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Doce cuentos peregrinos.

In his introduction to Doce cuentos peregrinos Garcia Marquez explains why there are exactly twelve stories and in what sense they are "wandering": He once had a dream that he was attending his own raucous funeral. At the end everyone got to go home except him. "It was only then," he writes, "that I realized that dying means having to leave your friends forever." The dream provoked a new awareness of his identity as a Latin American living abroad. He began to take notes for stories about Latin Americans living in Europe. Over the years some were lost, then retrieved, then lost again. The stories, like the people they describe, were "wanderers." Finally, after a long process of unearthing or recreating some and eliminating others, he wound up with twelve. The best of these stories feature the combination of fantasy and reality and tongue-in-cheek hyperbole that are the hallmarks of Garcia Marquez's style. They capture beautifully the anguish of the transplanted Latin American, accustomed to the color and sensuality of his native land, and seeking new magic in his unfamiliar surroundings.

Some have political overtones, such as "Buen viaje, senor presidente" ("Have a Good Trip, Mr. President") and "El rastro de tu sangre en la nieve" ("The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow"). In "Buen viaje, senor Presidente," a poor couple from the Caribbean living in Switzerland befriends an ailing compatriot politician who is in Geneva for medical treatments. Although the husband succumbs to the corrupt deposed president's charisma and finesse, the practical, tough-minded wife remains skeptical. In the end, the couple winds up nursing him through his illness, even dipping into their meager savings to provide for his needs. Eventually, when hope seems lost, they make arrangements for him to make one final trip home, unaware that instead of going back to his country to die, the rejuvenated politician will soon be back to his old tricks. As in many of his early stories, the author focuses here on the innate goodness of the poor and the undying ambition of Latin America's ruling elite.

In "El rastro de tu sangre en la nieve," Billy Sanchez, the spoiled son of a rich Colombian, is honeymooning with his bride, Nena Daconte, in Europe, when the girl accidently pricks herself with a thorn and bleeds to death. When Nena first hurts herself, Billy is too self-absorbed to pay much attention, but finally realizes that something is seriously wrong and deposits her in a hospital in Paris. Far from his own world, in which the irrational and extraordinary are commonplace and in which he feels perfectly in control, Billy is now thrust into the absurdities of the highly rational. (For example, the Parisians park on the side of the street with even-numbered houses on even numbered days of the week, and on the other side on odd-numbered days; hospital visits are permitted only on Tuesdays.) Billy becomes so confused and disoriented that when Nena dies, he is wandering through Paris in a daze while doctors, ambassadors, authorities and relatives try to locate him. Billy's search for a sense of direction is the first step in his maturation. But Billy is more than an individual; he is an archetype of the wealthy, upper-class Latin American. Billy missed out on the only significant event of his life because he was "out of touch," just as the class he represents is missing out on the changes in society because it is out of touch with the common people and with those things that really matter.

Not all of these tales have such obvious political or sociological overtones. In "El verano feliz de la senora Forbes," ("Mrs. Forbes' Happy Summer") two young boys learn unexpectedly that their austere German nanny has been carrying on a torrid love affair. In "La luz es como el agua," ("Light is like Water") two Colombian youngsters living in Madrid discover that they can row and skindive just like in their native Cartagena by filling up their apartment with electric light and floating on it because "light is like water."

Quite a few of these twelve wandering stories flop at the end; they depict interesting characters and weave intricate plots, only to lead up to "so-what?" conclusions. But the best more than make up for the worst, and the collection proves that Garcia Marquez is still a consummate story-teller.
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Author:Mujica, Barbara
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Reviewing Barbara Mujica.
Next Article:Spanish American Authors: The Twentieth Century.

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