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a life

May 28, 2009

Excerpt from Gabriel García Márquez: A Life by Gerald Martin:

What was Luisa thinking as she gazed out of the train window? Perhaps she had forgotten how uncomfortable this journey was going to be. Was she thinking of the house where she had spent her childhood and youth? How everyone would react to her visit? Her parents. Her aunts. The two children she hadn’t seen for so long: Gabito, the eldest, and Margarita, his younger sister, also now living with her grandparents. The train whistled as it passed the small banana plantation named Macondo which she remembered from her own childhood. A few minutes later Aracataca came into view. And there was her father the Colonel waiting in the shade . . . How would he greet her?

No one knows what he said. But we do know what happened next.1 Back in the old Colonel’s Big House, the women were preparing little Gabito for a day he would never forget: “She’s here, your mother has come, Gabito. She’s here. Your mother. Can’t you hear the train?” The sound of the whistle arrived once more from the nearby station. Gabito would say later that he had no memory of his mother. She had left him before he could retain any memories at all. And if she had any meaning now, it was as a sudden absence never truly explained by his grandparents, an anxiety, as if something was wrong. With him, perhaps. Where was grandfather? Grandfather always made everything clear. But his grandfather had gone out.

Then Gabito heard them arrive at the other end of the house. One of his aunts came and took his hand. Everything was like a dream. “Your mamma’s in there,” the aunt said. So he went in and after a moment he saw a woman he didn’t know, at the far end of the room, sitting with her back to the shuttered window. She was a beautiful lady, with a straw hat and a long loose dress, with sleeves down to her wrists. She was breathing heavily in the midday heat. And he was filled with a strange confusion, because she was a lady he liked the look of but he realized at once that he didn’t love her in the way they had told him you should love your mother. Not like he loved grandpa and grandma. Not even like he loved his aunts. (read excerpt or review)

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