It may seem a sad irony to hear that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is suffering dementia. His Nobel-prize-winning novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, begins with the family’s struggle to cope with a Grampa figure slowing loosing his mind.
I prefer to think in a nobel way Garcia Marquez fortold this. Dementia tends to run in families. The Grampa figure continues an ethereal existence throughout the novel and typical of magic realist philosophy the narrative plays with the idea that maybe madness is a kind of ‘true vision’, unable to fit into a concrete reality.
One of my favourite strange little episodes in the book is the period where the whole town contract insomnia as though it’s a contagious disease. None of them can sleep for weeks turning to months and while this makes them more productive, they begin forgetting first complex, then basic things. So they begin writing reminders. They hang a sign around a cow’s neck saying ‘Cow’, but then they forget what the cow is for so they write a sign explaining the cow produces milk which is nice when added to coffee.
It’s this playful imagination that captures the heart and carries the reader through the tragic themes of the book. Of doomed romantic love, disasters of war and a family struggling to come to terms with each other.
In true Garcia Marquez style we should not be sad to think an incredible mind is lost from our version of reality. He is simply in a different (and probably more interesting) place.
Over & owt
*Note – apologies if I’ve misremembered any part of the book, this is the version in my head. And it’s bloody good!