As mentioned previously, this week we’re discussing the first four chapters of Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We’ll have a few guest posts, but I’m kicking things off. I’m hoping people will chime in, even if they haven’t read the book!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role writing plays in my life. It began those weeks ago when I started reading Living to Tell the Tale, but it wasn’t until I came across this quote from Elie Wiesel (which I’ve been attributing incorrectly to Proust all week) that it’s entirely captured my thoughts: “Write only if you cannot live without writing.” My first reaction was, “Well, I’ve barely written this past year and I’ve survived. I guess I shouldn’t write.” But as I pondered it further, I realized that even though the first part of that reaction is true (I’ve survived), I haven’t been happy about not writing. I need to write. Even if no one reads it; even if it sucks. I can’t imagine my life without writing (and I suppose I could mean a few things by that).
Perhaps that is why Living to Tell the Tale began so perfectly for me – with Gabriel defending and standing firm in his decision to be a writer, in spite of his parents’ protests. He was still young at the time (in his early 20s) and his defense fell on deaf ears until an old friend of the family explained, “It is something that one carries inside from the moment one is born, and opposing it is the worst thing for one’s health” (p. 33). This book, at least the first half, shares the story of GGM’s childhood all the while showing how he was destined to be a writer. As with his novels, the story moves from place to place to place and there is a huge cast of characters, but the reader never loses the main thread. He’s living his life, doing all the things children and teenagers do (well, maybe sex with a prostitute isn’t a typical teen activity, but let’s leave that for another post), and all the while becoming a writer.
I actually only shared the first part of Elie Wiesel’s quote. He continues, “Write only what you alone can write.” And isn’t that exactly what GGM has done? Living to Tell the Tale might be a work of non-fiction (as much as a memoir can be non-fiction), but anyone who has read his novels immediately recognizes GGM’s own story in them. He has written what he alone can write. And as only he can write. Similar to Faulkner, he’s created a world that doesn’t exist, but I’ve been there. I’ve even lived there for a few weeks. And it’s a place I want to visit again.
I think I’d be pretty pleased to be even 1/1000th of the writer GGM is. (From my blog to God’s eyes, to rewrite an old Yiddish saying.)