Friday, 25 April 2008

Book of the Week - The Autumn of the Patriarch

At the suggestion of a friend, this is to be the first in a regular series, wherein I'm going to let you know what I like to read, and maybe why. I'll quote an excerpt, and then you can please yourself whether you go and get yourself a copy!

...When the cataclysm had passed he still heard the distant music of the windless afternoon, he went on killing mosquitoes and with the same slaps trying to kill the katydids in his ears which hindered him in his thinking, he still saw the light of the fires on the horizon, the lighthouse that tinted him with green every thirty seconds through the slits in the blinds, the natural breathing of daily life which was getting to be the same again while his death was changing into a different death more like so many others in the past, the incessant torrent of reality which was carrying him off toward the no man's land of compassion and oblivion, God damn it, fuck death he exclaimed, and then he left his hiding place exalted by the certainty that his grandest hour had struck, he went through the sacked salons dragging his thick phantom feet in the midst of the ruins of his former life in the shadows that smelled of dying flowers and burial candlewicks, he pushed open the door of the cabinet room, heard through the smoky air the thin voices around the long walnut table, and saw through the smoke that all the ones he wanted to be there were there, the liberals who had sold the federalist war, the conservatives who had bought it, the generals of the high command, three of his cabinet ministers, the archbishop primate and the Ambassador Schontner, all together in the one single plot calling for the unity of all against the despotism of centuries so that they could divide up among themselves the booty of his death, so absorbed in the depths of greed that no one noticed the appearance of the unburied president who gave a single blow with the palm of his hand on the table, and shouted aha! and that was all he had to do, for when he lifted his hand from the table the stampede of panic was over and all that was left in the room were the overflowing ashtrays, the coffee mugs, the chairs flung on the floor, and my comrade of a lifetime General Rodrigo de Aguilar in battle dress, minute, impassive, wafting away the smoke with his one hand and indicating to him to drop to the floor general sir because now the fun is going to begin, and they both dropped to the floor at the instant the machine guns' death jubilation started up by the front of the building, the butcher feast of the presidential guard who with great pleasure and great honor general sir carried out his fierce orders that no one should escape alive from the meeting where treason was being hatched...

I'm a big fan of Marquez. I don't know what made me think of this book, though. Something to do with deception and illusion, perhaps? It's a recurring theme, of late. Perhaps somebody should have realized before now that when a tyrant takes charge, he spends his time in power turning his dominion into a replica of himself. Just think what Mugabe's mind looks like. How he neglects himself - or most of himself, anyway!

4 comments:

Radagast said...

Dear cite admin and tongue-down-the-back-of-the-trousers,

Please threaten me some more. Please find something else that you believe to be provocative, abusive and intimidatory to say. Please understand that you do not exist. Please understand that your bizarre meanderings are of no interest to me.

I love you: you're such fun. Now go away, because you are not in my league. This is your last warning.

Matt

Stephany said...

You might have to add a review at the end of the book excerpt such as a "Understanding this book for Dummies"(me) theme! LOL

Radagast said...

LOL. I always found it quite difficult to establish what was going on in Marquez's books - I was always confused as to what was metaphor, and what was "real".

The Patriarch is a Caribbean dictator. The book basically plots his recollection of his rule, as I recall (I ought to read it again - it must be a couple of years since I finished it). The psychosis of the dictator is beautifully captured with a rambling stream of consciousness, as above. Whole chapters are written in a single sentence, with the odd comma, here and there, and one idea just merges into the next. It's an extraordinary piece of writing, I think.

Matt

justana said...

It sounds strange in English.:)