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Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Strange Pilgrims (1992)

by Gabriel García Márquez

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English (15)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
They range from very good to pretty bad - particularly the last story which was a shame. and maybe coloured my memories of some of the earlier ones. There's more than a hint of whimsy. Made me think I should not re-read A Hundred Years of Solitude in case the magical realism has turned into whimsy as I have got older. The best stories have a lovely clarity about the people in them but does not pin them down so they live on in the mind rather then being fixed as a picture. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
Read three out of twelve stories and am beginning to think I simply don't like mystical writing such as I usually find in fiction translated from Spanish. I'm undoubtedly missing some deep joys and emotions from not finding Marquez's and other well-regarded authors' books marvelous but so be it. ( )
  abycats | May 11, 2018 |
Don't get me wrong, GGM is one of my favorite authors and I normally like the locales, real and imagined, to which he takes me however taking this collection of stories on vacation was a very bad idea!
Firstly, as I read the first story, it began to sound vaguely familiar to me but I continued on and, sure enough, by it's conclusion, I realized I read it before in another collection of short stories by Marquez. One not to give up on my favorite author, I continued to read the other stories, sadly several more turned out to be rereads as well, though well written, it was not the time nor the place for them. Secondly, the stories are consumed with death, dying, old age and reflections of past loves and regrets. Ugh! Again, not holiday material! I left the book in the lobby of the Hotel Gellert in Budapest in the hope another reader will enjoy it more than I. ( )
  Carmenere | Jul 1, 2017 |
With the recent passing of Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) I decided it would be good to pay my respects by finally reading one of his books. Being in between story collections, Strange Pilgrims felt like the obvious choice and I knew it for such when García Márquez greeted me in the introduction by recounting a dream where he attended his own funeral: "walking with a group of friends dressed in solemn mourning but in a festive mood. We all seemed happy to be together. And I more than anyone else, because of the wonderful opportunity that death afforded me to be with my friends from Latin America, my oldest and dearest friends, the ones I had not seen for so long. At the end of the service, when they began to disperse, I attempted to leave too, but one of them made me see with decisive finality that as far as I was concerned, the party was over. “You’re the only one who can’t go,” he said."

Strange Pilgrims is a themed set of stories that García Márquez published in 1992 but had been struggling with since the 70s, a mutable and often hopeless project he could never bring himself to abandon. Upon publication, it was swiftly and brilliantly translated by Edith Grossman (1993). My Penguin edition has a lovely wraparound cover by Cathleen Toelke, which was another factor in my choosing this book over any of his classic novels.

The stories are centered around Latin Americans in Europe – old and dying, young and struggling, all displaced in a landscape both surreal and devastating. The stories cover realism, magical realism and nightmare. There is in fact a strong element of the macabre at work here and almost all of them deal in some way with (often violent) death. Yet here is the truly astonishing thing: even with its themes and motifs so strongly on display, there is no repetition to be found. This is doubtless due to the long gestation period: "Because I worked on all the stories at the same time and felt free to jump back and forth from one to another, I gained a panoramic view that … helped me track down careless redundancies and fatal contradictions."

There is a great deal of strength and weight to each of the tales. I had come across his stories in compilations before but they’d one and all left me cold. Not so with Strange Pilgrims. It takes nostalgia, menace, beauty, Europe’s antiquity and incompetence – often using an author stand-in who has seemingly “collected” the stories as journalism – and never failed to draw a reaction from me. The majority of the collection only lightly touches on magical realism. A dog is trained to weep over a grave, a woman makes a living selling her dreams, but García Márquez tackles the inexplicable in all forms. ‘The Ghosts of August’ is a straightforward ghost story (and perhaps the least affective of the set due to its brevity) while others lean toward Kafkaesque situations.

‘Light is Like Water’ and ‘The Saint’ are the most conventionally magical realist, design-wise. In the former, two boys demand a boat (much to the bemusement of their parents, since they’re living in a fifth-floor Madrid apartment), having made the whimsical but ultimately dangerous discovery that “light is like water … You turn the tap and out it comes.” And in ‘The Saint’ a man struggles for years to gain a reception from the Pope. His dead daughter’s body will not decay and he longs to see her canonized. Oddly enough, no one seems interested…

‘Seventeen Poisoned Englishmen’ revisits Rome, this time with a bereaved and pious widow on a pilgrimage to see the Pope while struggling to endure so crowded and venal a city. "At that early hour her only fellow diners were the waiters and waitresses and a very poor priest eating bread and onions at a back table. When she went in she felt everyone’s eyes on her brown habit, but this did not affect her, for she knew that ridicule was part of her penance. The waitress, on the other hand, roused a spark of pity in her, because she was blonde and beautiful and spoke as if she were singing, and Señora Prudencia Linero thought that things must be very bad in Italy after the war if a girl like her had to wait on tables in a restaurant."

