Strange Pilgrims

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First edition

Strange Pilgrims (original Spanish-language title: Doce cuentos peregrinos) is a collection of twelve loosely-related short stories by the Nobel Prize winning Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez.

Not published until 1992, the stories that make up this collection were originally written during the seventies and eighties. Each of the stories touches on the theme of dislocation, and the strangeness of life in a foreign land, although quite what "foreign" means is one of Mr. García Márquez's central questions in this book. Mr. García Márquez himself spent some years as a virtual exile from his native Colombia.

The Stories[edit]

The twelve stories are:

  1. Bon Voyage, Mr President (Buen Viaje, Señor Presidente)
  2. The Saint (La Santa)
  3. Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane (El Avión de la Bella Durmiente)
  4. I Sell My Dreams (Me Alquilo para Soñar)
  5. "I Only Came to Use the Phone" (Solo Vine a Hablar por Teléfono)
  6. The Ghosts of August (Espantos de Agosto)
  7. María dos Prazeres
  8. Seventeen Poisoned Englishmen (Diecisiete Ingleses Envenenados)
  9. Tramontana
  10. Miss Forbes's Summer of Happiness (El Verano Feliz de la Señora Forbes)
  11. Light is Like Water (La Luz es como el Agua)
  12. The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow (El Rastro de tu Sangre en la Nieve)

Story summaries[edit]

Bon Voyage, Mr. President[edit]

An overthrown Latin American ruler, Mr. President, is exiled to Martinique. The 73-year-old man develops a peculiar pain in his ribs, lower abdomen, and groin. He travels to Geneva, Switzerland in search of a diagnosis. After extensive medical testing, he is informed that the problem resides in his spine. A risky operation is recommended to relieve the pain. The President meets a fellow countryman, Homero Rey, who works as an ambulance driver at the hospital. Homero schemes to sell an insurance plan and funeral package to the sick man, but the President is no longer wealthy and lives frugally. He is reduced to selling his dead wife's jewelry and other trinkets to pay the cost of his medical expenses and operation. Homero and his wife, Lázara, grow fond of Mr. President. They provide financial assistance and care for him after he is discharged from the hospital. The President returns to Martinique. His pain is unimproved but no worse either. He resumes many of his bad habits and considers going back to the country he once ruled, only this time as the head of a reform group.[1]

The Saint[edit]

The story is centered around a character named Margarito Duarte and takes place in Rome. Margarito is originally from the small Andean village of Tolima, Colombia but travels to Rome in order to begin the process of having his deceased daughter recognized as a saint. Margarito lost his wife shortly after the birth of their only daughter and she died soon after at the age of seven from an essential fever. Eleven years after her death the villagers are forced to move their loved ones from the cemetery to another location as the space is needed for a new dam. When his daughter is unearthed she is found to be still intact and completely weightless. The villagers decide that she is a saint and pool funds to send Margarito with his daughter's body to Rome. There he meets the narrator at the pensione where they are both staying. Nothing seems to come from his inexhaustible attempts to canonize his daughter and he eventually loses contact with the narrator and other characters of the story. However, twenty-two years later, and after the death of four popes, Margarito and the narrator meet again by chance and the narrator finds that Margarito is still waiting for his daughter's recognition as a saint. It is then that the narrator realizes that the true saint of the story is really Margarito. The narrator states, "Without realizing it, by means of his daughter's incorruptible body and while he was still alive, he had spent twenty-two years fighting for the legitimate cause of his own canonization."

The Airplane of the Sleeping Beauty[edit]

"The Airplane of the Sleeping Beauty" recounts García Márquez's personal impressions, when he fell in love with a woman in a Parisian airport at the first sight. By coincidence, she happened to be his neighbor on the plane he was taking later. The story expresses a voyeuristic adoration.

I Sell My Dreams[edit]

