Tag-Archive for ◊ maternal grandparents ◊

• Saturday, June 13th, 2015

Mario Vargas Llosa was born into a middle class family in Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city, in 1936. His parents were separated a short time before his birth. Llosa spent his early childhood with his mother and maternal grandparents in Cochabamba in Bolivia, being falsely told by his mother that his father had died. Ten years later his parents reconciled, causing an abrupt change to Llosa’s life because, after being pampered by his mother and grandparents, he now found himself with an authoritarian, severe father. In 1947 Llosa went to the Christian middle school, Colegio La Salle.

Discovering his only child’s passion for writing when in his early teens, Ernesto Vargas, Llosa’s dictatorial father, wanting to prevent him pursuing a literary career – which he considered good for idle rich people – sent him to the rigidly disciplined Leoncion Prado Military Academy in Lima. This period will later be described by Llosa in his first novel, The Time Of The Hero, published in 1963 as “the discovery of hell”.

Living in a country led by an oppressive dictator and having a despotic father will make Llosa fight strongly to condemn any stifling, abhorrent dictatorship that suppresses individual freedom in any shape or form.

After dropping out of the academy, Llosa pursued his studies in Piura, north of Peru, while working as a journalist for a local newspaper. In 1953 Llosa studied literature and law at the National University of San Marcos and in 1958 won a scholarship to study in Madrid and later went to live in Paris. Llosa became a journalist, an essayist and a politician, running unsuccessfully in the presidential elections of 1990.

Mario Vargas Llosa is a prolific writer, having written many novels, non-fiction and drama. He has also received numerous awards and honours including the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature about which he was informed in a telephone call received in New York when teaching a semester at Princeton University. He has been married twice and has three children from his second wife.

The Way To Paradise recounts, in alternating twenty-two chapters and by moving back and forth, the historical biographical story of two extraordinary destinies: the post-impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin, and his illegitimate, socialist reformer and feminist grandmother, Flora Tristan. Flora was born to a wealthy Peruvian father and French mother and grew up in poverty following her aristocrat father’s death when she was just four years old. At the time, French law did not recognise her parents’ marriage and consequently she did not inherit her father’s estate as she was considered an illegitimate child.

Flora, who died in 1844 at the age of forty-one, never saw her grandson, Gauguin, born in 1848. Although they didn’t know each other and apart from their kinship, they both had one target, namely to aspire to achieve an insatiable and unrealistic dream in order to reach their much-coveted paradise on earth.

Flora wanted a complete change in the society of her time, where workers were poor, crushed and exploited by factory owners who worked them hard for a pittance in an unhealthy environment, while the destitute women and children were earning half a pittance for the same work. Flora was also campaigning for women to have a dignified and better life, whether they were poor, enslaved women workers or enslaved bourgeois women. Her fight for workers’ rights and women’s equality and emancipation from oppression is unprecedented and well ahead of her time.

In order to achieve her goal, Flora doesn’t spare any effort. She abandons her three children and André Chazal, the husband she detests and who made her hate sex. During the last months of her life she tours incessantly all over France for the sake of promoting her cause, travelling from town to city to recruit members for her Workers’ Union and encouraging workers to unite because unity is strength against the exploiters.

She publishes many works, her best-known being: Peregrinations Of A Pariah, published in 1838, Promenades In London in 1840 and her famous final work, The Workers’ Union in 1843, in which she criticises capitalism and its exploitation of workers in France. She is sometimes made fun of, threatened and rebuked but never gives-up her dream.

As for Gauguin, he quits his successful, well-paid job as a stockbroker in Paris in 1884 at the age of thirty-six and decides to become a full time artist. Soon after he abandons his Danish wife, Mette Gad, and his five children. In order to escape the civilised world, he looks for an unspoilt life in rural Brittany, in Pont-Aven then close by in Le Pouldu where he “went in search of the savagery and primitivism that seemed to him fertile ground for the flourishing of great art”. After a short, unfortunate conflictual cohabitation with Van Gogh in Arles, he travels to Panama followed by Martinique then Tahiti, which he finds a disappointment having been defiled by French colonialism.

Frustrated when realising that things are not as easy as he imagines and that his dream might never be fulfilled, and now consumed by syphilis, he goes to Atuona, Hiva ‘Oa in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia which he thinks has maybe been slightly less spoilt by French colonialism, but to no avail. He spends the last two years of his life there and is buried in 1903 in the cimetière Calvaire, the main cemetery on the island, leaving behind a great collection of paintings, ceramics and wood carvings. Although not given the recognition deserved during his lifetime, after his death Gauguin’s paintings have made him immortal.

