〈The Autumn Of The Patriarch〉 by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

By Xah Lee. Date:

ye lexicographers, sememe lovers 'n' incorrigible belles-lettres aficionados, 'tis a repertoire in the realm of magic realism of #literature thou must acquaint thyself this night.

oxbows A U-shaped piece of wood that fits under and around the neck of an ox, with its upper ends attached to the bar of the yoke. Oxbow

Over the weekend the vultures got into the Presidential Palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows, and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur. Only then did we dare go in without attacking the crumbling walls of reinforced stone, as the more resolute had wished, and without using oxbows to knock the main door off its hinges, as others had proposed, because all that was needed was for someone to give a push and the great armored doors that had resisted the lombards of William Dampier during the building's heroic days gave way. It was like entering the atmosphere of another age, because the air was thinner in the rubble pits of the vast lair of power, and the silence was more ancient, and things were hard to see in the decrepit light.

cornices A horizontal molded projection that crowns or completes a building or wall. Cornice
crags A steep rugged mass of rock projecting upward or outward.

In December, when the Caribbean world turned to glass, he would take the closed carriage on a climb along the cornices of crags until he came to the house perched on top of the reefs, and he would spend the afternoon playing dominoes with the former dictators of other nations of the continent, the dethroned fathers of other countries to whom he had granted asylum over the course of many years and who were now growing old in the shadow of his mercy, dreaming in chairs on the terrace about the chimerical vessel of their second chance, talking to themselves, dying dead in the rest home he had built for them on the balcony of the sea after having received all of them as if each were the only one, for they all appeared at dawn in the dress uniform they had put on inside out over their pajamas, with chests of money they had pilfered from the public treasury and suitcases with boxes of decorations, newspaper clippings pasted into old ledgers, and photograph albums they would show him at the first audience, as if they were credentials, saying look, General, that's me when I was a lieutenant, this was the day I was inaugurated, this was the sixteenth anniversary of my taking power, here, look, General, but he would give them asylum without paying any more attention to them or inspecting credentials, because the only document of identity for an overthrown president should be his death certificate, he would say, and with the same disdain he would listen to the self-deluding little speech of I accept for this short time your noble hospitality while the justice of the people brings the usurper to account, the eternal formula of puerile solemnity which a while later he would hear from the usurper, and then from the usurper's usurper, as if the God-damned fools didn't know that in this business of men if you fall, you fall, and he put all of them up for a few months in the Presidential Palace, made them play dominoes until he had fleeced them down to their last cent, and then he took them by the arm over to the window looking out onto the sea, he helped them grieve over this stinking life that only goes in one direction, he consoled them with the illusion that they would go over there, look, he said, over there to that big house that looks like an ocean liner aground on the top of the reefs, where they would have some lodgings with good light and good food, and plenty of time to forget along with other companions of misfortune, and with a terrace overlooking the sea, where he liked to sit on December afternoons not so much for the pleasure of playing dominoes with that bunch of boobs but to enjoy the base good fortune of not being one of them, to look at himself in the instructive mirror of their misery while he wallowed in the great slough of felicity, dreaming alone.

from 〔Autumn of the Patriarch By Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Gregory Rabassa (Translation). At http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1976/09/27/1976_09_27_034_TNY_CARDS_000320131

Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez (1927 to 2014) was a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist, known affectionately as Gabo throughout Latin America. Considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century, he was awarded the 1972 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature. He pursued a self-directed education that resulted in his leaving law school for a career in journalism. From early on, he showed no inhibitions in his criticism of Colombian and foreign politics.

García Márquez started as a journalist, and wrote many acclaimed non-fiction works and short stories, but is best known for his novels, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). His works have achieved significant critical acclaim and widespread commercial success, most notably for popularizing a literary style labeled as magic realism, which uses magical elements and events in otherwise ordinary and realistic situations. Some of his works are set in a fictional village called Macondo (the town mainly inspired by his birthplace Aracataca), and most of them explore the theme of solitude.

Thanks to John Baez, who posted the excerpt at https://plus.google.com/117663015413546257905/posts/A8wg6YWg4vk, which enticed me to read it and learned about the author.