I still feel a bit sad whenever I remember that renowned author and Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez has passed away recently.
I first encountered Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 100 Years of Solitude, which is probably his most well-known novel. Like most, I was amazed by his writing style and use of magic realism. After 100 Years, I read a few of his other novels, some of which I loved, others not so much, like Love in the Time of Cholera, Love and Other Demons, and Autumn of the Patriarch. His memoir, Living to Tell the Tale was one of the best non-fictions I’ve ever read, probably because it read like fiction and was similar to his other stories.
For a long time now I’ve been wanting to re-read 100 Years of Solitude, but have only gone so far as to look for my copy of the book. As much as I would love to read it again and review it as my tribute to one of my favorite authors, I only had time to read two of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s much shorter novellas, Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Memories of my Melancholy Whores.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981) is a strange, tragic tale of the preventable death of one Santiago Nasar. Many years after the original event took place, the narrator of the story returns to his hometown where to interview the accused, witnesses and everyone involved in the events leading up to the eventual murder of Santiago Nasar in order to shed light on what really happened.
In a way it all started when the mysterious stranger Bayardo San Roman came to town….
Having only been in town a few weeks, Bayardo San Roman declared that he would marry the young, virginal Angela Vicario the first time he laid eyes on her. Months later, after a weekend of revelry to celebrate the couple’s wedding, Bayardo San Roman returns his new wife to her family after discovering that her virtue was no longer intact. The perpetrator, as named by Angela Vicario, was the young, wealthy, popular Santiago Nasar.
After a night of celebrating and carousing, twins Pedro and Pablo Vicario come home to a distraught family, and upon hearing the story, half-heartedly agree to hunt down their friend, Santiago Nasar in order to avenge their sister’s honor.
In the course of finding Santiago Nasar, the twins announce to everyone willing to listen of their intentions to murder Santiago Nasar, in hopes that they will be stopped and apprehended by the authorities and other concerned citizens. Incredibly, despite the fact that the whole town was aware of the twins’ intentions and Santiago Nasar’s inevitable tragic fate, no one even came close to informing him or to stopping the murder.
In his vain attempt to unearth information about the event years after it happened, the narrator successfully presents the life stories of the major players involved in the gruesome murder; including their past and present situations, and circumstances – everything except the truth behind Santiago Nasar’s death.
Instead of chronicling the event as the narrator originally set out to do, he recounts instead the irony of the senseless taking of a young life in the almost comedic tragedy that could have easily been prevented.
Memories of my Melancholy Whores (2004) was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s last published novella. It is a bittersweet tale about about life, ageing, and finding love at the ripe, old age of 90.
The unnamed narrator had always lead a satisfactory life, living in his large but dilapidated ancestral home as a bachelor, barely getting by on the meager wages he earned as a journalist and later as a pensioner; and paying for love whenever he needed it.
On the day he turned 90, he promised himself a night of mad love-making with an adolescent virgin. All he wanted was one night of passion, but what he got was a whole new lease and outlook on life brought on by love.
At 90 years old, the narrator had always felt the same as he did when he was younger and was always waiting for when he would realize that he was “old.” Memories of my Melancholy Whores perfectly captures the feeling of ageing, and of how one never feels as old as other people see him; that people only really age on the outside, not on the inside.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Memories of My Melancholy Whores both excellently depict the nuances of society and humanity, and though both are very short and seemingly simple stories, they leave readers with a heavy feeling of emptiness, hopelessness, sadness, but also of hope.
Sometimes I can’t quite separate Gabriel Garcia Marquez from his novels, and especially with Memories of My Melancholy Whores, I feel that a lot of his stories are really reflections of his own life. I like to think that to some extent, he really did experience some of the things he wrote about. Reading the two novels only made me appreciate his writing and ingenuity at storytelling more. Señor Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you will be missed.
Chronicles of a Death Foretold (1981) – 175 pages.
Personal rating: 3/5
Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004) – 134 pages.
Personal rating: 3/5