Hey Read This… Rumors, Martial Law and Dead Cattle

Posted on January 9, 2012

In Evil Hour by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

GGM gets real.

For those of you who have read anything, and I mean anything, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, would it surprise you to hear that this is a story taking place in a small town, carved out of the jungle, in Latin America? That there are more characters than are probably necessary to support a narrative? That his prose takes on an ethereal quality? No. It probably wouldn’t.

Although some critics have called this Marquez’s ‘most fantastic novel’ it is, in terms of its plot, most grounded in reality. In a fictional unnamed town (same town if you have read ‘No One Writes to The Colonel’) someone is distributing lampoons, posters featuring rumors that, while they may not be true, are basically gossip that has been written down and put on paper. And, most importantly, could very easily be true.

If you grew up in a small town like I did, you’ll know that communities are held together by the fact that there are untold secrets that everybody knows. And, if these were to be told, why it just might be that everything would unravel. Which is exactly what happens in this novel.

We have no idea what this town was like before the lampoons. We just know that it descends into anarchy and everybody is either too concerned with rumors, making money or having sex to deal with it. By the end, nobody is even concerned with the actual lampoons, as relations have decayed to an extreme point.

It’s a grown up fairy tale about how messed up we are, or, how we see our true selves in ‘our evil hour.’

Almost as interesting as the book is the story of the book itself. It was written in 1955 when Marquez was broke and living in Paris because that’s what you did back then. Yes, he met Hemingway, which is why this book feels like a much more abbreviated version of anything else Marquez has ever done. He wrote some story and a friend of his said, “You know what, you should turn this into a novel.” Marquez did just that, submitted it to some national competition in Columbia and won. The book was then taken and pared down so much that Marquez didn’t even recognize it as his own, and was published.

If you’ve read anything else by Marquez you’ll know that you have to be wearing your thinking cap for “In Evil Hour.” Characters blend into other characters. You’ll find yourself daydreaming of lazy rivers, hammocks and sweltering climes. But the end is a beautiful and complex meditation on trust, community and decay. And there’s even martial law thrown in, to boot!

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