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Garcia Marquez's journalism and the gestation of El otono del patriarca.

In his well-known extended interview with Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, published in 1982, Gabriel Garcia Marquez affirmed what Mario Vargas Llosa had already observed ten years earlier: all of his writing can, in a sense, be considered part of one large work. He says" "En general, un escritor no escribe sino un solo libro, aunque ese libro aparezca en muchos tomos con titulos diversos" (79); for example, be adds, "Si te fijas bien, La hojarasca tiene la misma tecnica y el mismo tema (puntos de vista alrededor de un muerto) de El otono del patriarca" (79). The process of gestation of Garcia Marquez's primary novels underscores that all of his works form, in Vargas Llosa's words, "una vasta, dispersa ficcion" (234). As an eighteen-year-old, Garcia Marquez claims, be began work on a projected novel to be titled "La casa de los Buendia," whose protagonist was a solitary "coronel Aureliano Buendia." In 1950, fragments of this novel were in fact published as isolated columns in Colombian newspapers, when Garcia Marquez was employed there as a journalist. In frustration, he set the project aside, later claiming that "no tenia en aquel momento la experiencia, el aliento ni los recursos tecnicos para escribir una obra asi" (Olor 106). Later, in 1958, his travels and observations as a journalist led him to conceive the idea of writing a different novel, a portrait of a dictator. This project, for which preliminary research was done, was then held in abeyance when the author finally seized upon the tone and perspective from which to narrate Cien anos de soledad. After the publication of this work in 1967, Garcia Marquez returned to the other suspended novel, El otono del patriarca, which finally appeared in 1975. We can thus observe that the author spent some seventeen years accumulating and processing the content and technique of Cien anos (1950 through 1967), and an overlapping seventeen years projecting the eventual El otono del patriarca (1958 through 1975).

Five years before the publication of Otono, Garcia Marquez revealed the novel's governing principle, which be later reaffirmed in El olor de la guayaba: the solitary dictator whose life and death form the nucleus of the novel's plot is in fact another face of the coronel Aureliano Buendia. The author told Suzanne Jill Levine in 1970 that the dictator is what Aureliano Buendia had the potential of becoming, "alcanzando el poder en vez de renunciar a el" (qtd. in Janes 32); in other words, who the colonel would have been if he had won his thirty-two civil wars. As the author himself has pointed out to Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, in Cien anos, the general Moncada had predicted that Aureliano Buendia would become "el dictador mas despotico y sanguinario de nuestra historia" (Olor 105). Garcia Marquez adds: "En un momento dado, escribiendo la novela [Cien anos], tuve la tentacion de que el coronel se tomara el poder. De haber sido asi, en vez de Cien anos de soledad habria escrito El otono del patriarca" (Olor 105). Thus, the protagonist of the 1975 novel, the alternate face of the protagonist of the 1967 novel, is another incarnation of the protagonist projected back in 1950.

El otono del patriarca--like La hojarasca--is a long series of juxtaposed and intercalated monologues; unlike the earlier novel, however, the narrative voices are more difficult to distinguish. The story is conveyed through two main points of focalization: that of the aging patriarch, who, wandering through his palace now populated by cows, lepers, vultures, and overgrown vegetation, tries to recover the memory of his regime and his personal life, and that of the citizens, narrating as "nosotros," who finally venture into the palace and discover the patriarch's corpse. Besides these two first-person perspectives, other "yo" voices occasionally intrude, presenting a citizen's or a cohort's reaction to an incident narrated primarily by the patriarch. Each of the book's six chapters begins in a narrative style reminiscent of "realist" fiction, as Raymond Williams has pointed out (Garcia Marquez 119), although the material narrated is already hyperbolic and mythologized. As each chapter progresses, however, the focus shifts from the observers to the patriarch himself, from the present to the past, and from the physically real post-mortem to the blurred world of individual memory. Most notably, the grammar of the book--certainly the chief obstacle to a broad readership--follows this pattern toward the uncontrolled by progressively extending the length of the sentences. As Williams observes, while each chapter carries roughly the same number of pages, the number of discrete sentences is steadily reduced, from thirty-one sentences in the first chapter, to fifteen sentences in the fifth chapter. The sixth and final chapter, some sixty pages in length, is one vast, tumbling sentence (Garcia Marquez 119).

