Monday, October 17, 2005

Is it getting better/ Or do you feel the same?

A long time ago, I gave up on Latin American writing. It was the names that did me in. However delectable the narrative might be, I found myself tripping over these grand, leaden lumps of nomenclature. Don Seferino Huanca Leyva. Lucho Abril Marroquin. Jose Arcadia Bienda. Santa Sofia de la Piedad, mother of Aureliano and Jose Arcadio Segundo.

The more I read, the sooner I realised (with a somewhat sinking heart) that this was not a land of first names or terms of endearment. Everyone was addressed by their full names at every twist and turn of their literary lives. And I couldn't handle it. (Years later, I learned I wasn't alone in my confusion.)

In fact, back in the days when I refused to abandon a book midway, I remember giving up on Mario Vargas Llosa's Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, a fascinating book if only the protagonists' parents were kinder.

With the possible exception of Paulo Coelho, I've persisted with my Latin American-free reading habits. Until a perfectly random conversation that ended with an offhand suggestion that I read Love in the Time of Cholera. The fact that the comment stayed with me has more to do with my niggling sense of unfairness at boycotting a whole genre of writing for an incredibly shallow reason than with the credentials of the one making the comment.

So I did it. Read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's stunning narrative of love, and its ability to shape character; of the passage of time; of fickleness and understanding; of the drama of everyday life. Can't remember the last time a book drew me in this way.

Perhaps it wasn't the names, after all. Maybe I was just meant to wait -- patiently, quietly, distanced from the romance of Latin America -- till this book.

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