Reading may confirm things that we have known or lost or hoped for. We come across a parade of arranged words and something magical may happen, something that we hear and feel as much as read. This meeting of the senses transforms a moment into something more plastic, more stretchy, more alive and we are changed by this encounter, having the words here. to recognise who and what we are and can be. It is as if the very ‘pulse’ of certain writers anchors us to another way of knowing, another ‘re-sourcing’ of ourselves.
Years ago, after starting at Liverpool University by the back door ( via the ring and beg late admissions’ system) mySpanish teacher Mrs Wyness (who was by far the most intelligent and firm of all my sixth form teachers ) told me to read Garcia Marquez because he was special and because she thought I needed something new.
At some point I did read his Autumn of The Patriach and felt it rather bloody, hyperbolic and crazy and it was a good while later before i started to read him again and found Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. I also read many of his short stories and here, as with D H Lawrence, I found the best of Marquez without becoming exasperated by his art which with the longer pieces sometimes feels like trickery: too flashy, too self conscious, too knowingly brilliant.
So here in ‘Death beyond Constant love’ the terminally ill Senator Sanchez on his yearly pilgrimmage for votes, finds the woman of his life and what we hear and feel as we read, is the rhapsodic irony and desperation of this meeting.
Death has taken all the familiarity out of his world and rendered it alien. the world goes on, indifferently counting time to his death when it will carry on without a tear. Yet right in the middle of his final tour he finds a woman whose beauty makes him sabotage even the remaining respectability of his normal happy life before his terminal prognosis. Marquez makes us sympathise with the Senator even when he seems shoddy and even violating, because the narative mirrors and matches his awareness of his own collusion in his own destruction, his own desire to live more than he has ever lived; dangerously, desperately and finally:
‘Then she laid his head on her shoulder with her eyes fixed on the rose. The senator held her about the waist, sank his face into woods-animal armpit, and gave into terror. Six months and eleven days later, he would die in that same position, debased and repudiated because of the public scandal with Laura Farina and weeping with rage at dying without her.’
The world of Marquez always involves the relationship between sexual desire and smell. Here the senator knows he is alive because his sensuality tells him so. The body is not sanitised nor removed from the earthy realities of aliveness. And it is this earthy vitality that triggers the first direct expression of mourning for his decaying self. ‘weeping with rage at dying without her.’ Sometimes as I posted somewhere else on this blog site, only rage will do.
The Woman in Black
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