In content, the novel chronicles the repeated cycles of authoritarian stability and incipient revolution in the reign of the patriarch. Of obscure origins and an unremarkable military apprenticeship, the patriarch--only once referred to as "Nicanor" when summoned by "la muerte" at the novel's end--takes power in a coup and installs himself and his mother in the vast and bloodstained palace. In what Rhonda Buchanan has termed "cycles of rage" (75), he alternately places trust in certain subordinates--notably Patricio Aragones, Rodrigo de Aguilar, Jose Ignacio Saenz de la Barra--and orchestrates their fall when they become too powerful and, inevitably, betray him. In parallel fashion, be becomes obsessed with certain women--forming a triad, Manuela Sanchez, Francisca Linero, and his wife Leticia Nazareno--who also betray him and augment his solitude. The only figure of constant support is that of his mother, Bendicion Alvarado, who leaves him abandoned by her death, but who remains as an addressee and a mythical source of solace throughout the book.

Some proponents of socially committed literature have criticized the novel for its grammatical and symbolic profusion, its near-impenetrability, and its failure to condemn explicitly the actions and the character of the dictator. All of these thematic and stylistic elements distance the novel from its thematic predecessors, the dictator novels of the first half of the century. However, the author warned in 1969 that he did not intend to produce a social documentary, but rather a portrait of solitude and power, insisting that the novel "se preocupa menos por los efectos sociales que por la patologia del personaje" (qtd. in Dellepiane 72).

As with so many aspects of El otono del patriarca, a clue to this attitude can be found in the author's early journalism, published from 1948 through 1960. In October 1959, writing about "la novela de la violencia colombiana" for Bogota's newspaper La Calle, the journalist observed: "El drama [de la violencia] no era solo el del perseguido, sino tambien el del perseguidor.... porque no hay drama humano que pueda ser definitivamente unilateral" (IV: 767). He proposes that the novelists of Colombia approach the problem of "la violencia" from a new perspective, modelled on Camus's The Plague, in which "ni siquiera los microbios de la peste son definitivamente malos, ni sus victimas necesariamente buenas" (IV: 767). (1) In this 1959 article, the author establishes the central ambiguities of his own future novel, which will focus on the figure of the isolated dictator, himself a prisoner of his own power structure.

The genius of the novel's style lies in its link to this thematic objective. Garcia Marquez has said of both novels--Cien anos and El otono--that the element that kept him from producing them for so many years after their conception was the struggle to find the appropriate technical vehicles. He summarizes in his Nobel Prize speech, "La soledad de America Latina," that "el desafio mayor para nosotros ha sido la insuficiencia de los recursos convencionales para hacer creible nuestra vida" (qtd. in Hozven 225). In the case of Otono, the solution lay in conceptualizing the novel not as a narrative, but as a poem. (2) If we observe that the primary distinction between poetry and

narrative prose lies in the primacy of language and image in the former, and the primacy of plot in the latter, then we see exposed the poetic scaffolding, the lyrical structuring principles, of El otono del patriarca. The novel is in fact a conglomeration of images accumulated during the author's own life, from his observations of Latin America's reality and his travels through Europe and the Soviet Union, from those experiences directly related to dictatorship and from a broad journalistic trajectory that incorporated a huge variety of sources, themes, and techniques.

In a fascinatingly prescient column from 1952, Garcia Marquez writes of a Colombian poet, Carlos Castro Saavedra, who, as a result of his travels through Europe, discovered the images and perspectives from which to write his own native reality. (3) In other words, the perception and analysis of other realities lent him the insight necessary to view and represent Colombia; the young reporter writes that "fue como si alli [en Europa] alguien hubiera estado esperando a Castro Saavedra para darle noticias de su propia patria. Cuando regreso a nosotros, pocos meses despues, nos trajo a los colombianos, desde la bisabuela Europa, noticias de Colombia.... [S]u ultimo libro de poemas es el vigoroso testimonio de un hombre que viajo y encontro en el mundo, en las ciudades y los hombres del mundo, todo lo que su patria tiene de universal" (I: 782). Many critics have commented on the unique combination of the universal and the regional that characterizes the fiction of Garcia Marquez, in what Williams has termed a "transcendent regionalism" (Garcia Marquez 133). In fact, the observations made by the young journalist in Europe and in the Soviet Union clearly inform and inspire his later fictional representations of his own national reality.

