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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Book Review
The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975)
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    The Autumn of the Patriarch is probably Marquez's third most famous title behind One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.    The Autumn of the Patriarch is more challenging than either of the two other books.   It is more of a "prose-poem" then a novel.  The sentences are long and opaque, the plot thin to non-existent.  What it does contain is atmosphere, loads of it.  The atmosphere oozes from the walls of the decreipt Presidential palace, the location of the even-more decrepit Patriarch in question who is, "in reality" a dictator of an unnamed Latin American backwater, but who bears a marked resemblance of several of the uniformed"Caudillo's" (strong-men) of Latin American politics in the post World War II 20th century.

   In that sense, The Autumn of the Patriarch is a minor-key in the ballad of literature about 20th century dictatorships, ranging from the experience of German's under Hitler, the victims of Hitler, the experience of Russians under totalitarian Communism, the experience of the Chinese under Mao and assorted other victims of power-mad single-person state governments.   What makes it worth while is the attempt, with however much poetic license, to get inside the head of the perpetrator, rather than his victims.   Nothing is pointed enough to constitute a specific criticism of a specific person, rather The Autumn of the Patriarch is an attempt to make the reader feel the stench of corruption engendered by a totalitarian regime

  It is an irony of 20th century history that regimes that are imposed with the specific idea of instilling discipline, purity and respect for authority so frequently obtain the opposite result, as citizens passively resist edicts they've had no part in formulating.   I was surprised at times by the gross-ness of the imagery.  It seems like few people have actually made it all the way through to the end, because there are scenes of De Sadian depravity towards the middle-end that really blow your hair back.

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