Marquez: Resistance, Rebellion and Reading
ON previous occasions when I have tried to think or write about Mar quez, I have always done so with some connection with Salman Rushdie in mind. For a variety of reasons, I am going to resist developing the topic I have had in mind then, tempting as it is, although I shall briefly indicate its nature. I have a fascination for Walter Benjamin's essay on Leskov' and story-telling. I was persuaded that much of modem literature evidences a denial of story-telling exemplified by Forster's grudging admission that oh my dear yes, the novel must tell a story. For that reason I thought Rushdie and Marquez significant in their resurrection of story-telling. They both have one virtue of story-tellers, in that they bring news of exotic lands (I am aware of the bias, or point of view in that statement). They both, also, are n^ore or less explicitly critical of social structures that are alienating, and as Benjamin points out, story-telling requires at least an audience of one : it is not an activity that can be carried out in solitude, hence it formally embodies the values of human community and communication. These were the values I hoped I was finding in Rushdie and Marquez.
This neat little formulation must be allowed to remain in its undeveloped form, however, since it is more rewarding in the long run to trust to one's actual reading experience than to one's hopes. My reading of Rushdie more and more insists that one ought to resist his cleverness and require less malicious, if entertaining, gossip in him and more of a rigorous chastening of his fantasy by reality. His legal battle over the potential libel ofMidnights Children is a fascinating example of the way in which literature interacts with society. My experience of Marquez—even when I thought I was praising his qualities—was that he was all but unreadable (with the possible exception of the story of Innocent Erendira, which I must have been misreading). I had encountered many people who couldn't get through Rushdie, whereas I flowed through Midnight's Children with virtually no resistance. I couldn't get more than a hundred pages into One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Journal of Arts and Ideas 59