gabriel garcia marquez

THE TOP TEN NOVELS OF ALL TIME

 

1. IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME BY MARCEL PROUST

[FRANCE, 1913-27]

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

2. WAR AND PEACE BY LEO TOLSTOY

[RUSSIA, 1869]

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“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”

3. THE CASTLE BY FRANZ KAFKA

[CZECH REPUBLIC, 1926]

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“Our winters are very long here, very long and very monotonous. But we don’t complain about it downstairs, we’re shielded against the winter. Oh, spring does come eventually, and summer, and they last for a while, but now, looking back, spring and summer seem too short, as if they were not much more than a couple of days, and even on those days, no matter how lovely the day, it still snows occasionally.”

4. THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV BY FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY

[RUSSIA, 1880]

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 “I love mankind, he said, “but I find to my amazement that the more I love mankind as a whole, the less I love man in particular.” 

5. BLEAK HOUSE BY CHARLES DICKENS

[ENGLAND, 1852-53]

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“I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies.”

6. THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN BY THOMAS MANN

[GERMANY, 1924]

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“He probably was mediocre after all, though in a very honorable sense of that word.”

7. UNDER THE VOLCANO BY MALCOLM LOWRY

[ENGLAND, 1947] 

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8. INDEPENDENT PEOPLE BY HALLDOR LAXNESS

[ICELAND, 1934]

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“It was pretty miserable wretches that minded at all whether they were wet or dry. He could not understand why such people had been born. “It’s nothing but damned eccentricity to want to be dry” he would say.”

9. THE STORY OF THE STONE BY CAO XUEQIN

[CHINA, 1868-1892]

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“Truth becomes fiction when the fiction’s true;
Real becomes not-real where the unreal’s real.”  

10. THE LEOPARD BY GIUSEPPE TOMASI DE LAMPEDUSA

[ITALY, 1958] 

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“As always the thought of his own death calmed him as much as that of others disturbed him: was it perhaps because, when all was said and done, his own death would in the first place mean that of the whole world?”

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ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE BY GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ

This book has taken me six weeks to read. That might not seem unusual to some of you, if you’re used to taking your time, but, in order to give you something with which to compare my progress, I finished the whole of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time in five weeks. And, sure, the World Cup is on at the moment, and that is a distraction, but there is always football I could be watching, and do watch, and yet I usually still manage to read sixty or seventy pages a day. Why is it, then, that One Hundred Years of Solitude took me so long? Well, I had a kind of breakdown about a quarter of the way through the novel, precipitated by a scene in which a flying carpet zooms past Jose Arcadio’s window. That fucking flying carpet has caused me weeks of misery and mental strain.

I’d read One Hundred Years of Solitude before, five or six years ago. I remember loving it, being fully enchanted and engrossed by it. So I knew, of course, that it contained elements of what people like to call Magical Realism; I could recall certain scenes, in fact, in which the magical or fantastic played a part; and I have, throughout the years since first reading the book, continued to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s work, some of which I consider to be amongst the very greatest literature ever written. Bearing all that in mind, then, you would think that as I commenced this reread that my enjoyment would be almost guaranteed, and that there would be very little that could surprise or dismay or bother me. And sure enough I really enjoyed the first twenty or thirty pages, but I then came to that scene with the flying carpet. And, honestly, I completely lost my shit.

As a mature reader [in contrast to when I was a child and didn’t give a fuck about these things] I’ve always understood and appreciated Magical Realism in the same way that the great Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier used the term lo real maravilloso. I’ve never been interested in Midnight’s Children, I do not like Haruki Murakami or Angela Carter; those kind of books and writers strike me as being higher-brow versions of Harry Potter. I’m not at all interested in characters that grow wings or shoot fire out of their arses or any of that crap; it’s just a bunch of fairytale or mythic cliches. And I love genuine fairy tales and myths, but I baulk at the idea that appropriating them for your own work automatically makes it magical or imaginative or inventive. It is, in fact, quite the opposite, it is lazy and tedious. Carpentier, however, was concerned with the magic of reality, with the idea that what exists, what we know to be true and real, or possible, can be fantastic or awe-inspiring, can seem even fictional or unbelievable.

