Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez died last week. I only read about it last night. It hadn't occurred to me he might even be close to passing, though I'm sure on some level I recognized he wasn't a young man (he was 86).

I obviously didn't know Marquez personally; I only know him through his work, and I only discovered that in the last few years, when I happened across a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude in the library here in the boonies. After that it was The General in His Labyrinth, and last year Love in the Time of Cholera.

I'm probably more focused on plot when I read than I should be. If the story is interesting to me, then I want to see how it ends, and digressions from that can irritate. Marquez, though, had this ability to constantly introduce new characters, even taking a page or two to detail their lives up to then, and keep me enthralled. He was still doing that 400 pages into Love in the Time of Cholera, and I was eager to see what he'd cooked up for each one. Maybe it was because he made every character's life seem fascinating in its own way. I think even if he had a described a character living what we'd call an "ordinary" life, he would still have made that character interesting, if only for the novelty of having lived such a life.

Maybe it's because Marquez seemed so adept at capturing those little quirks that make up human nature. The resilience in the face of long odds, the conflict between what a person knows is best, and what they want. That was what I found most  intriguing about his portrayal of Simon Bolivar in The General in His Labyrinth. Bolivar knew that for democracy to flourish in South America, they had to learn to lead themselves. They couldn't keep turning to him, and so it was good they had finally roundly declined to even nominate him for the presidency. Even so, it hurt his pride a little. He had grown used to being the savior, the hero, and he wanted to be asked, just one more time, so he could decline it. He knows the way things worked out is for the best, but it doesn't eliminate that desire to be wanted. I think it was that ability to write characters I enjoyed the most.

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