Anna Magdalena’s years of solitude in Gabo’s voice - Hindustan Times
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Anna Magdalena’s years of solitude in Gabo’s voice

Mar 23, 2024 09:50 PM IST

Until August renders us the mystery of vanishing memory and Marquez’s tremendous power of imagination overwhelming it.

Love, solitude, and remembrance are the prominent themes in the late Latin American novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s oeuvre. These themes intersect and sometimes magically transform to render harmony amidst madness and chaos. The harmony soothing the soul is not the music of happiness because it ebbs on pathos and melancholia. Remembrance is filled with a lifelong feeling of loss. The solitude is serene; nevertheless, it is tense with primal pain. Love amidst all these is timid, pure, and simple. The liveliest of emotions made out of these is tangibly vivid in Marquez’s posthumously published novel, ct. The subheading of it says “lost novel”.

Famed author Gabriel Garcia Marquez died at the age of 87 years old Thursday following a career as one of the most important Spanish-language authors. PREMIUM
Famed author Gabriel Garcia Marquez died at the age of 87 years old Thursday following a career as one of the most important Spanish-language authors.

Thanks to Marquez’s sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo Garcia Barcha, it was recovered and gifted to his readers 10 years after his death. Marquez, perhaps the most celebrated writer of his generation, passed away in 2014 aged 87. Some may attribute it to an act of betrayal, as Gabo (as friends and fans fondly call him) wanted this writing to be destroyed. Had it been destroyed, it would have been an irrecoverable loss.

The novel renders us the mystery of vanishing memory and Marquez’s tremendous power of imagination overwhelming it. Writing becomes curative, and it has a healing effect on the reader.

Marquez wanted the writing destroyed because he thought it was not working. It is not like Franz Kafka’s insistence that his friend Max Brod burn the scripts. That was Kafka’s nihilism. For Marquez, it was a different reason. He felt a little uncertain about the flow and ebb of the narrative of Until August. Marquez once told his sons, “Memory is my source material and my tool. Without it, there’s nothing.” These words resemble what he has said in his autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale: “Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers to recount it.” Memory is an important aspect of his writing. The famous opening of his great work, One Hundred Years of Solitude, begins with an evocation of a memory. The gradual fading of this vital element of his imagination no doubt frustrated him. It is his diminishing ability that perhaps made him decide to destroy this work.

His sons did not destroy it. While they were doubtful whether it belonged to the canonical Marquez, they knew this short novel contained the elements of his famed storytelling and also radiated his glow for love. Until August has all the ingredients of what we can call Marquezian. Broken love, a desolate place, an ancient island, an antiquarian hotel, a forlorn cemetery, a feeling of tenderness for the life around, passionate seductions, grief-stricken separation, wickedness in man-woman relations, an affinity for the hazard, an affection for sombre solitude — all these dwell in a mystery entangled in the past and the present.

Until August is the story of 46-year-old Anna Magdalena Bach, mother of two children and wife of Domenico Amaris, who was director of a provincial conservatory. She returns to the island once a year to place a bouquet of fresh gladioli where her mother is buried. Once on her trip to the island, something stirs in her, and she takes a lover for the night. After this passionate encounter with an unknown man, she changes forever.

Anna Magdalena experiences loneliness, but she is no Madame Bovary. The ferry she takes to the island to visit her mother’s burial site is also meant for her to move freely into an ambience where she is on her own. The one-night stand is neither banal eroticism nor a sexual escapade. She wanted to have the choice and also let herself be the choice. It is a passionate libidinal self-inquiry.

In one of her trips, the mystery of why her mother wanted to be buried on the forlorn island is revealed to her as a sort of epiphany. She then decides to exhume her mother’s remains and bring them home. The last visit is a moment of realisation for her. Anna Magdalena observes that her reasons for visiting the island are perhaps the same as those of her mother. The overwhelming feeling is the miracle of her dead mother is continuing through her.

The narrative is interspersed with references to both classical and popular western and Latin American musical pieces, notations, books and authors and interesting observations about reading. These references are a testimony to the miracle of the mind preserving itself against fading faculties.

Christobal Pera, Marquez’s editor, in his note to the Spanish edition, shares his excitement about working with Gabo and also his astonishment at feeling Gabo’s presence after his death whenever he was reading through the text of Until August. Pera says Marquez had edited this work five times, and the fifth version was his favourite. On the first page of version 5, Marquez wrote: “Gran Ok final”. Marquez had allowed Pera to read three chapters aloud to him, and he shares the excitement of this: “I remember the impression I was left with, absolute mastery of an original theme he had not tackled previously in his work and the desire that one day his readers could share it.”

Damodar Prasad is a media researcher and writer The views expressed are personal

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