Solitude on Summer Days
I was in Amsterdam in August not so long ago and found myself alone in a cabin, having left my friends for the day. I had only 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' and some bananas for company and so I sat alone from 4am until around 11pm, with occasional banana breaks, and read the whole thing.
For me that was really the only way to read the novel. To read it in one go allowed me to get into the flow of the work and float along on the same cloud that it had been created on. It was an extremely bright day outside and the sun came in to blind me sometimes but mostly it left me alone and eventually went away again. It left me alone to experience the changing and yet unchanging world of Macondo. That place in the jungle where wonderful things occur.
I didn't touch another Marquez for a while then, until I picked up 'Autumn of the Patriarch' recently on a hot day in Summer in Seoul. Then I sat down on a bench and began diving into the twisting world of the famed and ageless dictator of some small broken country.
"Over the weekend the vultures got into the presidential palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur"
So it begins, and goes on with those winding and vast sentences which tell the story of the disgusting nature of a power gone mad. The book was written in the century of the great dictators and deals, in part, with those military men who took over and looted their own countries in their pursuit of endless power. It is said that the dictator has come from overseas and taken control, a man who kept an idea of his country in his mind and imposed it on his people just like Franco in Spain.
It's only on sunny days that I can read these books. In Winter there is no way to understand the beating and endless heat of the worlds which Marquez conjures up. The dictator lies down to die, in his customary position on the floor of his vast home, in the endless heat. Here in a Korean Summer that feeling of a heat which envelops everything is something to which I can easily relate. I can feel that sense of knowing that today and the next day will be filled with the same driving sunlight. It is a reassuring and yet troubling feeling, like being trapped in a pleasant daydream.
When I picture the world that I would like to live in, what I feel is warmth and what I see are words on a page. So when I think about these times I have spent alone with the words of Marquez, and when I remember times I have spent alone on sunny days, either surrounded by multitudes of strangers or the occasional rabbit near a cabin, I am glad to have spent my time in solitude.