Posted on | July 6, 2012 | 2 Comments
It’s been just over a year since I read Of Love And Other Demons, so I figured it’s time to read another book by one of my favourite authors. Well, not exactly. I had just pulled out four books from my bookshelf as I headed for a week long respite from reality, and ended up talking to one of my colleagues about the books I was taking with me. So, he mentioned that his favourite authors were Camus and Calvino (neither of which have any presence on this blog, embarrassingly – I really need to catch up on their works! I’ve only read the one Calvino!!). I automatically replied that Márquez is one of my favourites, and then realised that I have an unread book by him on the shelf, so surely – surely, it should travel with me. And so it did.
Leaf Storm is Márquez’s first published work, and it took him seven years to find a publisher for the book, before it was eventually released in 1955. While Márquez claims this is his favourite work, ambivalence floods me. I can categorically state that this isn’t my favourite work by the Nobel Prize laureate. It’s not even in the top three, but, the novella does still wow me. Márquez seems to have that effect on me every single time.
The entire novel is set in a single room, on one afternoon. Three voices from three generations – the Colonel, his daughter, and his grandson – take centerstage, as the Colonel attempts to keep a promise made a long time ago: give the much-disliked French doctor a Christian burial.
The doctor arrived in Macondo, a village one might know from One Hundred Years of Solitude, on the same day as the village priest, and while the latter became an influential part of the society, the doctor made himself fairly unpopular. He lived with the Colonel for eight years, and then, moved two houses down with the housemaid. Through all the time the Colonel knew him, he never knew his name.
While the premise is straightforward, and the scope of the book tightly contained, the wonder of the book lies in the stream-of-consciousness narration of the three protagonists, as they reflect on the current state of affairs, what brought them here, and how their actions here (to bury the doctor) will influence their future in a village, which once prosperous, has gone back to being poverty-stricken, after the leaf storm passed. Amidst other things, the reader is privy to the circumstances surrounding the Colonel’s daughter’s wedding, the thoughts of the child as he encounters death for the first time, the commitment of the Colonel, and of course, the explanation behind why the doctor is as unpopular as he is.
What was incredible was being re-introduced to the fictional village of Macondo, and Colonel Aureliano Buendía making an appearance again - even if it was only as the writer of the letter which the doctor gave the Colonel on first arriving in the village, which led to the Colonel extending an invitation to the doctor to stay at his house. There is something quite special about finding old friends in new books, and being on familiar ground. Of course, in this case, Leaf Storm is the predecessor to One Hundred Years Of Solitude, but, that’s a small detail.
For me, the difficulty in this book arose while trying to figure out which character was narrating at any given point in time. For the most part, it was not that laborious, albeit at times, passages had to be re-read, in order to determine who the narrator was, and personally, I found that diminished the reading experience.
All in all though, as a one-shot, and as a first novel(la), this really must be read – specially by fans of Márquez. Have you read this novella? What did you think? And more importantly, which of Márquez’s works should I read next?