Una llovizna de minúsculas flores

Entonces entraron al cuarto de José Arcadio Buendía, lo sacudieron con todas sus fuerzas, le gritaron al oído, le pusieron un espejo frente a las fosas nasales, pero no pudieron despertarlo. Poco después, cuando el carpintero le tomaba las medidas para el ataúd, vieron a través de la ventana que estaba cayendo una llovizna de minúsculas flores amarillas. Cayeron toda la noche sobre el pueblo en una tormenta silenciosa, y cubrieron los techos y atascaron las puertas, y sofocaron a los animales que durmieron a la intemperie. Tantas flores cayeron del cielo, que las calles amanecieron tapizadas de una colcha compacta, y tuvieron que despejarlas con palas y rastrillos para que pudiera pasar en entierro.

Then they went into José Arcadio Buendía’s room, shook him as hard as they could, shouted in his ear, put a mirror in front of his nostrils, but they could not awaken him. A short time later, when the carpenter was taking measurements for the coffin, through the window they saw a light rain of tiny yellow flowers falling. They fell on the town all through the night in a silent storm, and they covered the roofs and blocked the doors and smothered the animals who slept outdoors. So many flowers fell from the sky that in the morning the streets were carpeted with a compact cushion and they had to clear them away with shovels and rakes so that the funeral procession could pass by. – trans. Gregory Rabassa

In honor of Gabriel García Márquez’s life, the editors at Pterodáctilo have asked contributors to continue the conversation. Scholarly debates rage over García Márquez, but I only have personal feelings to offer.

I first read García Márquez when I was living in Israel. I found a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera at a used bookstore in Jerusalem and I read it because I was starved for novels. It was like the first time you drink coffee after trying to quit, or like coming home from a long trip and finding you left the windows open.

Later at a library in Concord Massachusetts, I checked out a big hardcover copy of Cien años de soledad when I was applying to graduate school. I think I hoped it would give me some kind of authority, and I carried it around with me every day. At 606 pages that is no small task. But I never would have opened it except that my coffee spilled and I had to purchase it from the library and at that point reading it made good economic sense.

I believe that the chapter where José Arcadio Buendía encounters the ice is one of the greatest moments in literary history. And of all the passages of all the books that I hold close, the one copied above is maybe my favorite. In my memory it was memorializing Melqíuades, but returning to it now it is when the first José Arcadio Buendía dies, my favorite of all the Buendías.

The Spanish is transcribed from that copy from Massachusetts. The English is from a 1980s paperback I borrowed from an aunt, who made me swear to give it back, because it was given to her by someone she loved.

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