Nicholas's Reviews > The Autumn of the Patriarch

The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

it was amazing

Maintaining lucidity is a central challenge for both audience and protagonist in the dizzying and illusory narrative of Marquez's Autumn of the Patriarch. While its easy to dwell on the uncompromising style of a novel devoid of paragraphs, punctuation, and quotations delineating dialogue, such blurry tactics seal the bizarre entrancement of a novel concerned with the solitude of a bastard patriarch. Certainly it's no easy pie being tossed randomly into an unspecified Caribbean climate and period, but for those readers willing to tunnel into the narrative, a luscious comfort settles in and Marquez's familiar descriptive and story-telling abilities begin to sparkle.

In the words of the author: "my most important problem was destroying the lines of demarcation that separates what's real from what's fantastic," of which he succeeded marvelously. Time periods shift in mid sentence, making it difficult to establish an objective point of reference between past and present, transitioning from narrative voice into undifferentiated dialogue in an endless stream of dreamlike storytelling. An eccentric and daunting cast of scheming subordinates, presidential impostors, deceptive right-hand men, fine-tailored assassins, foreign dignitaries, and erstwhile nun love interests litter the storyline in the endless shifting between invisible arrangements of power.

But what's so redeeming about all of this, the disorienting prose and the frequent descriptive escapades, is the substantive exploration of power and illusion lying underneath it all. What is power if not a perception? An artifice exercised through others' mutual perception? Marquez underscores this artfully and brilliantly in his use of magical realism, heaving his readers into the same boat of illusions as his characters. One wavers like the throngs of peasants outside the general's palace, questioning his power -even his existence- one moment, exalting in it and praying for him days later. It's a calm delirium everyone gets used to. After all, don't we all, in various self-serving ways and forms, blamelessly submit to and exert control over one another? Marquez does not limit his comment to just those in positions of ultimate authority. There is a kind of symbiosis existing in the compatible illusions maintained across and between the layers of Caribbean society; between the general and his officers' fealty, the public and their expectations of royal power, between the general and his own position of authority, all transpiring unspoken and intimately connected. It all starts to feel so patently absurd as the novel spirals tighter and tighter into itself. You are left feeling the distant despair of life as some ridiculously orchestrated illusion, like an elephant floating by a balloon string, maintained by the inexplicable conviction that if we all pretend it floats, it really must.

It's easy to condemn the despicable and senseless acts governing the conscience of such a corrupt, festering patriarch, hell bent on perpetuating his appearance at all costs. Yet Marquez's careful attention to nuance while exploring the psyche of supreme power inspires a kind of sympathetic melancholy meditation of sorts, while simultaneously constituting a scathing, mocking indictment. Ultimately the illusion of power, or lack thereof, becomes all-reaching and unintelligible, even swallowing up the emperor himself. In his abject loneliness, pity replaces envy, power feels like a pestilent disease, and one is left with the conclusion that wherever happiness or a meaningful life may lie, the hierarchies of power afford little direction.
23 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Autumn of the Patriarch.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

August 22, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
September 19, 2008 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.