Here’s a couple of things you need to know about Gabriel García Márquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch:
- It is a difficult book to read. With sentences that run almost as long as a page and sometimes even longer, trying to get into the flow of the story is no easy task. Add to that the viewpoint, while predominantly with the patriarch, also changes to that of other characters without warning and often mid sentence, the reader has to be on the ball and also go with the flow of the telling of the story, wherever it might take you.
- Despite that, the telling and tale of The Autumn of the Patriarch is fascinating, if you can find yourself, even if for a moment, in tune with the writing and the way it unfolds. When I started reading this I wished it was over as it was a challenge trying to read more than a couple of pages without falling asleep. But I understand now why they say it requires a second, and maybe even third, reading. Because the first time around you’re in unknown waters, reading it as you would any other book. And the second time around is when you’ll shut yourself away from all distractions and read this book the way it should be read, immersing yourself in the magic of GGM’s words.
I admit though that if this was my first ever Márquez read, I would be extremely hesitant to attempt the others, no matter how critically acclaimed they are. Reading this requires work and commitment, and the reward is slow but, at the same time, it’s in the experience.
The story itself is about a dictator of an unknown country, who is both ruthless in his actions and behaviour, but, at the same time, one who is naive and foolish, lonely and broken. A man who never quite wanted the job but ended up living through it through his incredibly long life. It’s not my typical read, but a book written the way Márquez does is one worth reading.
So, here’s my suggestion: choose a weekend, or a couple of non-working weekdays. Cancel your plans. Unplug your phone, your tv. Turn off all notifications. Stock up on food and drinks. Choose a corner, any corner. A comfortable one is best, one you can sit for hours in. Send your pets, kids, spouse, housemates away. And then just read it and read it undisturbed. Give yourself completely and utterly to it. There’s no point staying in control.
But if you can’t do that, well, expect a challenging read ahead of you. Maybe you’ll get it, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll want to throw the book across the room and hurl curses at it. I won’t blame you. But if you get it, even the tiniest peek of it, I think you’ll get what I mean.
For now, let my brain rest, before it gears itself up for another Gabriel García Márquez experience in another five reads or so.