Jack’s Naughty Bits: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Autumn of the Patriarch

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Jack's Naughty Bits

García Márquez is primarily known, in this country at least, for his
monumental One Hundred Years of Solitude (Bill Clinton’s favorite book), yet I
believe his subsequent work, El Otono del Patriarca (The Autumn of the
), to be an even finer literary achievement. For a long time I read nothing but
Autumn; it seemed so complete, so lyrical and poignant, so exquisitely sad and
oceanic that I would finish and, instead of starting something new, I’d just pick it up and
read it again.


I legally can only excerpt three hundred of García Márquez’
magnificent words; this is a shame, as three hundred words of Autumn is but a
fraction of a sentence. The passage below, however, is not only wonderfully sexy and
evocative, but demonstrates in miniature the snowfall rhythm and complexity of the novel,
which, rereading it now, tempts me again never to read anything else.

* * *

From Gabriel García Márquez’ Autumn of the Patriarch

(condensed from the original)

I couldn’t conceive of the world without the man who made me happy at the age of twelve
as no other man was ever to do again since those afternoons when after school he would be
lying in wait for the girls in blue uniforms with sailors’ collars, he would call to us, entice
us with candy, they all ran off frightened, all except me, when no one was watching I tried
to reach the candy and he grabbed me by the wrists with a gentle tiger’s claw and lifted me
painlessly up into the air with such care that not a pleat in my dress was wrinkled and he
laid me down on the urine-scented hay, he was more frightened than I, you could see his
heart beating under his jacket, he was pale, his eyes were full of tears, he touched me in
silence with a tenderness I never found again, he made my little buds stand out on my
breasts, he put his fingers underneath the edge of my panties, he smelled his fingers, he
told me, it’s your smell, I didn’t need the candy any more to climb through the stable
skylight to find him waiting for me with his bag of things to eat, he used bread to soak up
my first adolescent sauce, he would put things there before eating them, he gave them to
me to eat, he put asparagus stalks into me to eat them marinated with the brine of my inner
humors, delicious, he told me, you taste like a port . . . he left me to boil in the
incandescent fleeting mallow sunsets of our love with no future telling me that not even he
himself knew who he was . . .

© Harper and Row, Publishers Inc. (translation modified)