How many years of solitude?

All book lovers would have read “One hundred years of solitude” by  Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I was saddened to read a recent news item that  he was suffering from dementia and has not been writing for some time. His brother said that he phones him frequently to ask the most basic questions.  “He has problems with his memory. Sometimes I cry because I feel like I’m losing him,” he said. Gabo, as he is affectionately known, is 85 years old and it is not clear how long he has been suffering.

This news struck me at many levels. The book itself … I have read it  3 or 4 times and enjoyed it each time. There was a haunting quality to the story. Having no other exposure to Latin American history or culture did not make any difference. I wondered how much more magical it would have been in its original language! The book has been universally praised and topped most of the lists of the ‘most significant books of the 20th century’ polls. It continues to be on every ‘Must Read” list that floats around the e-space.

The style of writing has been described as ‘magic realism’, a style with strong Latin America roots. It  has inspired a whole line of others to venture into this genre and notable books that come to mind are  “Midnight’s Children” ( Salman Rushdie) and “Beloved” (Toni Morrison), both of which are wonderful books. More recently and closer to home, you can enjoy elements of it in Rana Dasgupta’s “Tokyo Cancelled”. Having just shifted house, my books are all stacked in a cupboard awaiting the arrival of appropriate shelving. But, I feel like struggling through the haphazard piles to find my copy of the “Hundred years”. And those of you who have not read it, I would strongly recommend it.

Reading about Gabo’s condition, I wondered how many years of solitude he has been condemned to? Tears spring to my eyes, when my brother (who is just 60!), who too is losing his memory, calls me across the continents to ask the simplest of questions. Without  memory, I am sure it is a state of  permanent solitude. And I wonder how much longer he will be calling me at all…..

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