs-- Sitka, AK