Thursday, August 9, 2012

Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The day after I began making travel arrangements to add Geneva to my upcoming European trip, I started reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez's short story collection, Strange Pilgrims. The very first story, Bon Voyage, Mr. President, is set in Geneva. Don't you love it when that happens? (The serendipity, I mean. Receiving an invitation to visit a cousin in Geneva is also nice.)

I don't even remember who recommended this book, only that it was a man who said two of his most favourite stories are in Strange Pilgrims. I don't know which two, but I now have my own. "I Only Came to Use the Phone" is about a woman whose rental car breaks down on a remote road in Spain and ends up trapped in a mental hospital. The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow has a distraught Caribbean bridegroom unable to negotiate French bureaucracy while his bride lies in a Parisian hospital.

I read the edition translated by Edith Grossman and published in Canada by Knopf in 1993. The jacket summarizes thus: "These twelve extraordinary stories by South America's preeminent man of letters are set in contemporary Europe and recount the peculiar and amazing experiences that befall Latin Americans visiting or living abroad." Sublimely surreal.

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