Thursday, June 7, 2012
Reading magical realism, to some of us, is like sitting in on someone talking about reality, not just as it can be, or can go as far as, but actually as a description of what reality really is. I mean it.
Probably more than thirty years ago I purchased the much reputed Latin American classic, probably THE greatest of them all, One Hundred Years of Solitude, 'Cien Ano de Soledad', written by one of the greatest geniuses of imagination, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
This was one of those books which a particularly skillful reviewer at Amazon said was on his 'Books I aught to read list'. Same here.
Well I finally picked it up, I was stunned. All the more impressive since I was impressed beyond expectations, duly already great, as might be expected. Think about that. What strikes me is the overwhelming urge I have to put it next to William Burroughs Naked Lunch, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, and, now that I think of it, Parables and Paradoxes by Franz Kafka. It is no accident that this book wound up in my hands at this most awkwardly chronically uprooted part of my life now.
Put it not just next to them, but the feeling that they are really all just facets of one and the same. I could add to that Isabelle Eberhardt's Oblivion Seekers, Jorge Luis Borges's Labyrinths, and, if I knew them from more than anectdotal consensus as to unqualified total greatness, both Don Quixote by Cervantes, and François Rabelais Gargantua and Pantagruel. My more obsessive side cannot quite stop here, so add Voltare's Candid, and Swifts Gullivers Travels. Maybe Camus, The Fall.
But really, Naked Lunch is peer to peer. As Thoreau said, in his Walden, and I paraphrase since his idea is so memorably simple: 'I am convinced that if men would but look out their own window, that they would be struck by a spectacle rivaling the most fantastic tale of The Arabian Nights'. Many a time have I sat in a corporate conference room, thinking these men, or women instead, are just as primative and supersticiously deluded as any shaman shaking a snake rattle, with a large bone through his nose. Think smartPhone. Think siesmic mapping. Think smart bombs and drones.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a protean packed bomb of concentrated intellection. It is solid neutron furry. It is hilarity and sorrow, it is pathetic and child-likely brilliant. Read it! It will have been worth the wait when you do. I am amazed. It is wonder, the river of time like a heavy waterfall flowing over a precipitous cliff, pounding water into sand at loud volume. It is love.
It is like Victor Hugo, 'as was said of the printing press, "The press will kill the church." But underlying this ... It meant, "Printing will kill architecture."' What does this mean? When narative reaches its extreme, what is left is a kind of mythology which is so close to irrevocable truth that it goes past imagination into permanence, the mark of flowing sand in the wind, so subtle that it is real.