Thursday, April 17, 2014

First Lines Second Thoughts — The Autumn of the Patriarch

Remembering Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014).

First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works. On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? We remember a great man dead, the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez by looking at the first lines of The Autumn of the Patriarch. Published in 1975.

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.


— Gabriel García Márquez


First published in his native Spanish as El otoño del patriarca Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) described this novel as a "poem on the solitude of power" and is a fictionalized account of Latin American dictators. Beginning in 1968, it took García Márquez three years to write The Autumn of the Patriarch. It would be another four years before it was published. After its publication in Spanish in 1975 García Márquez moved from Barcelona to Mexico City where he lived until his death in April 2014.

In 1982, García Márquez was the first Colombian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was recognized, "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts". His acceptance lecture, The Solitude of Latin America is famous in its own right for putting forth the self determination of Latin America.

After quoting William Faulkner, García Márquez concluded his address by saying, "A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.