The third book I’ve read by Gabriel García Márquez, this month. It is not that I am a massive fan, but because his works are the only contemporary fiction I can find in the local library in English. The local library does have some English and American classics, after “Hard Times”, I would like to read some more Dickens but all they have is “Barnaby Rudge” (no thank you, I read Dickens only finished it to fulfill his publishing contract) and ““A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens” which I read in March. As for the other classics, I also have either read them or have no interest in reading them.
“Strange Pilgrims” is a collection of 12 short stories.
- Bon Voyage, Mr President (Buen Viaje, Señor Presidente)...this is about an ex Latin American President, who meets a compatriot in Geneva, the ex President is there for medical reasons, his compatriot, an ambulance driver at the hospital, wishes to profit from the situation as he believe the president has squandered millions. My rating 3/5
- The Saint (La Santa). Margarito is originally from the small Andean village of Tolima, Colombia but travels to Rome in order to begin the process of having his deceased daughter recognized as a saint, his daughter when dug up was still intact and weightless, Margarito hopes for an audience with the pope, but popes come and go after 22 years he is still waiting. 2/5
- Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane (El Avión de la Bella Durmiente). A voyeuristic tale, Marquez falls in love with a woman in the neighbouring seat of a long haul flight, but she sleeps the entire journey. Apparently the Kyoto Bourgeois would pay enormous sums of money to watch beautiful girls sleeping. “Who would have thought” I said to myself “that I’d become an ancient Japanese at this late date.” 2/5
- I Sell My Dreams (Me Alquilo para Soñar). A South American emigré earns her living interpreting dreams, the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, has a cameo appearance in this story. 3/5
- “I Only Came to Use the Phone” (Solo Vine a Hablar por Teléfono). This for me is the best story of the collection, it is a very Kafkaesque tale, a Mexican woman’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. She hitches a ride on a bus on its way to a mental institute. Before she understands what’s happening, she has been admitted as a patient. Her husband, a stage magician, believes she has run off with another man. When she finally finds an opportunity to call him, he curses her, calling her a “whore” and hangs up. 5/5
- The Ghosts of August (Espantos de Agosto) A ghost story set in Tuscany, “What foolishness”, I said to myself, “To still believe in ghosts in this day and age.” Only then was I shaken by the scent of fresh strawberries…4/5
- María dos Prazeres Maria dos Prazeres, an ageing prostitute, has recently had a vision of death. at the age of seventy-six and wants to make all preparations before her death. She has picked out a plot for her burial on the hill cemetery, Montjuich, where a number of anarchists are buried in unmarked graves. She trains her dog Noi to travel to the cemetery and to be able to pick out her grave on the vast hill so that he can visit and shed tears there every Sunday, after she has died. 4/5
- Seventeen Poisoned Englishmen (Diecisiete Ingleses Envenenados) An elderly South American woman takes a trip to Italy to see the pope. Seventeen Englishmen, indistinguishable from one another are lazing on the only floor with a dining room, so Sra Prudencia chooses another floor, the fate of the Englishmen is given away by the title. 2/5
- Tramontana The title refers to a paranormal Catalan wind, which even a well travelled sailor fears. 3/5
- Miss Forbes’s Summer of Happiness (El Verano Feliz de la Señora Forbes). Miss Forbes, a strict governess makes the most wonderful deserts, but the children can’t have them unless they eat the Moray Eel of the main course, which they find disgusting. 3/5
- Light is Like Water (La Luz es como el Agua). Surreal tale about light imagined as water, where you can float a boat and dive. “A jet of golden light as cool as water began to pour out of the broken bulb, and they (the boys) let it run to a depth of almost three feet. Then they turned the electricity off, took out the rowboat, and navigated at will among the islands of the house.” 4/5
- The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow (El Rastro de tu Sangre en la Nieve). This story also has a kafkaesque feel, a pair of honeymooners drive in a plush Bentley from Madrid to Paris. The bride whose finger was pricked by a thorn, is unable to stem the flow of blood. Her new husband takes her to a hospital in Paris, but when he returns to the hospital to see his bride, he is told visiting days are only on Tuesdays some six days hence…he books into a grotty hotel near the hospital, while the top specialists try in vain to save his wife. 4/5
The stories are linked by a sense of dislocation, usually a Latin American character in a European setting.
My rating 3 out of 5