Book Review: IN EVIL HOUR, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Ah yes, another author I've been meaning to read since the dawn of time: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he of the many thin books, of the few fat ones, of the Nobel Peace Prize. I own both Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude, but have I read them? Alas, no. Instead I've read the nice, skinny novels, Of Love and Other Demons and now IN EVIL HOUR.

HOUR takes place in an unnamed Colombian town, and begins with a murder--the result of the spread of the dreaded "lampoons" (think tabloids, but they're about you and somebody saves you the trouble of sneaking peeks in the grocery line by nailing it to your front door). The reaction of the citizens and the town's politicians forms the foundation for HOUR's plot, which Marquez builds up with remarkable skill until the comedy of the lampoons is replaced, subtly and very stealthily, by a tense drama of oppression and politics.

Of course, I was lacking some political context (this is nothing new), so I caught onto the shift in plot a bit late, but Marquez depicts a struggle so gripping that, after a few chapters, the context seemed more beneficial than necessary, and the way in which he twists events just slightly felt to me very much like the maneuvers of a dictator sidling into power.

And that just gives me the shivers.

The novel could have been much longer, but Marquez isolates a key point in the disintegration of the town and focuses on it, removing it from the town's history so that the book starts and finishes abruptly. To the reader, it seems that the story continues on in either direction, unrecorded.

One problem I had, though, was with the translation. I mean, you just can't trust 'em sometimes, and this one seemed a little off. Sometimes the phrases just felt awkward, but other times the characters went around referring to a lady as "so-and-so's wife" when a big part of the scandal was the fact that the lady was not married to the aforementioned gentleman, but was bearing his child. See?

And my plight was made all the more difficult by the fact that I'm also currently reading Kazantzakis's Report to Greco, and the translation from the Greek is magnificent. Not that I know Greek--I don't--but everything about it feels in place and lovely. Everything is as it should be.

But, back to HOUR: my favorite scene involves a dentist, an abcessed tooth, the mayor and a passel of gunslingers--it's very good. And since HOUR was written just before One Hundred Years of Solitude, and, according to the back of the book, "points to the author's later and flowering greatness," I suppose I'll have to read Solitude now. "Later and flowering." Honestly.


No comments: