Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Leaf Storm

Leaf Storm and Other Stories is a collection composed of a novella and five short stories: The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World; A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings; Blacaman the Good, Vendor of Miracles; The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship; The Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo; and Nabo.

 

Leaf Storm is Marquez’s first novel, which he finished in 1955. It introduces us to the small fictional town of Macondo, located on the Caribbean coast of Columbia, and the site of other writings, most notably One Hundred Years of Solitude, for which Marquez won the Nobel Prize in 1982.

Arriving there, mingled with the human leaf storm, dragged along by its impetuous force, came the dregs of warehouses, hospitals, amusement parlors, electric plants; the dregs made up of single women and men who tied their mules to hitching posts by the hotel, carrying their single piece of baggage, a wooden trunk or a bundle of clothing, and in a few months, each had his own house, two mistresses, and the military title that was due him for having arrived late for the war. – Narrator

Marquez was heavily influenced by William Faulkner, so he uses multiple points-of-view, shifting from the child to his mother Isabel and to her father, the aging colonel. There is some overlap in the recounting of events and time also shifts, suggesting that the past is very much alive in the present, just as Faulkner demonstrates in his fiction. The title Leaf Storm refers to an economic storm, in this case it serves as a metaphor for the arrival of a banana plantation that soon dominates the town’s economy, which then collapses when the plantation moves out. While the storm is an external malevolent force that wrecks havoc on the town, the townspeople are also an extremely negative force, gossiping, judgmental and self-righteous — generally destructive — just like the folks in Faulkner’s Jefferson. This is a serious novel and, for me, lacks the notable humour of Marquez’s later work.

The conflict centers on the burial of the French doctor who has hanged himself. The theme draws on Sophocles’ Antigone as the townspeople do not want to bury him, but the colonel, who is a man of conviction and compassion, decides to do what he considers right and bury the doctor. The narrative hinges on this conflict, shifting to the various points-of-view and moving back and forth in time. The situation is implicitly compared to the leaf storm, a natural force incapable of human feeling or morality.

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