Gauguin believed that art had to be subjective to represent the artist’s vision and what goes through an artist’s mind and soul, he said when he was in Le Pouldu near Pont-Aven in Brittany: “Art is abstraction; draw art as you dream in nature’s presence, and think more about the act of creation than about the final result”.

The two lives had their differences: Flora was more concentrated on awakening the working classes to their rights in order to forge a better, brighter future for them, while her grandson, Gauguin, was searching everywhere for the unspoilt, “uncivilised” past. Nevertheless, Gauguin’s life was more colourful and interesting than his grandmother Flora’s, who spent a great deal of her time indefatigably touring in France, organising endless workers’ meetings to recruit support for her workers’ union.

They also had their similarities: Flora and her grandson Gauguin, both rebelled against the establishment and had one objective in mind, their endeavour to liberate themselves from the traditionalist society of their time. They were both obstinately tenacious in their quest, stoically enduring the hardship they encountered as well as both suffering lingering illnesses leading to their deaths. In order to reach their ideals, they both courageously reject the comfortable, bourgeois existence they could have both lived and opt instead for the hard struggle in the hope of attaining their idealistic life.

The Way To Paradise, although slow-moving and repetitive at times, is a well-researched novel. It is a fascinating double biography of a grandmother and her grandson who, through their eagerness, strong ambition and obstinacy, were unstoppable in their endeavours thus leaving their mark on the history of humanity.

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• Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in Arcataca in the north of Colombia in March 1928. His parents struggling to make a living,little Gabo was raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandfather was a Colonel, a liberal veteran of the War of a Thousand Days, a hero and a very good story teller who lived an intriguing life.

His grandmother was full of superstitions, premonitions and ghost stories. She was also a very talented story teller and had the art of telling tales as if they were real.

Garcia Marquez will be deeply influenced by both his grandparents. Many years later he will use these unforgettable tales in his famous and most successful novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

“The tone that I eventually used in One Hundred Years Of Solitude was based on the way my grandmother used to tell stories. She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness.” Garcia Marquez will say later in his life: “I feel that all my writing has been about the experiences of the time I spent with my grandparents”.

When he was eight years old he went to live with his parents in Sucre, a department in the north of Colombia, due to his grandfather’s death and to his grandmother’s blindness. His father was a pharmacist. The young Garcia Marquez was sent to a boarding school in Barranquilla, a port city in Colombia. He was known as the shy, serious, non-athletic boy who wrote humorous poems and drew cartoons. At the age of twelve he was awarded a scholarship in a Jesuit-run secondary school for bright students.

After graduating at eighteen in 1946, Garcia Marquez, to please his parents, enrolled in the Bogota University as a law student against his wishes. But he didn’t like his studies. He quitted university.

His life changed when he came across Kafka’s famous book “The Metamorphosis”. He says: “I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing long time ago… That’s how my grandmother used to tell stories, the wildest things with a completely natural tone of voice.”

From now on Garcia Marquez is going to read many books and dedicate his life to writing. He started his career as a journalist and moved unto literary writing.

He wrote fiction:
“In Evil Hour in 1962
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” in 1967
“The Autumn of The Patriarch” in 1975
“Love In The Time of Cholera” in 1985
“Of Love And Other Demons” in 1994
“Strange Pilgrims” (twelve stories) in 1992
“Memories of My Melancholy Whores” in 2004

His Novellas:
“Leaf Storm”, “No One Writes To The Colonel”, “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” in 1961
“The General In His Labyrinth” in 1989

He wrote non- fiction:
The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailorin 1970
The Fragrance of Guavain 1982
Clandestine in Chilein 1987
News of a Kidnappingin 1996
For The Sake Of A Country Within Reach Of The Childrenin 1998
“Living to Tell the Tale” in 2002
He also wrote many short stories.

In 1981 Garcia Marquez was awarded the French Legion d’honneur medal, and in 1982 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His novel One Hundred Years of Solitude had sold 36 million copies by July 2007.

Garcia Marquez has been married since 1958 to Mercedes Barcha and has 2 children, Rodrigo Garcia, the television and film director in the USA, and Gonzalo Garcia Barcha, who also works as a title designer for the cinema in the USA.