Before rereading One Hundred Years of Solitude I thought that Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s work was closer to Carpentier, or at least Rulfo, than what Rushdie et al have churned out. It is certainly how I see Love in the Time of Cholera [which I read last year] and even Autumn of the Patriarch. Autumn does, on the surface, feature examples of what you could call the genuinely magical, but it is a book about a dictator, about, specifically, the control and abuse of power and information, and the myths and legends, hearsay and superstitions, that rise up out of these conditions. So, when the dictator, for example, is said to have sold the sea, one is meant to question the truth, the reliability, of this anecdote. That is entirely different from asking you to take on face-value the existence of a spell-casting Wizard.

Even so, even though I don’t like books that feature Wizards and trolls and people who can, I dunno, grow at will or some shit, at least, in most cases, I get it, at least the author’s intentions and aims make sense to me. My problem with One Hundred of Years of Solitude this time around, and the Magical Realism in the first part of the book, is not solely that I just don’t like, and find lazy and unimaginative, the idea of flying carpets in a modern work of fiction, it is what it meant in relation to the story Garcia Marquez was telling. Let me explain: Jose Arcadio Buendia, the founder of Macondo, is shown to be a man interested in understanding his world, a man of questing spirit who wants to know how things work. He is proto-scientist who is amazed by ordinary phenomena, like ice and photography. Fine. But he happens to live in a world where people come back from the dead, and where flying carpets exist, and yet never seems to bat an eyelid. I found this incongruity troubling. I struggled to believe in, or even accept, Jose because he seems completely uninterested in the genuinely fabulous. It could be, of course, simply bad writing, but I don’t want to buy that because I like Garcia Marquez and hope he was smarter than that.

You could argue that maybe Garcia Marquez was trying to be funny or ironic. Certainly, no one [or no reader or critic that I have ever encountered, anyway] appears to get the joke, but it could certainly be considered one. Here’s a man, Jose Arcadio Buendia, who is obsessed with the magic of ordinary objects, while ignoring the genuinely magical. Ho ho. Maybe. Or you could argue that Garcia Marquez uses inversion – that what is fantastic to us, in his world, is commonplace to Jose and vice-versa – as a way of highlighting the magic of our world, or even of heightening our experience of the everyday world; that by putting the everyday side by side with the fantastical, and yet showing a character ignoring the fantastical in favour of things that exist in our world, we are meant to approach our world with new eyes, with Jose’s eyes. I really like this idea, and yet if that was the case, if that is what the author intended, he failed. The reason for this is that it is difficult to buy into the idea of the magic of ice when there are flying carpets zooming around. One does not read this part of the book and think wow, ice is amazing, but rather this is absurd; fuck the ice, dude, steal that flying carpet. By providing a contrast, Garcia Marquez actually compromises, or makes us forget about, the possible magical appearance and qualities of ice; and this is in direct contrast to the effect that some of Carpentier’s work can have on you, which does genuinely make you see the world with new eyes, purely through the power of his descriptions. For example:

Something like a baleful pollen in the air – a ghost pollen – impalpable rot, enveloping decay – suddenly became active with mysterious design, opening what was closed, closing what was opened, upsetting calculations, contradicting specific gravity, making guarantees worthless. One morning the ampoules of serum in a hospital were found to be full of mould; precision instruments were not registering correctly; certain liquors began to bubble in the bottle; the Rubens in the National Museum was attacked by an unknown parasite immune to sprays; people stormed the windows of a bank where nothing had happened, whipped to a panic by a mutterings of an old Negro crone whom the police were unable to find.

[The Lost Steps, 1953]

Some critics have attempted to explain the Magical Realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude as a comment on Latin American culture or personality. They claim that Latin Americans believe, simultaneously, in a scientific approach to the world and the mythical or transgressive [a word I use to mean something beyond what we know and can explain]. To some extent, I think this is correct, or is at least on the right track. However, I think that the Magical Realism in the first half of the book is not, as far as I know, recognisably Latin American in flavour. I might be wrong, but flying carpets or a belief in flying carpets isn’t something that we would associate with Latin American culture, myths or superstitions. One could maybe argue, in that case, that Garcia Marquez was not making a point specifically about Latin Americans but about all people. Even someone like myself, who is categorically not spiritual, still finds himself praying sometimes or resorting to superstition. The magical and the everyday do co-exist for most of us, and perhaps that is what Garcia Marquez was getting at.

This idea can be taken even further. One Hundred Years of Solitude is, at least on one level, about the creation and development of a community, but it is also about the development of human consciousness. It is, bearing in mind what we were discussing in the previous paragraph, about primitive thinking vs enlightened thinking. The primitive is sorcery, the things that Jose and the Macondo residents accept without comment or question. On the basis of this interpretation, Garcia Marquez uses Jose as an example of man’s questing spirit, his rational impulse; or, more accurately, he embodies man’s first steps towards rationality, or enlightenment. Macondo is a world where myth and legend and science and understanding, where the primitive and the enlightened, co-exist. Primitive thinking, the belief in superstition, sorcery, miracles etc, is deeply ingrained, it cannot be easily thrown off. So, while Jose is tentatively beginning to make progress towards understanding the world around him, he still accepts the flying carpets and other supernatural or unnatural phenomena. Of course, this would only be satisfactory if the Magical Realism diminishes, or drops off, as the book progresses and as the years pass; and, unfortunately, that isn’t really the case, although the fantastic does become less theatrical, less spectacular.

In any case, I think that now we are getting closer to a satisfying argument, to getting the author off the hook, but we are still not there yet. It’s that carpet; I can’t move beyond that fucking flying carpet. Yes, superstition, primitive vs enlightened and blah blah blah…but why a flying carpet? The other stuff in the book, the blood returning home, the people returning from the dead, even the levitating, and so on, all that I am now satisfied with, all that fits in with my interpretation. But a flying carpet? No. It’s still sticking its tongue out at me. In all honesty, I think the justification for the carpet, the explanation for its appearance in the text, is far more banal. It is, I’m pretty sure, little more than a knowing nod towards one of the author’s influences, The Arabian Nights. As statedthis isn’t to disregard my previous argument, I think that holds for much of what we encounter, much of the Magical Realism in the book, but the carpet is specific to The Arabian Nights. Garcia Marquez does the same thing a number of times in the book; at one point he mentions an Artemio Cruz, who is the title character of Carlos Fuentes’ most famous novel, and also winks at Carpentier by namechecking Victor Hugues and using the phrase the lost steps. 

The Arabian Nights connection is a strong one. First of all, Garcia Marquez’s book reads like The Arabian Nights, in that it is essentially a series of short stories with a framing narrative. Both books are also concerned with the profane and the profound – with religion and morality, with births and deaths and sex – and with all levels of society; and both are, of course, magical and realist. Indeed, if there has ever been archetypal Magical Realist text, then The Arabian Nights is it, because the magical is completely accepted, or assimilated, is as natural and common place as eating and sleeping and anything else. Finally, I guess if you were to put the nod to The Arabian Nights in a political, cultural context, it would be in relation to the Arab diaspora, the influence of Arab immigrants on Latin America. I would love to be able to explore that further, but unfortunately I don’t have the necessary knowledge.

Now that I have exhausted, and to some extent countered, my reservations, I can finally move on to what I liked about One Hundred Years of Solitude. [Of course, none of you are still with me at this point, so I can say just about anything]. What I find most surprising about the popularity of the book is that it is episodic. Often episodic novels are disparaged; we are told that modern readers find them dull, or not engaging. Therefore, in some significant way, One Hundred Years of Solitude must be different from other episodic novels. It is, it is not like Don Quixote, for example, because there is constant variety. What I mean by this is that the characters are not doing the same things over and over again. This is, in part, because of the scope of the novel, and the huge cast of characters, but it is also, perhaps to a greater extent, due to the novel’s sophisticated, fluid, structure.

So while One Hundred Years of Solitude is certainly episodic, it feels whole. There is a clear sense of progression, of moving towards something, of an author trying to get you to an end point. It is part of human nature to want clear structure, to want a beginning and middle and end. In fact, it is part of our nature to want closure, to strive towards an end. I think this is important, and is often overlooked when talking about episodic literature; I love Don Quixote but I can understand why some people give up on it, because you never feel as though this is a story with an end in sight, with a conclusion. That is part of why I like it, I like the lack of structure, the lack of rigidity, but, still, even for someone like me, there were times I struggled to motivate myself to pick the book up. Aside from my flying carpet-induced mental breakdown I never felt like that whilst reading Garcia Marquez’s book.