One day while the narrator was having breakfast in the morning at the Havana Riviera Hotel, a gigantic wave crushed down "like an explosion of dynamite" on the shore and picked up several cars. Under one of smashed cars was found a smashed a woman wearing "a gold ring shaped like a serpent, with emerald eyes". And her eyes and ring reminded the narrator "an unforgettable woman" who used to wear "a similar ring on her right forefinger" whom he met thirty-four years earlier in Vienna which was an old imperial city then. When she was asked "how she had come to be in a world so distant and different from the windy cliffs of Quindio, she answered "I sell my dreams." Selling dream was her only trade. She was the third of eleven children born to a prosperous shopkeeper in old Caldas. In her childhood her dreams began to show oracular qualities. In her youth she turned her dreams into a source of earnings. One night she told the narrator to leave Vienna. Considering her conviction real, the narrator boarded the last train to Rome that same night and "considered himself a survivor of some catastrophe". Later the narrator happened to meet Pablo Neruda and they found that woman; by then the woman earned affluence by selling dreams. They spent time together for some days. One day Neruda "dreamed about that woman who dream(ed)"s. Later after Neruda "took his leave", the narrator met the woman and she said "I dreamed he(Neruda) was dreaming about me." After that day, the narrator never met her again. After the Havana Riviera disaster, the narrator met the Portuguese ambassador with whom that woman wearing a snake ring come and he asked him "what did she do?" He (the ambassador) answered with a certain disenchantment "Nothing," "she dreamed."

I Only Came To Use The Phone[edit]

A woman's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. She hitches a ride on a bus on its way to a mental institute. Before she knows what's happening, she has been admitted as a patient. Her husband, referring to their trouble-ridden history, believes she has run off with another man. When she finally finds an opportunity to call him, he curses her and hangs up. She is forced to sleep with a guard to pass along the full message to her husband. When he arrives, he takes the doctor's account to heart and leaves the woman at the hospital, where she eventually adopts the role of insanity imposed upon her by the medical staff.

The Ghosts of August[edit]

A family vacationing in Tuscany decides to spend the night in a castle owned by a friend. The builder of the castle, Ludovico, a renaissance nobleman, killed his bride in bed, before setting his dogs upon himself. The family, disregarding this as a ghost tale, goes to sleep in a guest room, only to awake in the bedchamber of Ludovico, with fresh blood on the sheets and a scent of fresh strawberries in the air.

María dos Prazeres[edit]

Maria dos Prazeres has recently had a vision of death at the age of seventy-six and wants to make all preparations before her death. She has picked out a plot for her burial on the hill cemetery, Montjuich. She meticulously trains her dog Noi to travel to the cemetery and to be able to pick out her grave on the vast hill so that he can visit and shed tears there every Sunday. She also makes sure her grave stone is nameless, like other anarchists chose under the Franco Regime. She also held a long standing relationship with the Count of Cardona, a man who worked under Francisco Franco, but the relationship was cut off because it had became stale. One rainy day in November, she gets a ride from the cemetery back home and she finds that she had made an error in interpreting her vision.

Seventeen Poisoned Englishmen[edit]

An aging South American lady makes the long boat trip to Europe to see the pope and is disappointed to find herself surrounded by death.

Tramontana[edit]

The narrator and his family have to seek shelter from the paranormal Catalan wind known as "Tramontana" while on vacation.

Miss Forbes's Summer of Happiness[edit]

While their parents are away two young boys have the serenity of a peaceful summer holiday ruined by the intervention of a strict German nanny. The nanny named Miss Forbes's treats the boys terribly making them stay locked in the house and eat the most disgusting of foods, while she is free to roam as she pleases and indulges herself in delicious meals. The boys poison her wine in an attempt to kill her. After they believe she is dead they go off to play. When they come back they find their house surrounded by police and investigators because the body of Miss Forbes was found dead, not by poison, but from multiple stab wounds on her body.

Light is Like Water[edit]

Two young boys ask for a boat in return for their good grades. When their parents finally buy them the rowboat, they break the light bulbs in their home and the light comes flowing out like water. They use the light to navigate around their home every Wednesday, and invite their friends to go sailing with them as well. The boys' friends end up drowning in the light.

The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow[edit]

Billy Sanchez and Nena Daconte, children of two wealthy Colombian families, fly to Europe to celebrate their honeymoon. Although married only three days, Nena is already two months pregnant. After she scrapes her ring finger on a rose thorn, the nearly imperceptible cut starts bleeding profusely. Nena is admitted to the intensive care unit of a Paris hospital. Visitation is permitted only one day a week so Billy must wait six days before he can see his wife again. He spends most of his time alone in a nearby hotel.

Billy tries to visit Nena sooner but is thrown out of the hospital by a security guard. Billy’s attempt to enlist the aid of the foreign embassy is equally unsuccessful. When Tuesday’s visiting hours finally arrive, Billy cannot locate his wife. He spots the physician who first evaluated Nena. The doctor regretfully announces that Nena bled to death sixty hours after hospital admission. No one could find Billy to apprise him of the situation so Nena’s parents have already arranged the funeral and transported the body home for burial. Billy exits the hospital with thoughts of violence and revenge for his calamity.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bon Voyage, Mr. President". Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database.