The specific links between El otono del patriarca and the journalistic career that preceded it are definitive. Garcia Marquez, as a foreign correspondent for the Caracas publication Momento, visited the Soviet Union in 1957 and wrote a series of reports of which two elements are here significant: 1) the effects of Stalin's absolutism on the citizens, and 2) the image of Stalin's corpse lying in a glass coffin. Notably, in the latter account, Garcia Marquez writes: "Nada me impresiono tanto como la fineza de sus manos, de unas delgadas y transparentes. Son manos de mujer" (IV: 516). Very early in El otono del patriarca, the narrator observes "las manos lisas de doncella" of the dictator's corpse (17), "la mano de novia sensitiva con un guante de raso" (22). This clear link to Stalin's image, and the incongruity of these fine hands as being responsible for such inhuman atrocities, demonstrates that the impact of the earlier journey to the Soviet Union, and the images observed during that journey, were central to the visual conceptualization of the later novel. Throughout El otono del patriarca, the dictator's physical presence to the citizens is fragmented, reduced to the reiterated image of "los ojos de desencanto" and "la mano desvalida que iba diciendo adioses sin destino" (293). This connection, which has been observed by many critics, has surprisingly not led to a fuller exploration of the images accumulated through the journalistic travels and their contribution to the finished novel.

When asked whether Stalin's solitary corpse had in fact inspired the novel, however, Garcia Marquez points instead to another incident, one year later, which again his profession as journalist allowed him to observe first-hand: the fall from power of Venezuela's dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez in 1958. According to Dasso Saldivar's 1975 review of Otono, "Garcia Marquez, en quien en ese momento ebullian mas que todo los germenes del escritor, del artista, se hizo de inmediato estas dos preguntas: ?Que hubiera sido de este pais si ese hombre hubiese continuado en el poder? ?Que sera en el futuro de este pais? Estas dos consideraciones previas fueron los catalizadores en la gestacion de la novela. De ahi en adelante la idea se fue paulatinamente tornando en una obsesion ..." (4). Despite the fact that this connection is common knowledge among critics, a close examination of the origin of images in the journalistic prose of this period has not occurred. As one example of this connection, in his journalistic account of Perez Jimenez's last days in power, the author writes that the dictator spent his last night in power engaged in a game of dominoes with his lieutenant colonel, Guillermo Pacanins; predictably, the dictator won the game (IV: 847). In the later novel, the patriarch is represented as having an obsession with the game of dominoes, an obsession he shares with all of the other ex-dictators who have sought asylum in his country, and who now spend entire days playing dominoes with each other and with him. The patriarch acknowledges his respect for those few characters in the novel who dare to beat him at dominoes, although each eventually betrays him and is annihilated. The image is central to the novel and to the earlier news article, because it represents an obsession with strategy, the dictator's manipulation of the game reflecting his manipulation of his opponent and, by extension, of the world be dominates.

Close observation of other dictators also played a key role in Garcia Marquez's eventual representation of his mythical protagonist. According to Kathleen McNerney, the author "went to live in Spain under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco for more firsthand experience of day-to-day living under a tyrant" (71). She also mentions allusions to Venezuela's Juan Vicente Gomez, Haiti's "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Paraguay's Dr. Francia, and El Salvador's Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez. In fact, the dictator's hyperbolic excesses have been matched by history's real dictators, both of Latin America and of other countries, and the origins of many of the novel's images can be found in Garcia Marquez's journalism, of which over five hundred separate articles were collected and published by Jacques Gilard in 1982, and that have to date not been exhaustively studied. However, it should be noted that the eventual novel is much more than just the compilation of these earlier images and impressions; as the author reveals to Saldivar, after conducting his years of research and observation, "luego be tratado de olvidarlo para estar seguro de que no voy a copiar nada" (Saldivar 4). The literary result is a bricolage that, in its artistic and political implications, is truly original.

