I have rarely read romantic stories. I shy away from them. I find fiction in the area of romance making me uncomfortable. I rarely pursue them. More importantly, I don’t trust them. But Gabo is an exception. His words, the power that they ooze…these are unforgettable and it’s nearly impossible to not be affected by it. My first Gabo encounter was during my graduating years as I read Chronicle of a Death Foretold. The sheer genius of this man reflected in the title itself. The story of a death that has already been predicted. A novella set in Colombia, it was my first insight into Latin American culture. Its people, their complacency, their guilt, their secrets, their magic and their reality (often the same). There was violence in the name of love. I was intrigued and craving for more.
Instead of picking up another novel, I picked up his autobiography instead:Living to Tell the Tale. Somehow, it seemed more important and necessary to read about his life, his journey, his pursuit of love and career. His personal anecdotes were so interesting, I never bothered to explore any of his other writings. Or perhaps I wasn’t ready for any of it. Until one day, a friend suggested Memoirs of my Melancholy Whores. Again, what a mesmerizing title. It was the last novella penned by him and that intrigued me enough to give it a read. As I stood at the bookstore hunting for Gabo’s not-so-famous novella, I finally struck upon a beautiful cover on a thin book, whose first lines read: “The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.” I was sold. The book costed a bomb (it was an imported edition and no second-hand edition was available) and I paid the price anyway since I knew that somewhere, somehow it was going to be worth it. And I wasn’t wrong. It is, till date, one of the most beautiful, gorgeous, honest and spectacular stories that I have read in my life.
After having Marquezed (almost permanently) this time, I pondered over the next novel. They all praised One Hundred Years of Solitude. But I still had my doubts. At a flea market, I bought News of a Kidnapping. Again, one of his lesser known writings hoping to read a little less fiction and a little more reality. But before I could begin reading it, a dear friend recommended Love in the Time of Cholera. My skepticism towards romance and love stories still prevailed and I casually dismissed his suggestion. This was followed by a statement he made that I will never forget: “If you want to know what love is truely all about it, read this. Everything else is crap.“
I had enough faith on Marquez and my friend to believe in such a persistent claim. I went to the second-hand bookstore that very weekend and purchased a copy for myself. I spent the next four months reading Love in the Time of Cholera. I usually don’t dwell so much on a book (unless it’s excruciatingly boring). And this was quite the contrary. But I wanted to absorb and swallow every word of this novel. It was pitted as the quintessential bible for all lovers and for all those who hope to fall in love. It deserved that extra pamper. And it was worth it in every way.
My copy of Chronicle of a Death Foretold and News of a Kidnapping are the only ones that continue to live on my bookshelf. I gifted my copy of Memoirs to a friend. Memoirs holds the record of being the oft-repeated gift as far as books are concerned. I have gifted it to six of my friends. I continue to gift it to those who still haven’t read it. My copy of Love in the Time of Cholera is currently with a friend who claims he is in love and I felt he needed to read Gabo’s advice on this.
There is magic in his name, there is magic in the words he weaved. He lives on bookshelves. He breathes in people who are in love. He talks to his readers. He questions their beliefs. He is not dead. Gabriel García Márquez lives on.
No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you’ve already had.
Originally published on Campus Diaries.