It’s very often said that One Hundred Years of Solitude is a book about war, or civil war. And, yeah, it is, to a certain extent, but I think there are more interesting, overriding themes. The war sections of the book are excellent, and Marquez, as with Autumn and dictatorships, did a fine job at capturing the essence of what it must be like to live in wartime conditions over a long period of time, where information is contradictory, where men and generals can die multiple times and take on numerous roles, where power is fought for under the guise of conflicting ideologies, and so on. However, to my mind, the book is more so about the cyclical nature of time and history, about genealogy, about family and regeneration. For all those who – tiresomely, I must say – bitch and moan about the repeated use of the same names, this is why Garcia Marquez did it.

While I am on the subject of bitching and moaning, it’s funny to me that Garcia Marquez is considered by many [female] readers to be a sexist, almost offensive, writer, because, at least in his two major novels, his strongest characters are female. In One Hundred Years of Solitude the seemingly deathless Ursula is both the moral heart of Macondo and the novel; she is both the family matriarch and Macondo’s martriarch also. I particularly loved the scene where she threatens to kill her own son, the powerful Colonel Aureliano, if he goes through with his intention to have a friend of the family executed.

Like the book itself, this review really could go on indefinitely [don’t worry, it won’t]. There’s just so much to talk about, and that is one sign of a great book. And, make no mistake, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a great book, even though now that I have reread it I can say confidently that it is not his best [I prefer Love in the Time of Cholera]. It’s not perfect, of course, but it is frequently beautiful, intelligent, moving, surprising and imaginative; you can, in fact, feel the fevered creativity; every page is teeming with ideas. There will be many people, I’m sure, who will, in classic contrarian fashion, especially in the wake of increased interest due to Garcia Marquez’s death, try and tell you that One Hundred Years of Solitude is not all that. Ignore them; if you haven’t read the book then you certainly should. Just, please, for the sake of your sanity, let that flying carpet slide.

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA BY GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ

Despite annoying people on a fairly regular basis throughout my degree [and beyond!] the only time I was concerned about getting into bother was during the Feminism module. We were studying a lady whose name I can’t recall but I do remember the gist of her theory which was that all copulation between a man and a woman involves subjugation. She maintained that regardless of consent, position, and even if the woman in question is calling all the shots and being the aggressor, purely by virtue of being penetrated by a man she is being demeaned. She claimed this is the case because the man is actively giving his penis and the woman is passively receiving it. Well, my jaw hit the floor and my eyebrows shot to the roof. I was shocked, and disgusted, by how ready people were to accept this idea, to not want to challenge it. Now, if you’ve read a chunk of my reviews you’ll know I’m no sexist pig, that I don’t advocate the subjugation of women, and that, in fact, I feel like society still has a long long way to go before women are given the respect they deserve. I hate all violence, but particularly that towards women, especially sexually motivated violence, so much so that I refuse to watch or read anything with rape in it, and had my girlfriend turn off The Killer Inside Me because I had absolutely no desire to watch a woman being beaten half to death. So, I say from a standpoint of the greatest empathy that this woman is/was [I’ve no idea whether she’s still alive] absolutely bats and her theory utter bullshit.

First of all, she appeared to completely misunderstand, or conveniently disregard, human biology. What I mean by this is that when any couple has sex, regardless of the dynamic of their relationship, it is necessary that there will be giving and receiving; it’s just the way our bodies are made. That’s not a lifestyle choice, it’s a fact. If you want to focus specifically on penetration, as she did, then how on earth is a man meant to have penetrative sex with a woman without actually, er, putting his penis in her? Ludicrous. She was basically saying that women should forsake sex, or, and this is where we get to the meat of the matter, all heterosexual sex. But, even though the woman herself is/was a lesbian, her own theory, when applied to lesbian sex, is still problematic-slash-ridiculous. In lesbian sex there is still giving and receiving, passive and active; there’s simply no other way of doing the business. Furthermore, I have known/know plenty of lesbians, and none of them, in my understanding, have forsaken all forms of penetration; and, well, to be penetrated by anyone and with anything – be that a penis, fingers or a can of coke – a woman [or a man!] is receiving that thing into themselves.

Secondly, it’s a strange form of feminism [for me] that wants to say I know you might enjoy this, and I know you’ve consented to it, and no one is being hurt, but actually you’re being abused without knowing it. Whatever happened to a woman knowing her own mind, making her own choices, and having autonomy over her own body? In my opinion, this lady’s theory is the opposite of feminism, because it is the opposite of empowering. Anyway, I raised these points and I wrote an essay accusing the feminist in question [whose conclusion was, indeed, that the only non-abusive sex is between two women] of lesbian propaganda [not that there’s anything wrong with lesbianism. Or lesbian propaganda. Just don’t try and dress it up as feminism].