One of Otono's central images, not only from the novel's opening but reiterated throughout the work, is that of the cows that had invaded the palace, as the narrator relates: "Una tarde de enero habiamos visto una vaca contemplando el crepusculo desde el balcon presidencial, imaginese, una vaca en el balcon de la patria, que cosa mas inicua, que pais de mierda" (16). In interviews, Garcia Marquez has explicitly connected this image to the origins of many Latin American dictators, who have been, in his words "dictadores feudales y ganaderos ... [y] agropecuarios" (qtd. in Dellepiane 72). And in an interview with Raymond Williams, the author revealed that a photograph from Life Magazine of cows on the steps of a deserted palace was the specific inspiration for this dominant image of the novel: "When I was writing The Autumn of the Patriarch, there was a point at which I was struggling a lot. I had a certain idea about the palace, which eventually would appear at the beginning, but I just couldn't get it right. Then I came across this picture in a book, and the photo solved my writing of the novel. It was the image that I needed" (Williams 134).

Bur an earlier antecedent of this image can be found within Colombian reality, in a "Jirafa" column of April 1951 entitled "No era una vaca cualquiera." In this piece, published in Barranquilla's El Heraldo newspaper, the unexplained presence of a cow in the middle of a downtown traffic jam creates an absurd and carnivalesque atmosphere, which the young journalist juxtaposed to images of gubernatorial solemnity:
   En medio de los automoviles paralizados, de los innumerables
   transeuntes que a esa hora se dirigian al trabajo; corridas las
   cortinas metalicas de los almacenes y mientras un altavoz
   anunciaba, a todo volumen, las excelencias de una droga
   insustituible, ... alli estaba la vaca, seria, filosofica, inmovil,
   como la simbolica estatua de un Ministro Plenipotenciario.... el
   unico espectaculo vivo que se ha ofrecido en muchos anos.... Y a
   las cinco de la tarde la vaca era el personaje mas importante de la
   ciudad, el que habria podido subirse a una tribuna, a dar bramidos
   demagogicos, en la seguridad de que habria conquistado los votos
   necesarios para ingresar al parlamento. (I: 621-22)


In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Garcia Marquez remarks that Latin American writers "have had to ask but little of imagination," because they live in an "outsized reality" that "nourishes a source of insatiable creativity" (89). The accumulated images of El otono del patriarca are born of an observed reality, whose symbolism is recognized at the time but also stored away for future use, an archive of surreal juxtapositions later termed "magically real."

Two bizarre forms of capital punishment in the novel, hyperbolic and grotesque excesses of cruelty on the part of the patriarch and his regime, also may be traced to images from Garcia Marquez's early journalism. One is the electric chair, imported to the Third World from the United States as a more civilized way of killing. In El otono del patriarca, the following absurd account of the initial attempts to utilize the chair reveals the impossibility of adapting this technology to the dictator's mythical country:
   Escogian a los presos politicos mas exhaustos para entrenarse en el
   manejo del trono de la muerte cuyas descargas absorbian el total de
   la potencia electrica de la ciudad, conociamos la hora exacta del
   experimento mortal porque nos quedabamos un instante en las
   tinieblas con el aliento tronchado de horror.... no una vez sino
   muchas veces, pues la mayoria de las victimas se quedaban colgadas
   de las correas de la silla con el cuerpo amorcillado y echando
   humos de carne asada pero todavia resollando de dolor hasta que
   alguien tuviera la piedad de acabar de matarlos a tiros despues de
   varias tentativas frustradas. (248)


One of Garcia Marquez's earliest columns, from June 1948, narrates an anecdote about Haile Selassie, the ruler of Ethiopia, who had ordered an electric chair from the United States in an attempt to make his country seem more "civilized": "Por un motivo cualquiera las intenciones del mandatario de color no pudieron llevarse a la practica, y la silla electrica--que no podia quedarse sin uso--fue desprovista de sus transformadores, de su complicado aparataje voltaico, y paso a servir de trono a la originalisima majestad de Haile Selassie" (I: 94-95). Already, the electric chair is seen as an absurd imposition of the worst of US technology, an attempt to sanitize oppression and death; it is the ridiculousness of this attempt to assimilate to external measures of civilization that Garcia Marquez reworks in this particular image from El otono del patriarca.

