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Harper Colophon Books #699: Leaf Stormby Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Synopses & Reviews
I've seen a corpse for the first time. It's Wednesday but I feel as if it was Sunday because I didn't go to school and they dressed me up in a green corduroy suit that's tight in some places. Holding Mama's hand, following my grandfather, who feels his way along with a cane with every step he takes so he won't bump into things (be doesn't see well in the dark and he limps), I went past the mirror in the living room and saw myself full length, dressed in green and with this white starched collar that pinches me on one side of the neck. I saw myself in the round mottled looking glass and I thought: "That's me, as if today was Sunday."
We've come to the house where the dead man is.
The beat won't let you breathe in the closed room. You can hear the sun buzzing in the streets, but that's all. The air is stagnant, like concrete; you get the feeling that it could get all twisted like a sheet of steel. In the room where they've laid out the corpse there's a smell of trunks, but I can't see any anywhere. There's a hammock in the corner hanging by one end from a ring. There's a smell of trash. And I think that the things around us, broken down and almost falling apart, have the look of things that ought to smell like trash even though they smell like something else.
Mama is dressed tip as if it was Sunday too. She put on the old straw hat that comes down over her ears and a black dress closed at the neck and with sleeves that come down to her wrists. Since today is Wednesday she looks to me like someone far away, a stranger, and I get the feeling that she wants to tell me something when my grandfather gets up to receive the men who've brought the coffin. Mama is sitting beside me with her back to the closed door. She's breathing heavily and she keeps pushing back the strands of hair that fall out from under the hat that she put on in a hurry. My grandfather has told the men to put the coffin down next to the bed. Only then did I realize that the dead man could really fit into it. When the men brought in the box I had the impression that it was too small for a body that took up the whole length of the bed.
When we went in I didn't see the dead man. I saw my grandfather at the door talking to the men, and then I saw him telling us to go on in. I thought then that there was somebody in the room; but when I went in I felt it was dark and empty. The heat beat on my face from the very first minute and I got that trash smell that was solid and permanent at first and now, like the beat, comes in slow-spaced waves and disappears. Mama led me through the dark room by the hand and seated me next to her in a comer. Only after a moment could I begin to make things out. I saw my grandfather trying to open a window that seemed stuck to its frame, glued to the wood around it, and I saw him hitting his cane against the latches, his coat covered with the dust that came off with every blow. I turned my bead to where my grandfather was moving as he said he couldn't open the window and only then did I see there was someone on the bed. There was a dark man stretched out, motionless. Then I spun my head to my mother's side where she sat serious and without moving, looking off somewhere else in the room.
Translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa
About the Author
Gabriel Garc??a M??rquez was born in 1928 in the town of Aracatca, Colombia. Latin America's preeminent man of letters, he is considered by many to be one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. He began his writing career as a journalist and is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. Gabriel M??rquez was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
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