Up Front

December 31,2004

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Up Front

December 31,2004

Some argue that a successful novel should signal its premise or plot in the first sentence.

Anthony Burgess clearly ascribed to this theory, notably in his masterpiece Earthly Powers, which begins with the following attention grabber:

“It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.”

Dickens opens A Tale of Two Cities with the famous incantation:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going to Heaven, we were all going directly the other way—in short, the period was so.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at age 76 and ailing from cancer, has just published his latest novel (Memoria de mis putas tristes/A Memory of My Melancholy Whores). The book begins:

“The year of my 90th birthday I wanted to give myself as a present a night of crazy love with an adolescent virgin.”

Both Burgess and Dickens manage to fulfill the promise of their opening lines. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the greatest living storyteller, will not likely disappoint us with his latest offering. I assume Edith Grossman is working on the English translation, which is due to be released in the fall of 2005. Marquez has been quoted as saying that her English translations are better than his original texts. “The original is unfaithful to the translation,” as Borges cleverly put it.

In a short piece of research on the Internet I found an article by one Gustavo Arellano. He argues that Marquez “has revisited the theme of magical pedophilia” and poses the question: ”Will critics finally call Marquez on his perversions after Memorias?” I thought we had outgrown this childishness after Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Lolita. It seems not.

Bons mots et mauvais mots by the famous and not so famous

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