In 1999 Garcia Marquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. He lives in Mexico city.
He has released the first volume of a promised set of three volumes of his memoirs in 2002, “To Live To Tell It”, the story of his life till 1955.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” is a spell-bound novel with multiple events and stories. An epic, like La Chanson de Roland, it has its base seamlessly interwoven from reality combined with fantasy. A chronicle of life and death. A tragicomedy with many characters and through these characters we are introduced to the life of the mythical village of Macondo which is in reality the story of Colombia and its civil war between the Liberals and the Conservatives which had the peak of its bloodshed in 1899 and ended in late 1902.

And like his novella, “In Evil Hour”, where Garcia Marquez writes about the killing of a hundred and fifty thousand Colombians by 1953, in “One Hundred Years of Solitude” Marquez describes the terrible massacre of a hundred thousand people with the defeat of the Liberals. Garcia Marquez’s grandfather fought in that war. He also wrote about the anti western massive workers strike against The United Fruit Company and their banana plantations in Macondo, and the massacre that followed.

The author has mixed together reality, fantasy and history with great magical success. The influence of Marquez’s grandparents is strongly felt in the book, with the raging war between the Liberals and the Conservatives, the mysterious gypsies, like the enigmatic Melquiades and his prophecies, and his ghost that kept on appearing and disappearing in the house. Also the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar who keeps on inviting itself into José Arcadio Buendia’s house after being killed by the latter because of jealousy over his wife Ursula. For many years after his death he will haunt the house in search of water to clean its wound and Ursula taking pity on him and leaving for him water jugs in every corner of the house.

The story of Macondo is the story of the people who founded the village from beginning to end during a hundred years. It all started with “twenty adobe houses,built on the bank of a river of clear water… It was a truly happy village where no one was over thirty years of age and no one had died.” The head of the tribe was José Arcadio Buendia and his wife Ursula Iguaran. They will have children, grand children and great grand children. Five generations of descendants, who all seem to follow the same pattern of character, each living his self imposed “solitude” and despair, their own way.

José Arcadio Buendia is fascinated by the unknown, sadly he is incapable of differentiating between magic and knowledge. He has his lab where he works and tries all sorts of inventions in the hope of making gold, till he ends up going mad.

Ursula Iguaran, his wife, is hard working, she cleans, cooks, and has a little business in candy animals, and raises the offspring of the Buendia family. She is strong-willed and remains lucid till her death at over a hundred years old.

It’s a gigantic saga where cruel and violent reality are mixed with a wholly fantastic world of the author’s fertile imagination. All the people killed during the war. Aureliano, the military leader, and his prolific sex life. He had seventeen children from seventeen women, all queuing to have heroes from him. The tragedies of Renata Remedios who couldn’t marry the man she loved, her mother’s guard fired a bullet into his spine “which reduced him to his bed for the rest of his life. He died of old age in solitude, without a moan, without a protest…tormented by memories and by the yellow butterflies.” Renata Remedios was put by her mother into a convent for the rest of her life. The tragic death of Amaranta Ursula while delivering the baby she was carrying from her nephew.

Funny moments, like Mauricio Babilonia and his trail of yellow butterflies, the tricks that the grandchildren played on their nearly blind grandmother Ursula. And Remedios the Beauty who ascends to heaven with a sheet while hanging out laundry in the back yard. Not to forget the most unusual insomnia illness and collective amnesia, a weird “plague” that attacks the whole village, an infection from some Indians who were passing the village with gypsies.

Garcia’s style is easy, natural and simple. Without any doubt he mastered the art of magical realism. He skillfully blends the tragic and the comic in his astonishing novel where there is always a new amazing happening. Like a magician, under his wound Macondo becomes an enchanted village from The One Thousand And One Nights. Pungent with life, the surreal, undefined, uncertain, whether it’s time, place or people, seem to be most conventional in the novel.

Unfortunately, Macondo the village of mirages is cut off from any civilisation, it has prostitution, incest, and “Solitude”, so like its inhabitants it was doomed to disappear. The incestuous marriage of José Arcadio Buendia and Ursula and five generations later the relationship between Aureliano Babilonia and his aunt Amaranta Ursula, resulting in having a baby born with a pigtail, illustrate what Pilar Ternare,the fortune teller knew : “There was no mystery in the heart of a Buendia that was impenetrable for her because a century of cards and experience had taught her that the history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle.”

Macondo the village of all fantasies goes back to oblivion with its inhabitants after witnessing a hundred years of violence, cruelty, love, passion, hatred, ghosts, fantasy, prostitution, incest, but most important of all, witnessing One Hundred Years of Solitude.



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