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Short story collection

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Original title: La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada
English title: The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and her Heartless Grandmother
Swedish title: Den otroliga och sorgliga historien om den troskyldiga Eréndira och hennes hjärtlösa farmor
Author: Gabriel García Márquez
Year: 1972

Having read and liked One Hundred Years of Solitude (review in Swedish), I felt quite confident that Gabriel García Marquez probably wouldn’t be guilty of writing something bad, the only question was how good this collection of short stories would turn out to be, as brilliant as the only novel I’ve read by him before or simply “good”? The latter is the most accurate answer, even though some of the stories were truly brilliant.

Language is the biggest reason to read García Marquez. He is a true magician that can use ordinary words and turn them into fantastic sentences, stunningly beautiful, but also conveying their meaning effectively. He doesn’t get it right every time, but he does often enough. Here are two examples from my Swedish translation:

Karibiens olyckligaste sjuklingar kom för att söka bot: en stackars kvinna som sedan barndomen räknade sitt hjärtas slag och som nu inte hade några siffror kvar, en karl från Jamaica som inte kunde sova därför att oväsendet från stjärnorna plågade honom, en sömngångare som steg upp på natten och förstörde det han hade åstadkommit på dagen, och många andra mindre allvarliga fall. (10)

De ville kedja fast ett ankare från ett handelsfartyg i anklarna för att han skulle gå till botten utan svårighet i de djupa vattnen där fiskarna är blinda och dykarna dör av hemlängtan… (34)

These are ingenious flashes of wonder, but what about the average level? García Marquez is a bit uneven in that the best he can do is probably the best I know, but that his average level is, although good, far from perfection. Some of the short stories are barely more than worthwhile, lacking both in story and in execution (I simply find them dull and/or boring). As I usually do, however, I will point out a few stories you really should read, even if you don’t plan on reading the entire volume (which spans only a little more than a hundred pages, so it shouldn’t take too much time).

First, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, the opening story, is by far the best one, followed by Blacamán the Good, Vendor of Miracles and the final story which lends its name to the entire collection: The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother. These are all worthwhile and I recommend them warmly. The reason I won’t give this collection more than three and a half snails is that the other short stories fell short of the mark and would earn only around three snails, sometimes even fewer. Regardless of that, I will still try to read more by Gabriel García Márquez in the future.

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