Another grotesque and barbaric execution in the novel is that of the patriarch's most trusted aide, the minister of defense, Rodrigo de Aguilar. Because his is the greatest political betrayal, the dictator arranges a particularly gruesome exposure of the traitor's scheme; he gathers the other complicitous generals together, and then brings in the victim's body as the meal's main course:
   ... Rodrigo de Aguilar en bandeja de plata puesto cuan largo fue
   sobre una guarnicion de coliflores y laureles, macerado en
   especias, dorado al horno, aderezado con el uniforme de cinco
   almendras de oro ... y una ramita de perejil en la boca, listo para
   ser servido en banquete ... ante la petrificacion de horror de los
   invitados ... y cuando hubo en cada plato una racion igual de
   ministro de la defensa con relleno de pinones y hierbas de olor, el
   dio la orden de empezar, buen provecho senores. (166)


In the cascading sequence of memorable visual images that the poetic novel offers, this particularly vivid one also has its antecedent in the journalistic work, in a column from May 1951 that reviews a horror novel, La piel, by Italian writer Curzio Malaparte. In this novel, which the journalist savors as he retells it, an Italian chef, strapped for supplies during the Second World War, is charged with serving a succulent seafood banquet to two English guests; since he has nearly exhausted the supply of the National Aquarium, be has only one choice: to serve "la sirena de Napoles": "Y el ultimo bocado era, ni mas ni menos, una chiquilla con mayonesa sobre un lecho de frescas lechugas y en medio de una guirnalda de corales." The reviewer, journalist Garcia Marquez, then offers the following (translated) quote from the novel: "Yacia aquella chiquilla en la fuente de plata y parecia dormir. Pero por un imperdonable olvido del cocinero, dormia como los muertos, con los ojos abiertos, como aquellos a quienes nadie ha tenido la piadosa atencion de bajar los parpados" (I: 646).

Perhaps even more interesting than this metaphorical homage to Malaparte hidden within Otono is Garcia Marquez's 1951 assessment of Malaparte's narrative genius in creating the ideal horror novel; this critical commentary, written of Malaparte's novel, could easily be said to describe also the essential elements of horror in the later El otono del patriarca: "El depurado lirismo, que sostiene el libro en la mas elevada escala de la poesia; el sentido del humor, amargo y triste; la prodigiosa destreza en el manejo de la tecnica narrativa, la casi monstruosa capacidad de organizacion de los materiales que el conocimiento ha recibido en bruto y, por ultimo, su posicion ante la vida. Esta ultima, tan humana y comprensiva en Malaparte, es quizas su cualidad esencial" (645). In this assessment, Garcia Marquez admires the poetic nature of Malaparte's novel, exploring the idea later realized in his own novel of the centrality of the image, rather than an emphasis on the narrative plot.

One of the patriarch's weaknesses is his attraction to beautiful women, notably Manuela Sanchez, "la reina de la belleza de los pobres" (90), "una calendula de muladar cuya belleza inverosimil era el asombro de la patria ... con su traje de ninfa de volantes de muselina y la corona dorada con joyas de artificio y una rosa en la mano" (91). In spite of the dictator's repeated attempts to separate Manuela Sanchez from her origins and her surroundings and to win her over by showering her with gifts and even with the arrival of a comet that be dedicates to her, she is able to resist his power and to escape from him. In a 1952 "Jirafa" column entitled "La mujer que se parece a la ciudad" (I: 778), Garcia Marquez postulates that a beauty queen can embody the spirit of an entire city; he tells of a friend who, after meeting the carnival queen Gladys Rosania of Barranquilla, suddenly feels that he knows the entire city intimately: "Apuesto que Barranquilla tiene siempre este aire luminoso; que la gente, por dentro, es amplia y limpia de corazon como las calles ..." (778). The power that beauty holds for its possessor places her beyond the reach of her admirers, regardless of the social status of either one: Garcia Marquez writes that "una soberana sigue siendolo con iguales meritos, asi ande en su tranquilo traje de calle, o en el esplendoroso espumarajo de su traje de fiesta" (779), as untouchable as the essence of the city itself.

Another popular Colombian obsession that appears in both the early journalism and El otono del patriarca is the genre of the radio-novela, which grows to obsess the solitary patriarch, to the point that endings are changed and characters resuscitated in order to avoid disappointing him. In several "Jirafa" columns, Garcia Marquez comments with humor on the cultural force that the radio-novelas have acquired, to the point that be postulates that they are controlling the economics and politics of the nation. In "El derecho de cometer," for example (I: 636), the journalist notes that the handkerchief industry is booming because of the tears shed by the nation as a result of the popular radio-novela "El derecho de nacer." The characters become the objects of personal advertisements (I: 640), thus crossing the line from fiction to reality, and Garcia Marquez refers to this radio-novela as the national obsession in at least four subsequent columns.