You’re wondering, I’m sure, what any of this has to do with Love in the Time of Cholera. Well, in preparation for writing this I had a look at a big bunch of reviews all over the web. And a lot of them, written by women, objected to the central male character, finding him immoral and sexist, with particular reference to his amorous exploits. He sleeps with over 600 women, and, apparently, this makes him a bad man and Garcia Marquez’s book somewhat dubious and disgusting and, well, offensive to women. I can’t help but believe that the same kind of wrong-headed thinking is going on with this as I found with the feminist theory I spoke about earlier, by which I mean that it’s a kind of inverse-feminism masquerading as genuine feminism. Florentino does not abuse*, or force any of these women. In fact, the women are shown to be sexually liberated; if they are objectified by him, it is because they want to be; likewise, they are not having sex in order to snare a man, or because they want attention or because they have been tricked or cajoled. They are doing it because they enjoy it, because they want to. I really cannot fathom how that is objectionable. It seems to me that some people’s perceptions of sex are so skewed, so messed up, that they think that women are incapable of truly wanting sex only for its own sake, that sex as fun, or in some cases simply sex itself, is purely a male province. Thing is, some women just like cock, want cock [not all the time, I’m not saying that]; these reviewers [and our feminist friend] appear to be incapable of understanding that, or are unwilling to. So, yeah, Florentino has sex with a lot of women in this book. If that bothers you, you’re probably better off not reading it.

Of course, sex is only part of the narrative. Love, ageing, and death are Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s other main themes. The author explores how all four of these things ‘play off’ each other, how they are connected to each other, and does so in such a fascinating and, ultimately, moving way. Love in the Time of Cholera is essentially the story of three people; it is, I guess, a kind of love triangle, although not a traditional one. The story begins with an old married couple, Juvenal and Fermina. Juvenal is a doctor and he has been called to preside over the body of his friend, who has committed suicide. This friend took his life because he didn’t want to get old; indeed, we’re told that it was always his aim to die at sixty. Juvenal is even older, and is deteriorating significantly. He can’t dress himself, his memory is impaired, and so on. Fermina is in better shape, and she has become a kind of surrogate mother to her husband. I found all this incredibly moving. Even more moving is how the couple are, yes, able to annoy and irritate each other, how they no longer possess anything like a passionate love, but instead enjoy a kind of comfortable affection for each other.

After the opening chapter we are transported back in time in order to follow the lives, and loves, of the major players. Here we are shown how Fermina, as a young girl, is courted by Florentino and then Juvenal. For a while I was reminded of Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, in that it seems that she will have to chose between domesticity and affection [Juvenal] and a grand relentless intense passionate love [Florentino]. I’m not sure that is the case, however, because Fermina doesn’t overlook one for the other [there is no real overlap], she is simply a woman living her life, exercising her will, and making her choices on their own merits. In this way, her behaviour is much more like what you would expect from a male character in these kind of stories. Indeed, one of the most interesting things about the book is the subverting of what you may consider the traditional roles in love. Fermina is the steadfast one, the one who is more practical, more level-headed and down to earth; it is she who rejects Florentino [quite on a whim, it seems] and it is her choice to take up with Juvenal [his wooing has absolutely no effect]. While Fermina is strong and almost calculating, Florentino is giddy, romantic, and emotional. Is is the man who cannot get over the end of the affair, who pines and flings himself into encounters with other people in an effort to find there some consolation [it is especially interesting that it is the man who is, in this scenario, often used by the women he sleeps with. They, in most cases, want fun and good times, he is the one bringing an emotional neediness to the event].

Throughout the novel Garcia Marquez seems to be exploring the question of what is love? Is Florentino in love with Fermina? Possibly. Yet, they hardly spoke a word to each other during the courtship, and shared no physical encounters, so it would seem a superficial sort of love if that is what it is. Bearing this in mind, one could claim, and many do, that in reality Florentino is obsessed with Fermina, or infatuated. In my arrogance I believe one cannot love someone who doesn’t love you, so I am sympathetic to that idea. For those skeptical of Florentino’s feelings, it is interesting to note that Garcia Marquez presents him as someone with a predilection for crappy sentimental romantic poetry; so one could perhaps see him almost as a Don Quixote figure i.e. someone influenced by his reading to such an extent that he is more in love with the idea of an elaborate, all-consuming love than the actual woman herself. However, it is also true to say that Florentino’s love for Fermina is no more ridiculous, no more superficial than what one often encounters in novels.

