Book Review: Leaf Storm and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“Arriving there, mingled with the human leaf storm, dragged along by its impetuous force, came the dregs of warehouses, hospitals, amusement parlors, electric plants; the dregs made up of single women and men who tied their mules to hitching posts by the hotel, carrying their single piece of baggage, a wooden trunk or a bundle of clothing, and in a few months, each had his own house, two mistresses, and the military title that was due him for having arrived late for the war. ” – Narrator
I am a big fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez ever since I read One Hundred Years of Solitude. He was just one of those authors that captured my attention and never let go. In fact, I owe Gabo my reading life because, if not for him, I probably would have stopped my reading life at Harry Potter and give up books entirely. Thankfully, after 7 years of giving me Harry Potter as birthday presents, the 8th birthday present that I received from my parents was One Hundred Years of Solitude and thus my love affair with Gabo’s works began and, now, I am on a quest to finish Gabo’s oeuvre.
A pit stop in my quest to finish all of Gabo’s works is Leaf Storm and Other Stories, a collection that is composed of a novella and five different stories. The stories are: The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, Blacaman the Good, Vendor of Miracles, The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship, The Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo, and Nabo.
The pièce de résistance of the collection is this novella in which Macondo, the fictional town which Gabo created as a setting for some of his works, appeared. And it is such a delight to read because it combined two techniques in literature that, if done right, creates a good story: multiple narratives and just a hint of magical realism.
Leaf Storm is about a family who facilitates the burial of the most hated man in the village. The story is told through the eyes of the three members of the family: The Colonel, who has promised the dead man that he shall bury him; the daughter of the Colonel, Isabel, who reluctantly joins his father to the dead man’s house; and her son, who just goes along with his family without fully knowing what is going on. The Colonel is motivated by his promise and his honor; Isabel is scared of what the villagers will do to her and her son if they see her attending to the dead man; while the child is only concerned about the time when he can leave and play with his friends.
The story, as with most of Gabo’s work, begins in media res or in the middle of things and past events are explored through the use of flashbacks. There is minimal dialogue and most of the pages are devoted to the inner monologues of the characters. Through the Colonel and Isabel, we learn the history of the dead man: how he came to Macondo; how he got involved with the Colonel’s family; and how he became the most hated man in the village. Meanwhile, the narrative of the young boy is primarily concerned with his fascination towards the dead and how he combats death through his imagination by thinking of the fun things that he will do with his friends after attending the dead man’s funeral preparations.
There is very little magical realism in the novella since, instead of utilizing magical realism for specific events within the story, Gabo infuses the atmosphere with magical realism making the reader feel that this is set in a world of magical realism even if there are very few events that say so. By using multiple narratives, Gabo then presents three views of death: one that honors it and is unafraid (Colonel), one that is afraid of it and its repercussions (Isabel), and one that is indifferent to it (the child).
All in all, Leaf Storm is a great centerpiece to this collection by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This being the first appearance of Macondo, Gabo gave his readers a peek at would eventually become One Hundred Years of Solitude.
The stories were also very good but two that stood out were The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World and A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. It is my opinion that Gabo works best with short fiction (both novellas and short stories) because by condensing magical realism, the reader will not get lost in Gabo’s style and, in these two stories, Gabo’s prose is unparalleled. Both stories that I extremely liked dealt with the unexpected arrival of someone (in the former, a drowned stranger, and, in the latter, an old man with wings) and the unexpected spectacle that they caused. The townspeople in the first story fell in love with the drowned stranger and, in the second story, they made the old man a tourist attraction. Both are a joy to read and, in my opinion, it really shows how brilliant Gabo is.