Leaf Storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Synopsis of Leaf Storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:
Drenched by rain, the town has been decaying ever since the banana company left. Its people are sullen and bitter, so when the doctor – a foreigner who ended up the most hated man in town – dies, there is no one to mourn him. But also living in the town is the Colonel, who is bound to honor a promise made many years ago. The Colonel and his family must bury the doctor, despite the inclination of their fellow inhabitants that his corpse be forgotten and left to rot.

My take

First line: I’ve seen a corpse for the first time.

I was an instant fan of Gabo since I read 100 Years of Solitude some years ago. So it is indeed a treat to go back to his earlier writings and “reminisce,” tracing how his stories and characters have grown over time. The setting, the town of Macondo, is one and the same; and the doctor was in fact introduced to the colonel by no less than Aureliano Buendia.

This is actually much more straightforward in terms of story. Leaf Storm does not rely too heavily on magical realism as compared to 100 Years, but you feel traces of it.

The book opens with the perspective of a young boy, uncomfortable in his clothes, no, his own skin … as he views a dead body for the first time in his life. Along with his mother and his grandfather (the colonel), they are the only people in the village that came to keep watch over the corpse of the doctor.

Through an often-times confusing yet mesmerizing mishmash, the story of why the Colonel was bound to honor the dead doctor slowly unravels. Three perspectives … their thoughts, their observations, their recollections … these overlap each other. This was quite bewildering – on the one hand trying to figure out whose thoughts I was getting a glimpse of, and on the other hand, learning the bizarre story of this man who had pushed the hospitality of the Colonel to the limit and sparked the ire of the entire town.

In the end, no remembers nor really cares about the dead doctor. The story is not merely about a doctor but of an entire village. And more importantly, through the recollections, you go along on the same internal journey of the three characters from three generations.

When I read Gabo, I sometimes feel like I am suspended in between reality and a dream, as he brings a strangely eerie atmosphere with his descriptions. You can almost feel the sweat trickling down your own brow, breathe the thick heavy air, and know the stench of a dead body.

The term “leaf storm” was used as a metaphor for the arrival and departure of a banana company; with its entrance in Macondo came prosperity and abundance and with its departure, it again it again disappeared into oblivion. Just like the doctor.

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