Death is never predictable in these stories. Señora Linero encounters it everywhere while the protagonist of ‘Maria dos Prazeres’ – "a merciless old lady who at first glance seemed a madwoman escaped from the Americas" – makes careful preparation for her own end, only to have it poignantly upset by the one thing she could never have foreseen. And ‘Bon Voyage, Mr. President’ features a placid and charming dictator, exiled and ailing in Geneva, expected to die any day. But he possesses the will to endure and "the eloquence of an old master" and he’s by no means as finished as he looks…

Tallied up, only one of the twelve breaks the pattern. ‘Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane’ centers on an unbearably pretentious old man gazing in adoration at his airplane partner. Unluckily for him, the most beautiful woman he’s seen in his life takes sleeping pills the moment she boards and remains a mystery. He quotes sonnets and reflects on Kawabata’s House of the Sleeping Beauties while longing for her to wake – even welcoming turbulence, such is his vain desire. Kawabata’s concept apparently so fascinated García Márquez that he expanded on it with his final work, the novella Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004).

Everything works as a distinct entity. There’s no filler – every story is imaginative and unpredictable. However, my favorites are easily the most sinister. Along with Carlos Fuentes and Felisberto Hernández, García Márquez is further proof that Latin America contains a rich seam of horror fiction that for some reason is not often remarked upon. “I Only Came to Use the Phone” is simply one of the scariest stories I’ve ever read. A woman’s car breaks down in the desert and she hitches a ride on a bus. But the bus’ destination is a women’s insane asylum where she’s mistaken for a patient. Asylum clichés are loaded on with a trowel but there is a terrifying plausibility as circumstances collude to keep her imprisoned.

A moray eel nailed to a door frame kicks off ‘Miss Forbes’s Summer of Happiness.’ Two young brothers are put under the care of an iron-fisted German governess, bringing an end to their paradisiacal Sicilian vacation and as her behaviour grows more and more appalling so does the resentment of the boys. "We soon realized that Miss Forbes was not as strict with herself as she was with us, and this was the first chink in her authority…"

‘Tramontana’ deals with a more inhuman menace, "a harsh, tenacious land wind that carries in it the seeds of madness…" Susceptibility increases with exposure so that the old pros have the most to fear. However, it is ‘The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow’ that best captures the pure disorientation of these pilgrims to the Old World. On their honeymoon in France, Billy Sánchez’s wife pricks her finger on a rose and begins, inexorably, to bleed to death. He rushes her to a Parisian hospital but then finds himself lost, unable to speak the language or regain admittance, doomed and isolated by bureaucracy and his own characters flaws.

Strange Pilgrims is a powerful concoction. Colourful imagery both enhances the terror and regret of displacement and conveys the beauty and mystery that lead a person to endure such homesickness. García Márquez appears not only to have been satisfied with Strange Pilgrims but to have made it the conclusion of his work with the form – in the twelve years to Memories of My Melancholy Whores he published journalism, a memoir and the novel Of Love and Other Demons but no more story collections, making this his crowning achievement in the field. It is exceptional. Simply put, it belongs in your Latin American literary collection. If you don’t have a copy, I demand that you get one.

http://pseudointellectualreviews.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/strange-pilgrims-gabri... ( )
1 vote nymith | Aug 13, 2014 |
This is a collection of short stories about Latino Americans traveling or living in Europe. Marquez lures the reader into the sense that any one of his stories may not really be going anywhere, but then it suddenly shifts into an impactful climax, which validates all that came before it. Another great quality in the stories is Marquez’s ability to touch upon the human condition in very subtle ways while using magical realism to do so. Also, his descriptions of landscapes and of certain people (particularly women) are succulent. ( )
1 vote JosephJ | Dec 16, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
García Márquez, Gabrielprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brotherus, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grossman, EdithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morino, AngeloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toelke, CathleenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Estaba sentado en el escaño de madera bajo las hojas amarillas del parque solitario, contemplando los cisnes polvorientos con las dos manos apoyadas en el plomo de plata del bastón, y pensando en la muerte.
The twelve stories in this book were written over the last eighteen years. (Prologue)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140239405, Paperback)

The Nobel Prize-winning author of Love in the Time of Cholera presents a collection of twelve stories that feature an aging streetwalker and her gravesite-mourning dog, a bereaved father's journey to Rome, a paranoid husband, and more. Reprint. AB. K.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:15 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The 12 stories in this shimmering collection poignantly depict South Americans adrift in Europe. Combining terror and nostalgia, surreal comedy and the poetry of the commonplace, Strange Pilgrims is a triumph of narrative sorcery by the Nobel Prize-winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude.… (more)

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Average: (3.86)
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