Essentially, Memories founders in the no-man’s-land between expectations marked for short stories and those reserved for full-fledged novels, a land that Márquez himself navigated skillfully in the potent Chronicle of a Death Foretold. It falls prey to problems that plague all novellas-the reasons why Animal Farm only works once and why no one I know actually likes The Pearl. Perhaps the problem is that most story germs that lend themselves to the novella treatment are miscalculations, rendering what are in reality underdeveloped novels or overextended stories, with large, fleshy underbellies of weakness.
To offer something beyond the slice of life without the luxury of hundreds of pages devoted to an intricate plot and complex character development is a decidedly frustrating endeavor. In the case of Márquez’s book, the problem is that it tries to do much more than this. Offering up a deep theme that must be tied up in a hundred pages is liable to become pedantic and artificial-and at times Memories does.
Edith Grossman, however, is never short of brilliant in her translation work, capturing the tics of the narrator’s stodgy affairs and wild exploits in a prose so vivid that it almost distracts from the near-teleological overarching framework of the book. Maybe this was cake for Grossman, though, because Memories reads like a modern-day, distilled Don Quixote-Márquez’s bumbling bookworm, like Quixote, attempts to conform the real world to his romantic visions. Let us be thankful that Cervantes, unlike Marquez, saw fit not to confine his opus to the triple digits.
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