Absence

20 April 2009

valencia-pueblo

Sometimes, after having been traveling & then sick, not having written enough in either condition, it’s hard to start again on the big things you’ve charged yourself to write, and their incompletion stops up your throat & leaves you unable to write anything at all.

So it helps to start with the small stuff. Do you know that the way someone will wave you closer in Jaén looks almost exactly like a shooing-away gesture? It is the damndest thing.

A week ago, Semana Santa: I stood underneath a rain of flower petals – a shower of them, rose petals, carnations, others innumerable, flowers I did not know the names for, red or stained white or yellow, in ankle-high heaps, children clutching them out of the sky or scooping them into bags, old men throwing them by handfuls at women, flower petals in my hair, my mouth, between my neck and my collar.

Then they went into José Arcadio Buendía’s room, shook him as hard as they could, shouted in his ear, put a mirror in front of his nostrils, but they could not awaken him. A short time later, when the carpenter was taking measurements for the coffin, through the window they saw a light rain of tiny yellow flowers falling. They fell on the town all through the night in a silent storm, and they covered the roofs and blocked the doors and smothered the animals who slept outdoors. So many flowers fell from the sky that in the morning the streets were carpeted with a compact cushion and they had to clear them away with shovels and rakes so that the funeral procession could pass by.

One Hundred Years of Solitude
(Cien años de soledad), p. 144

I thought to myself then that I understood better García Marquez when he said he did not set out to write magical realism, that he’d intended instead to render the world in writing as accurately as he could, exactly how it was.

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