I have to admit, I am no expert when it comes to the late Colombian writer and Nobel laureate. I know that many people, especially his loyal readers, affectionately called him “Gabo” as I did. I know that he was a celebrated author with more than a dozen of books published. I also know that his books were able to touch lives and will continue to do so.
Gabriel García Márquez, the famous novelist, died of pneumonia just a few days ago. And while he may be gone, his works remain. I have read only three of his books; (a quick search on the Internet told me that he had 19 others; *see note*) these three taught me some lessons.
The first time I learned about Gabo was through a friend. She suggested that I read Love in the Time of Cholera and told me that it was one of those books that could change one’s life. Alas, after reading the book, I found out that it was not really something to my liking. It was well-written and had a good story, but I could not believe how (spoiler alert) the hero, Florentino Ariza, could pine for the heroine, Fermina Daza, for more than half a decade, all the while sleeping with countless other women. It just did not make sense to me. Of course, he claimed that he was still a virgin as he never loved anyone else but Fermina, but that, too, was a problem. How he could, after fifty years of promiscuity and poetry, still not get over his love for Fermina baffled me.Well, I guess it was the “magic of love.” Still, this novel, sad and romantic and ageless as time, taught me a thing or two about love and hope and human desire.
“That casual glance was the beginning of a cataclysm of love that had still not ended half a century later.”
― Love in the Time of Cholera
After my first encounter with Gabo, I was left wanting more. I was not completely won over by Love in the Time of Cholera, that I had to read another book to see why he’s considered as one of the most significant authors of our time. One Hundred Years of Solitude was the answer to that. It was not an easy read. To be honest, I had to constantly refer to the family tree just to keep track of the story and the characters. There were a lot of similar names and even more weird stuff that went on, but by the time I was accustomed to both, I got to really enjoy reading One Hundred Years. It was creative and thought-provoking; powerful and captivating. In this novel, Gabo made make-believe seem real and made it very entertaining and fun. Alas, it was not a happy story. The Buendia family – all seven generations of them – seemed to be cursed with tragedy and their town of Macondo, doomed from the day it was founded by the Buendia matriarch, José Arcadio (the first among the many José Arcadios). Ultimately, One Hundred Years of Solitude was a story that dealt with time and history and how both affect and shape people’s lives.
“…races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”
― One Hundred Years of Solitude
After reading two novels, I started to believe Gabo was worthy of all the recognition given to him. However, it was not until several years later (just last year, actually), that I was able to read something of him again. This time, it was not a novel but a novella. Short as it was, it only took me a couple of hours to finish Memories of My Melancholy Whores. One thing I am thankful for until now: I did not let the title get the better of me. Sure, it sounded scandalous, but I knew I should know better. While others might have taken it as a story of pedophilia and prostitution, I understood it as a story of love and aging, and the beauty of both. Do not let the “old man with young prostitute” idea scare you away from this great read. True, the premise will not float everyone’s boat, but the story is so well-written and the characters are so well-drawn that one ought to be punished for not even trying. After all, this is Gabo’s last published work.
“Age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel.”
“Sex is the consolation you have when you can’t have love.”
― Memories of My Melancholy Whores
So what did Gabo really teach me? He taught me about love. He taught me about hope and despair; family and history; life and death. He spoke to me of the importance of time. He made me see beauty in tragedy and solitude. He made me relate to a seemingly dirty old man, and understand that it is never too late for anyone to do anything. And with everything that I learned from him, I have no doubt that even if he is gone now, through his works, Gabriel García Márquez will continue to teach me.
In tribute to the late great Gabriel García Márquez.