A much more tragic image that might be considered of fantastic origin in El otono del patriarca is that of the "lottery orphans." In the novel, young boys are used in the rigging of the national lottery system; they are trained to draw from the barrel only the "bolitos" that contain the patriarch's winning numbers--"bolitos" that have been frozen and can therefore be detected by touch. However, these children who now know the secret cannot be returned to their families, and are therefore ordered to be held in a separate orphanage. Suddenly, the general becomes aware that there are over 2,000 of these boys of whom be must now dispose. The saga of their journeys continues for several pages; they are imprisoned, then banished, but their cries keep returning to him across the wind; finally they are dumped into the ocean, and the patriarch turns his attention to the massive subsequent cover-up. Two distinct references from the early journalism surface as possible sources of this episode. In 1955, the investigative reporter Garcia Marquez wrote a series called "El drama de 3.000 ninos colombianos desplazados" (III: 657) about children who had lost their parents either because of death or as a result of the chaos during the period of "la violencia." Later, during his trip through the Soviet Union in 1957, the writer tells of an incredible 32,000 children who were orphaned during the Spanish Civil War and transported to the Soviet Union in 1937 (IV: 733). They are reaching maturity at the time of Garcia Marquez's visit, and they now must decide whether to attempt to return to Spain under Franco, or to stay in the Soviet Union under communist authoritarianism. These images of vast numbers of orphans, who now create a bureaucratic problem rather than being seen as a human tragedy, clearly resurface in El otono del patriarca, where, like the earlier images, they are called by critics marvellous, hyperbolic, grotesque, and absurd, as if fiction offered images more bizarre than those of reality.

Several images from the novel had in fact found their first written manifestation in the journalism that chronicled Garcia Marquez's tour of the Soviet Union, mentioned earlier. In that series, he mentions the state control of information, referring to a radio "con un solo boton" (IV: 731) and "un solo periodico, estatal ... orientado y comentado" (IV: 744). This method of simulating free speech is referred to throughout El otono del patriarca. The journalist also notes that, in his later years, Stalin "no tenia edad," because he was only seen in outdated pictures that represented him as eternally young; in fact, "ninguna de las personas con quienes hablabamos en Moscu recuerda haberlo visto [vivo].... en cierto momento--en la cuspide de la gloria staliniana--se puso en duda su existencia" (IV: 747). These descriptions of a mythical dictator who abolished his own parliament in order to rule alone, and whose simulacrum replaced his own physical presence, clearly forecast the later patriarch of Garcia Marquez's novel. Additionally, those pages of journalism present for the first time the concept of masses of people whose behavior is controlled by their fear, as if they were marionettes whose controlling strings were held by the dictator himself: "Es evidente que hay un mito del corazon que frena la cabeza de los sovieticos" (IV: 747); "la gente habia sido preparada con consignas muy precisas" (IV: 741); "no se movia una hoja del arbol sin la voluntad de ese poder invisible" (IV: 747). These are the masses that appear throughout El otono del patriarca, that surround the patriarch's motorcade, that assemble outside his balcony, and that the military--the real government--manipulates to maintain the dictator's illusion that be is loved by his people, his last refuge against the terror of complete solitude.

The idea of mass ceremonies orchestrated by a huge, unseen puppeteer are clearly forecast in a journalistic piece entitled "Moscu: La aldea mas grande del mundo," during which the reporter witnesses a stadium full of spectators and foreign delegates who release colored balloons into the air: "El cielo de Moscu, iluminado con reflectores antiaereos desde los cuatro extremos de la ciudad, se lleno de globos de colores. Mas tarde supimos que aquel hermoso espectaculo--que nosotros mismos habiamos hecho sin saberlo--estaba previsto en el programa. Ese sentido de lo colosal, de la organizacion multitudinaria, parece ser un aspecto importante de la psicologia sovietica" (IV: 739). This colorful scene of orchestrated and mandatory celebration recurs in El otono del patriarca, during an early episode in which the dictator's nagging sense of worry is dispelled by "un terrible sentimiento de alivio, viendo los globos de colores en el cielo, los globos rojos y verdes, los globos amarillos como grandes naranjas azules, los innumerables globos errantes que se abrieron vuelo por entre el espanto de las golondrinas y flotaron un instante en la luz de cristal" (37). In the novel, these balloons are themselves an instrument of subversion, since they are later revealed to contain papers inscribed with antidictatorial slogans. The general misses this detail, however, and allows himself to be reassured by the surface appearance of tribute and of masses who appear to adore him with all sincerity, but who are in fact mete puppets of the regime.

