Themes and Meanings
Although this fable evokes several themes of no little import, among which figure death, solitude, memory, hunger, imperialism, and revenge, none falls outside the framework or escapes the subsuming power of the motif of deception. The story ultimately is about the illusion it manifests itself to be. As a self-proclaimed artist, and in contrast to the angelically pure figure of the artist Gabriel García Márquez portrayed in “La prodigiosa tarde de Baltazar” (“Baltazar’s Marvellous Afternoon”), Blacamán represents the dark or demonic side of artistic creation. He is a miniature version of Melquiades, the gypsy sage who foreordains the fate of the Buendia clan in Cien anos de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1970), the masterpiece generally recognized as most responsible for García Márquez’s receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. The only thing “good” about the character so named (and naming, or rather misnaming, is an important component in elaborating a fiction)—what distinguishes him from his mentor and antagonistic namesake—is his self-revelation as a creator of simulacra. In other respects, he is every bit as rancorous, hypocritical, and sadistic as Blacamán the Bad. There is a point, in fact, where they undergo a peripeteia and reverse roles by repeating each other’s gestures in only slightly altered form. Whereas the Bad laughs ceaselessly at the outset, it is the Good who enjoys the last laugh in the end. The suffering inflicted on the Good in the early going is reflected in the eternal anguish to which the Bad is ultimately condemned, and the claims of philanthropic motives amid real putrefaction of the one are emphatically reiterated in the other. “Blacamán the Good, Vendor of Miracles” is an imaginative and morbid reflection on the falsification inherent in baroque art in general and writing in particular.
The chief deception perpetrated in the story is on the reader, represented by the defunct American admiral who perishes for credulously “swallowing” the illusion whole. The reader is tempted to do the same because Blacamán, who introduces himself as “the Good” and recounts numerous hoaxes carried out by his supposedly more perverse counterpart, sets the reader up, so to speak, to be favorably disposed toward the accusing voice. Whereas Blacamán the Bad’s antics are termed “incredible,” Blacamán the Good claims that his tale “has nothing to do with invention.” Once the reader’s trust is gained, the narrator proceeds to incorporate truly unbelievable elements (he claims to remember things that happened more than a century ago as if they were last Sunday and eventually reveals himself as everlasting, for example) with cunning casualness. Once the reader realizes the essential continuity between the two Blacamáns (or that they are merely aspects of the same dissimulating entity), it becomes plain that all the preceding has the ontological status of a mirage. If the story is disingenuous,...
(The entire section is 734 words.)