Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Words from Márquez         [literary excerpt]

This morning I finished reading a novella. This in itself is a minor event; -- my reading (at least in terms of sticking with a book) has not been voluminous in recent moons. A passage seems worth excerpting for general out-of-context appreciation. The novella is Gabriel García Márquez's recent Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2005, in Edith Grossman's translation). The protagonist (a lifelong bachelor and an erudite journalist whose longevity is but one of his many notable traits) here describes a few of the events and changes during the tumultuous year that forms the focus of his memoir.

Tormented by love, I had the storm damage fixed and also took care of many other repairs I had put off for years because of insolvency or indolence. I reorganized the library according to the order in which I had read the books. And I discarded the player piano as a historical relic, along with more than a hundred rolls of classical music, and bought a used record player that was better than mine, with high-fidelity speakers that enlarged the area of the house. I was on the verge of ruin but well-compensated by the miracle of still being alive at my age.
The house rose from its ashes and I sailed on my love of Delgadina with an intensity and happiness I had never known in my former life. Thanks to her I confronted my inner self for the first time as my ninetieth year went by. I discovered that my obsession for having each thing in the right place, each subject at the right time, each word in the right style, was not the well-deserved reward of an ordered mind but just the opposite: a complete system of pretense invented by me to hide the disorder of my nature. I discovered that I am not disciplined out of virtue but as a reaction to my negligence, that I appear generous in order to conceal my meanness, that I pass myself off as prudent because I am evil-minded, that I am conciliatory in order not to succumb to my repressed rage, that I am punctual only to hide how little I care about other people's time. I learned, in short, that love is not a condition of the spirit but a sign of the zodiac.
I became another man. I tried to reread the classics that had guided me in adolescence, and I could not bear them. I buried myself in the romantic writings I had repudiated when my mother tried to impose them on me with a heavy hand, and in them I became aware that the invincible power that has moved the world is unrequited, not happy, love. When my tastes in music reached a crisis, I discovered that I was backward and old, and I opened my heart to the delights of chance.
I ask myself how I could give in to the perpetual vertigo that I in fact provoked and feared. I floated among erratic clouds and talked to myself in front of the mirror in the vain hope of confirming who I was. My delirium was so great that during a student demonstration complete with rocks and bottles, I had to make an enormous effort not to lead it as I held up a sign that would sanctify my truth: I am mad with love.

(pp. 64-66)


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