Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The beginning of the General and his Labyrinth

Well this book feels like a picture book in comparison to I The Supreme. My first favorite (please excuse my American spelling) passage from this book was on page 5: "Then he plucked the hairs in his nose and ears, polished his perfect teeth with charcoal powder on a silver-handled silk brush, trimmed and buffed the nails on his fingers and toes, and at last took off the poncho and poured a large vial of cologne over his entire body, rubbing it in with both hands until the flask was empty. That dawn he officiated at the daily mass of his ablutions with more frenetic severity than usual, trying to purge his body and spirit of twenty years of fruitless wars and the disillusionments of power."
That was a long passage, I know, but it was all so packed with good detail and distinct images. If an author is able to do this by page 5, one must know that this will be at the very least a decent book. The reader begins to get an idea of the character by the absolute ridiculousness he goes to in primping and beautifying oneself. I laughed at the point when he poured cologne all over himself, just at the image and idea, I guess. Upon reading the last line, the image becomes less humorous and emphasizes and teaches even more about this man we know very little about. He's, in a sense, absolving his sins and memories through the scent of something nicer, something that would rid his memory. Already I can tell this will be a slighty more hopeful book than the ones we've read prior to this, and if Marquez can make me laugh and feel wistful and sad within the first five pages, that's a very good sign about the strength of his writing.
The sadness and empathy you feel for Simon at points is almost palapble. I think the message from some of it though is very ironic and makes some very interesting statements about human nature and life in general. Here this man is, he's liberated so many people, but it's not the Disney ending we would have hoped for. People still are angry and resentful, and a person who takes on the responsibility of freeing or helping a person, a nation, a people, whatever, has to know beforehand that they may not get the recognition or response they desired. Life has a way of going a different direction of one's expectations.

1 comment:

eshiu said...

That's a neat analysis of the cologne pouring - I had never thought about that before.
What's interesting about Bolivar that I found during research for wiki, which may or may not appear in the book, is that though he did so much for the nation, but it seems he never really expected extreme gratification. He had actually said that he preferred the title of "First Citizen of Colombia" instead of being crowned.