‘The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother’ by Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa

I think I was in high school when I first read this story and it seemed to speak in a language intended only for me, as an adolescent girl going through some of the same changes and reactions from others as the title character. What I think Gabriel García Márquez models so exquisitely – placing him alongside Isak Dinesen, Naguib Mahfouz, and a few writers who have also evoked this response from me – is a way to create books that do not really seem written; that have a strong point of view, sense of humor (especially in Love in the Time of Cholera)but that reach so far beyond the subjectivity and ambitions of one single writer that they seem to have pre-existed any specific writer. I believe this only comes with a completely immersive revision process in which lines like the below then feel earned rather than overly ambitious: 

The house was far away from everything, in the heart of the desert, next to a settlement with miserable and burning streets where the goats committed suicide from desolation when the wind of misfortune blew.

It is not always possible to do what Gabriel García Márquez (including in his Paris Review interview, which I studied like a canonical text when I first realized I wanted to be a writer) says that he does (did) to create that immersion – writing for six hours a day without doing anything else (9:30 to 2:30 pm) and then using the afternoons for the business of writing. It is a gift of time and opportunity to be able to do that. But writing all this out and looking at both that story (which Esquire made free online for a time after the author died at the age of 87) – I am going to try the six-hour block thing whenever I can!!

First published in Spanish in 1972 as ‘La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada’. First publication in English in Esquire, 1973 and available to read to subscribers here. Collected in The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother, Harper, 1978. Currently available in the Collected Stories, Perennial Classics, 2005) 

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