Monday, September 27, 2004

An experience called "Autumn of the Patriarch"

I was planning to write about “Brave new world” first, but since I thought I needed to compose my thoughts more, I would be commenting on “The Autumn of the patriarch” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Reading this novel was a whole new experience. Some books like “Brave new world” have made me think, but this is the one which has made to feel strongly. Not that there wasn’t anything to think about it, but that happens much later. The novel is about the life of a tyrant of an imaginary Caribbean country. Marquez’s imagery and narrative is so stunningly beautiful that we become a part of this novel, sympathizing with the people of the country ruled by the tyrant and also sympathizing with how a normal person with normal fallacies becomes a tyrant.

Marquez follows a ‘stream of consciousness’ style here – which means that the flow is as chaotic as our everyday thinking. It starts somewhere and in between branches of to something related, backwards or forwards in time and often Marquez doesn’t come back to where he started. The whole novel is organized as six independent sections (or chapters) – independent because they don’t exactly build upon events in earlier chapters. Each one starts just after the death of the dictator, and crisscrosses time and space. To heighten the effect, Marquez uses long (really long) sentences running to 3-4 pages usually and last one (which is the last chapter) running to some 50 pages. Of course these are not grammatical, as everything like person, tense and time change during a sentence and to add to all this the author doesn’t put dialogs in quotes. What results is a novel which is quite difficult to get into. But I think it is these same things which add to the magical appeal of the novel – the ‘stream of consciousness’ with long sentences really make the happenings a little bit confusing and hence add a magical, illusionary appeal – it hints on the theme of the novel – deception and self-deception. It is as if, the state machinery deceives the people about the dictator and dictator about the people so from either side we don’t get the true picture and hence traces of that deception remain in the reader’s mind too. Apart from the style, Marquez doesn’t use much of magical realism here, but where he uses, it intensifies the imagery superbly.

I also felt like regretting the choice of the novel for the first 15-20 pages, but once I really got in, nothing, not even the effort of reading each part at least twice to understand it, could stop me. The imagery and narrative was breathtaking and it was really an experience to read this. For instance, in one of the sequence where the dictator’s wife is assassinated, the description wasn’t exactly so gory, but the imagery was so disturbing that I had to take my eyes off and relax for a minute or so. The final page really drives home the theme of self-deception. Reflecting on this, I realized how dangerous self-deception was and even recognized some instances from my life where I have willingly deceived myself. This can also be read as a tragic tale of how a simple person is pushed in to becoming a dictator for his life. But most of all, this can be simply read for its literary splendor; it’s breathtaking and awe-inspiring imagery.
Below is my favorite quote from this novel, plucked out from near the end of last sentence and another quote to go with it.

"...but he learned to live with those and all the miseries of glory as he
discovered in the course of his uncountable years that a lie is more comfortable
than doubt, more useful than love, more lasting than truth, he had arrived
without surprise at the ignominious fiction of commanding without power, of
being exalted without glory and of being obeyed without authority..."
Garcia Marquez,"The Autumn of the Patriarch".

"Nothing is so easy
as to deceive oneself; for what we wish, we readily believe." Demosthenes, Greek


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Howie G said...

I think that so far in my reading, that Autumn of the Patriarch is a degenerate piece of shit. I mean what is it about? I have to write a book guide about it, so this is a major bummer, any help, words, would be appreciated.

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