A motif of recurrent significance in El otono del patriarca is that of bathrooms, alternately called "el excusado" and "la letrina," where the countertext to the official discourse appears, in the form of graffiti. The patriarch is tormented by the fact that, somehow, in spite of all of his lines of protection, subversives manage to infiltrate these private rooms and to post there anonymous messages demanding his overthrow: "En realidad los ultimos oraculos que regian su destino eran los letreros anonimos escritos en las paredes de los excusados del personal de servicio, en los cuales descifraba las verdades reconditas que nadie se hubiera atrevido a revelarle ... alli conocio las amarguras del mando supremo, las intenciones reprimidas de quienes medraban a su sombra y lo repudiaban a sus espaldas" (246). Later in the novel, the pathetic and solitary dictator grows nostalgic even for this negative reminder that he exists, and thus he himself replaces the graffiti with his own thinly disguised script: "Y sin embargo era mi letra, la unica caligrafia de mano izquierda que se encontraba entonces en las paredes de los excusados donde escribia para consolarse que viva el general, que viva, carajo" (263). Earlier, in 1957, the journalist Garcia Marquez recorded seeing in Hungary subversive graffiti in the public bathrooms: "Cuando la gente se calla--por miedo o por prejuicio--hay que entrar a los sanitarios para saber lo que piensa. Alli encontre lo que buscaba: entre los dibujos pornograficos, ya clasicos en todos los orinales del mundo, habia letreros con el nombre de Kadar, en una protesta anonima pero extraordinariamente significativa. Esos letreros constituyen un testimonio valido sobre la situacion hungara: 'Kadar, asesino del pueblo', 'Kadar, traidor', 'Kadar, perro de presa de los rusos'" (IV: 489).

One stylistic element that deserves further exploration is the dominating presence of olfactory symbols in El otono del patriarca. The emphasis on the sense of smell recurs throughout all of Garcia Marquez's fiction and journalisto, beginning with a 1950 column titled "El infierno olfativo," in which the columnist writes that "el sentido del olfato es implacable en la individualizacion de los recuerdos" and that "en ninguno de los cinco sentidos queda mejor marcado el tiempo que en el del olfato" (I: 433). The overriding smell in El otono is that of rotting--the palace itself, the decaying heads sent by Saenz de la Barra, the stench left by the flood and, later, by the removal of the ocean by US foreign-debt collectors, and finally the odor of the patriarch's own cadaver. In his journey through the Soviet Union in 1958, Garcia Marquez had noted a particular smell that accompanied his vision of general poverty and grayness, that leads him to refer again to Malaparte's novel mentioned earlier: "En la noche fuimos despertados por un insoportable olor de podredumbre. Tratamos de penetrar la oscuridad y averiguar el origen de ese tufo indefinible.... Yo pense que Malaparte sintio ese olor y le dio una explicacion criminal que ahora es un capitulo famoso de su obra. Mas tarde los mismos sovieticos nos hablaron de esos olores pero nadie pudo explicarnos su origen" (IV: 732). The connection of this stench with a general atmosphere of decay can be traced through all of Garcia Marquez's fiction, even through his most recent works.

