Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Short Take: Gabriel García Márquez, "The Third Resignation"

"The Third Resignation" ("La tercera resignación"), Gabriel García Márquez's first published short story, was written when he was 18. It originally appeared in the Colombian newspaper El Espectador in 1947, and was included in García Márquez's 1950 story collection Ojos de perro azul (Eyes of a Blue Dog). The story first saw print in English as part of the 1978 collection Innocent Érendira and Other Stories. The premise is a variation on Kafka's in The Metamorphosis. Whereas Kafka's protagonist wakes up to find himself an insect, García Márquez's narrator is dead. Or, as he remembers a doctor saying, he is in "a living death." His body continues to function, but he cannot move or speak. He was seven years old when this condition overtook him, and at the time of the story he is 25. García Márquez finds some absurdity in the situation: the protagonist's mother keeps him in an open coffin, where she carefully tends to his appearance and surroundings, and she takes a happy interest in his growing over the years. It's a 17-year open-casket viewing. But García Márquez doesn't show Kafka's resourcefulness. Kafka played his scenario for both absurdity and horror throughout; García Márquez is only consistently able to manage the horror. That said, he manages it very effectively. The scenes in which the protagonist feels pain but cannot move or act in response, or when his body is overrun by the mice in the house, are well-constructed and have a terrifying power. García Márquez falters a bit with the ending, which is built around the conceit of "resignation," and isn't especially resonant. Overall, the story is a modest effort, but it shows a striking level of imagination and craft for a novice talent. One can easily see the seeds of the writer Gabriel García Márquez would become.

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