As I got sucked into the great filigree of García Márquez’s narrative I felt as if I’d been given back a trunk of family treasures that had been stolen from me when I was eight years old, the age when I first began reading English properly: The Telegraph, India
As I’ve written elsewhere, I was pointed towards One Hundred Years of Solitude when I was in my early twenties and living in New York City. The pleasurable shock of reading that book is still vivid in my bones. Looking back, I realize I was till that point completely a hostage of el Norte, of the Anglo-Americo-European north, and its limited notions of what comprised a good story, what comprised a novel, what comprised the list of narrative forms admissible in a serious work or art. As I got sucked into the great filigree of García Márquez’s narrative I felt as if I’d been given back a trunk of family treasures that had been stolen from me when I was eight years old, the age when I first began reading English properly. Sweltering in that New York August, suddenly the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, the Panchatantra, and all the crazy folk tales, were all back with me, all of them now open pathways, inviting me out of the deep parochialism that often streaks through places that imagine they are the centre of the universe.
Speaking of Hemingway and Faulkner, GGM writes about how writers read others’ novels only to figure out how they are written: “We aren’t satisfied with the secrets exposed on the surface of the page: we turn the book around to find the seams. In a way that’s impossible to explain, we break the book down to its essential parts and then put it back together after we understand the mysteries of its personal clockwork.”
In those days I wasn’t particularly interested in reverse-engineering GGM’s prose joinery. It was films I wanted to make, fiction and documentary, so the taking apart was what I and others like me did with cinema (which in those pre-VHS days involved going back to a theatre to see a film n number of times), while books were purely for pleasure, for the deepening of insights, for inspiration.