The journalistic laboratory of daily columns and reporting provided the young author not only with a rich source of images and stories, but also with varied opportunities for stylistic experimentation. One early column is of particular stylistic relevance for El otono del patriarca: a 1950 "Jirafa" entitled "Una parrafada," consisting of one long run-on sentence--the chief stylistic element of the later novel. This column, like many of this series, deals with the difficulty of finding a topic for the daily assignment; the author narrates the events of "un jueves cualquier" during which "tiene uno la sensacion fisica de que en el mundo no esta suciediendo nada de particular" (I: 337). In a cacophonous sequence of connected phrases and clauses, with only a few nearly full stops provided by semicolons, Garcia Marquez presents the events of an ordinary day, from the irritations of the office--would-be poets, newspaper deadlines, the heat--to the frustrations at home--water shortages, interrupted showers, and again the heat. The columnist, under the pseudonym Septimus, depicts himself as swimming in a sea of time and space: "A la media hora descubrimos que no estamos durmiendo como creiamos sino nadando fisicamente en un mar que de todo podra tener menos de especifica capacidad natatoria ... sino que es verdadero e indiscutible mar de sudor no navegable; y siendo las dos nos hemos levantado hablando mal hasta del diablo y sus 17 satelites porque hemos perdido una hora mas de las veinticuatro que sin remedio vamos a perder completas" (338). In this phase of his stylistic experimentation, the young author attempts to link his grammatical writing style to the content of his column, which is meant to communicate the sense of floating adrift. While the focus of this piece is obviously humorous and not of transcendent thematic significance, in terms of technique it marks an important aspect of Garcia Marquez's literary apprenticeship, his willingness to reject the structures of traditional narrative in favor of a poetic grammar that communicates as much by image and sensation as by content. These same principles govern the structural patterns of El otono del patriarca.

The journalistic training involved a strict control of space, related to the editor's needs and the readers' attention span. The process of composing daily columns or news reports inculcated in the young writer the ability to create one central, vivid, multifaceted image in order to communicate an atmosphere or an idea. The primacy of the image is a concept not lost in the contemporaneous and later fiction, a concept that sees its fullest fruition in the poetic novel El otono del patriarca. Rather than telling us about what can happen under dictatorial rule, the author offers us a bricolage of images of what in fact has happened as a result of authoritarianism and the hunger for power. In the hands of the mature author, the accumulation and linkage of these images create a totalizing and powerful portrait of a dictator and a dictatorship whose individual pieces, once viewed, are never easily forgotten.

University of Kentucky

Works Cited

Buchanan, Rhonda L. "The Cycle of Rage and Order in Garcia Marquez's El otono del patriarca." Perspectives on Contemporary Literature 10 (1984): 75-85.

Dellepiane, Angela B. "Tres novelas de la dictadura: El recurso del metodo, El otono del patriarca, Yo, el Supremo." Cahiers du Monde Hispanique et Luso-Bresilien 29 (1977): 65-87.

Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. Obra periodistica. 4 vols. Ed. Jacques Gilard. Barcelona: Bruguera, 1981.

--. El olor de la guayaba: Conversaciones con Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza. Barcelona: Bruguera, 1982.

--. El otono del patriarca. Madrid: Alfaguara, 1982. 1st ed. 1975.

--. "The Solitude of Latin America (Nobel Lecture, 1982)." Trans. Marina Castaneda. Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the Powers of Fiction. Ed. Julio Ortega. Austin: U of Texas P, 1988.87-91.

Hozven, Roberto. "El otono ..., la horda y sus patriarcas." Cuadernos Americanos 44.1 (1985): 225-40.

Janes, Regina. "The End of Time in Cien anos de soledad and El otono dei patriarca." Chasqui 7.2 (1978): 28-35.

McNerney, Kathleen. Understanding Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina P, 1989.

Saldivar, Dasso. "Acerca de la funcion politica de la soledad en El otono del patriarca." Estafeta Literaria 561 (1975): 4-5.

Vargas Llosa, Mario. Garcia Marquez: Historia de un deicidio. Barcelona: Barrai, 1971.

Williams, Raymond. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Boston: Twayne, 1984.

--. "The Visual Arts, the Poetization of Space and Writing: An Interview with Gabriel Garcia Marquez." PMLA 104 (1989): 131-40.

(1.) Here Garcia Marquez, whose own novel about the dictator has already been under formulation for at least one year, cites as a possible model the Nobel laureate of two years before--an ironic prefiguring of his own Nobel Prize, awarded in 1982.

(2.) The writer reveals in El olor a la guayaba that his first interest in literature came about as a result of his discovery of poetry. In response to Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza's question "?En cual de tus libros crees que se observa mas tu formacion poetica?," he responds that Otono is the work that "yo trabaje como si fuese un poema en prosa" (71). 3. Jacques Gilard also comments on this article, in his introduction to volume IV of the Obra periodistica (15).
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Title Annotation:Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Author:Carvalho, Susan
Publication:The Romanic Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:3COLO
Date:May 1, 2010
Words:6314
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