A copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude sits on my shelf mocking me everytime I look at it. I have tried to read this book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez quite a few times and have given up in the middle. In an effort to break that jinx I read Leaf Storm, a shorter work by the same author. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a writer from Colombia and is the winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. The Picador edition of Leaf Storm I read is translated from Spanish by Gregory Rabassa.
The book takes its name from the novella that appears first in the book, followed by six other short stories. The Leaf Storm walks through the thoughts of three people: an old man, his middle-aged daughter and her small son on a hot noon in the fictional town of Macondo in 1909. (Incidentally, Macondo takes center-stage in One Hundred Years of Solitude too.) The occasion is the demise of the old man’s friend, a doctor, who the whole town despises. As these three people sit in the doctor’s dusty old house preparing his body for burial, they take a long walk through the years of their lives. The works that I was strong reminded of while reading Leaf Storm were those of RK Narayan. While lacking the myriad colorful characters and landmarks of Malgudi, the principal characters, their home, lives and thoughts are similar in flavour to those in RKN’s creations.
In The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World, the body of an adonis washes up at a fishing village. Though very much dead, the charms of his body sets the hearts and minds of the womenfolk aflutter and gives them new dreams while they prepare to bury him. A man with wings lands in the chicken coop of a farmer in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. The poor couple use him as an attraction to get rich, but after his sheen fades he is discarded amongst their poultry. Just when they think he is almost dead, he recovers and flies off into the clouds. Blacaman the Good, Vendor of Miracles is a story where a mistreated assistant of a fair trickster gains actual miracle powers and watches his former master kill himself. The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship is something unique: an entire short story told as one, yes o-n-e long sentence! In Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo returns the reader to the life of Isabel (the daughter from the Leaf Storm novella) to revisit a few days of her pregnancy when it rained non-stop for a week in Macondo. The last story Nabo is about a stablehand who enters into a coma.
Leaf Storm is a comfortable introduction to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The Leaf Storm novella and Isabel’s Monologue are my favorite picks from this book. These really portray the signature style of Garcia, which I have seen in One Hundred Years. The drowned man and the man with wings are children’s fables, beautifully told. The rest of the stories are just oddities, especially Nabo, which I could not even understand properly. I liked both the story telling style and the settings of Colombia of the early 20th century in Garcia’s stories. Much like RKN and Graham Greene, he does not need grand settings or premises, but revels in the strength of his realistic characters and their small-life travails. It is yet to be seen how I will fare with his serious works like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Autumn of the Patriarch.