Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez



Back blurb of Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: In Barcelona, an aging Brazilian prostitute trains her dog to weep at the grave she has chosen for herself. In Vienna, a woman parlays her gift for seeing the future into a fortune-telling position with a wealthy family. In Geneva, an ambulance driver and his wife take in the lonely, apparently dying ex-president of a Caribbean country, only to discover that his political ambition is very much intact.

In these twelve masterful stories about the lives of Latin Americans in Europe, Garcia Marquez conveys the particular amalgam of melancholy, tenacity, sorrow and aspiration that is the emigre experience.

My two cents

This is a fantastic book! If you aren't quite ready to plunge into Garcia Marquez's full length books, this one will give you a feel for how he writes. Despite some of these stories being only a few pages long, the stories will stay with you. They are beautifully un-verbose and showcase his gift for storytelling in magical, mystical prose. That is Garcia Marquez's magic.

If you've ever been in a foreign land, you can easily empathize with these characters' feelings of alienation and dislocation; of existing yet being unrooted from your realities and somehow making ones' self fit. The fit may not be quite right, but one manages.

Being of some Spanish influence, I believe that Filipinos (especially immigrants, overseas workers, and simply those visiting Europe and Americas) will see themselves in these characters and how they will tend to cling to familiar and often comforting traditions. You can change the exterior, but deep down you know who you are.

One of the most disturbing stories for me was the one where a woman simply wanted to use the phone ... but nonetheless ended up in an asylum. Over time she did become half insane. It is the tragedy of communicating, yet not being believed.

I have many favorite short stories here. Each story can be read leisurely in a few minutes. I suggest you not to rush through the entire thing in one sitting but savor each story, let it stay with you, and maybe even re-read it.

I've marked my favorite stories, through I loved each story in its own way.
  • Bon Voyage, Mr President
  • The Saint
  • * Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane
  • * I Sell My Dreams
  • "I Only Came to Use the Phone"
  • The Ghosts of August
  • María dos Prazeres
  • Seventeen Poisoned Englishmen
  • Tramontana
  • Miss Forbes's Summer of Happiness
  • *Light is Like Water
  • *The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow

The stories in this collection were originally written in a span of some 20 years, during the 70s and 80s. It wasn't published until 1992. Garcia Marquez draws from his own experiences as he spent some years as an exile from his native Colombia.

2 comments

  1. Sounds awesome. While I wasn't a big fan of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera is one of my all time favorite books. I'll have to check this collection out. Thanks for recommending it! The one about the woman wanting to use the phone sounds absolutely intriguing!

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  2. That's why I haven't read it yet! It's short stories. I have started enjoying shorts more of late though, so I think it could be time.

    If you like short stories, have you ever read Kelly Link? I'm so in love with her work. I heard about her first through npr:
    http://www.npr.org/2011/07/14/135703690/tales-that-cast-spells-stranger-things-happen

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