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Anshul is a Political Science and Law graduate from the University of Delhi. He is interested in political, legal and policy developments and frequently writes on related themes. You can contact him on anshulkumarpandey [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Marquez in my Imagination

The last book that I read by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was A Chronicle of Death Foretold. I carried it along with me the last time I went back to my hometown in December and casually started flipping through its pages before getting hooked by the narrative. The train journey was 12 hours long in which I had completed reading the novella twice and stopped myself only to play the story over and over in my mind: to picture Angela Vicario’s wedding to Bayardo San Roman, to think about his anger when he found that she wasn’t a virgin, to envisage the feeling of humiliation experienced by the Vicario brothers and to visualize the expression on Santiago Nasar’s face when he was finally stabbed. In short, I stopped only to imagine the imagination of the writer.

Such is the magic of Marquez. As a first year student in Delhi University, I came across a copy of the despondently titled One Hundred Years of Solitude when it was brought to the college by a friend who was halfway through it. I kept thinking of the title and stole glances at the cover and after a few days, borrowed it to read it myself.

 To say that I was blown away would be an understatement. My first introduction to Marquez caused the equivalent of a nuclear explosion in my imagination and transported me to a world that I could hardly believe could be made to exist by the power of mere words on paper. Yet here I was, roaming the streets of Macondo, clapping wildly at the magic fair after seeing the tricks performed by Melquiades and listening intently to Jose Arcadio Buendia as he explained his every new invention. I was a soldier in Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s rebel army who felt sorry for him when he lost Remedios the Beauty. I admired the longevity of Ursula and cross checked the list which she made to document the 17 Aurelianos. I was a fly on the wall as seven generations of the Buendia family passed by and I was the awe, the horror and the surprise that swept Macondo along with the great wind when Aureliano Babilonia decoded the parchments written by Melquadiez.

After completing the book, I held it and admired it and went to sleep with it – an honor previously reserved for my cricket ball. I returned the book with a heavy heart and never bought a copy again. Marquez’s magical realism held the potential to singularly destroy my academic grades by drawing me in its beautiful world while Huntington, Fukuyama, Hobsbawm and Rawls scowled in a corner. Yet, when I found it again in my final year of graduation in an acquaintance’s book rack, I couldn’t resist but borrow it. I had to part with a couple of my own valued books for the exchange, yet I could survive it as meeting my old love had made me a kid in Macondo once more.

Yesterday, while passing through Kamla Nagar, I spotted a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera. It is one novel by Marquez that I haven’t read yet – partly because of my own embarrassment with the concept of unrequited love, having been both on the giving and receiving side of it. Still I had difficulty walking past without stopping to flip through its pages. Anyone who has read Marquez will tell you that his words are a magnet to the reader’s heart – to ignore them is to attempt the impossible. I stopped for a couple of seconds, just to admire the beauty of the words. With my respects to his writing paid, I marched on into the evening. 

Today, my peace of mind was rudely interrupted by the news of his death. At the age of 87, he finally “shook off his mortal coil”. They say he is not with us anymore. And I emphatically deny it.

Men like Marquez do not cease to be with their death. Men like Julio Cortazar and Carlos Fuentes, in short, men like Gabrial Garcia Marquez, have already immortalized themselves in the world of our imagination. They shape it, expand it and color it every time a word written by them is read anywhere on this globe. Their memory is refreshed and tributes are paid to them every time a copy of their work travels from the bookshop to a reader’s home. Their lives is a cultural phenomenon, their work a literary event and their deaths a historical bookmark. And bookmarks are made to remember which page you were reading the last time and can never be equated with the finality of a full stop.

I never got to speak to him or hear him speak. Yet, its his words that have affected me, moved me and made me smile. The 30 million reverberations of One Hundred Years of Solitude continue to echo throughout the world and my imagination is filled with its music. Today he lays hundreds of miles away in Latin America and I will never get to go and see him. But that does not mean I cannot bring him to my own home.

I just need to walk to Kamla Nagar for that.