In any case, I do not think, as some claim, that his seeking solace, or pure enjoyment even, in the arms of other women following Fermina’s rejection means that he can’t love her. Not only is that absurd, because it suggests that one should never have sex again after a loving relationship, but it shows that one has totally misunderstood not only Florentino [who hasn’t simply forgotten about his sweetheart but is said to be having all these affairs in an effort to fill the gap left by her, and to pass the time until she is available again] but humanity in general. Christ, I’ve been there myself; I’ve, in fact, had sex with someone hours after breaking up with a girl I loved. Why? Well, for lots of reasons, not limited to, but including: still having a penis and testicles that draw me to attractive women, being able to compartmentalise my feelings, and so on. But maybe I am a bad man too? You certainly wouldn’t be the first to say that.

One can also ask the question, do Juvenal and Fermina love each other? Their marriage was perhaps one of convenience, in the beginning at least. Certainly Juvenal admits to himself during the honeymoon that he doesn’t, at that stage, love his wife. Do they grow to love each other? It’s debatable. Juvenal cheats on Fermina and Fermina forgets her husband not long after his death. And yet both say they do/did love each other, and I’d be inclined to believe them, because love isn’t a straightforward feeling that adheres to strict criteria [I often need to remind myself of this too]. Indeed, I think the writer’s main point is that love is a messy, complex, maybe wholly subjective phenomena. That is what is so funny about all the reviewers trying to make definitive statements about the feelings and relationships of the main characters in the book. X does not love Y and here’s the evidence these reviewers say. And Garcia Marquez would maybe respond: how do you know? How can you possibly make that judgement? These reviewers are trying to force love to move along logical lines, and it doesn’t.

Garcia Marquez’s writing is, I’d like to point out before concluding this overly long review, entirely wonderful. He admitted, I think, to being influenced by the great Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, and you can see that influence most clearly in Cholera. Carpentier wrote in a baroque style, a sensual style engorged with colour and teeming with life. Cholera is like that too; it’s heady and breathtaking. Garcia Marquez also writes with affection and insight and has a fine sense of humour; Juvenal’s and Fermina’s argument over the soap being a good example of his wit [There was soap is the funniest line in the book. You’ll know what I mean by this when you read it]. Yet, perhaps his greatest gift is to be able to compose memorable, utterly charming, scenes, like Florentino writing love letters for the locals and, when approached by a boy and a girl, finding himself writing to and from himself! Then there is the parrot death scene. And Florentino’s search for sunken treasure. Make no mistake, Love in the time of Cholera is a beautiful, intelligent book. Oprah called it the finest love story ever told, and for challenging our ideas about what love is, for giving us love in so many of its forms, and for showing us love in all its incomprehensibility, its mind and soul fuckery, I’d say that’s about right.

♥♥♥

* Florentino does at one point have sex with a 14 year old girl. That’s certainly not something I want to defend or justify. You could say that the point of this affair is to showcase just how sad and desperate, how out of touch with reality, Florentino has become in his long and lustful wait for Fermina, but it isn’t presented in the text that way at all, although it does take place towards the end. You could, also, perhaps argue, and this is mentioned in the text, that the girl, much like with Humbert and Lolita, reminds him not only of his childhood sweetheart, but also of his own youth. Maybe, maybe. This paragraph isn’t included in my review as I don’t think this affair with the girl is the basis for most reviewer’s objections; of course some mention it, and deride it [rightly], but it is all of Florentino’s behaviour that is labelled immoral and evidence of Garcia Marquez’s unappealing attitudes towards women. And I don’t agree with that.

NB: It is worth pointing out that the two passages in the book that I did have a problem with are so seldom mentioned in reviews. One is the author’s attitude towards other races, particularly in a section when a Chinese boy wins a poetry competition. His description of Chinese people, and their behaviour, is pretty rum, pretty offensive. Fuck you for that, Gabito. The second passage I disliked [disliked being an understatement] involves a woman who was once raped. It is explained how she is in love with her attacker, even though she doesn’t know who he is or what he looks like. Is Garcia Marquez trying to make a point about how blind, how impossibly stupid love can be? Who knows. But I will say this: fuck off with that shit; fuck right off.