Innocent Eréndira, and Other Stories

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 17)

Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez is best known for his major novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, first published in Spanish in 1967 and in Gregory Rabassa’s English translation in 1970. Acclaimed as a work of extraordinary originality, the novel had an astounding impact on the world of fiction both in the Hispanic countries and in the United States. The title story of this collection and two other selections date from about the same period (1961-1972) and are quite reminiscent of One Hundred Years of Solitude. The other stories are interesting as evidence of the other styles and themes with which García Márquez experimented before 1960. Some of the stories are lovely, others are merely adequate, and at least one is disappointing. It is an uneven collection, but the effective selections are so very good that they justify the time that the reader will devote to gleaning the admirable from the not so admirable.

“The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother” is the story of a child who accidentally knocks over a candle and burns down her grandmother’s home. As retribution, she must sell her body to dozens of men each day for the rest of her life, or until she repays the damage done by the fire. The story seems to be a chapter lifted out of One Hundred Years of Solitude. In fact, the same thing does occur at one point in that novel, though the characters’ names are different. There is a reference in “Innocent Eréndira” to the fact that she was traveling in the electoral campaign of Senator Onésimo Sánchez, and the story of the Senator appears in “Death Constant Beyond Love,” written two years earlier. Mr. Herbert of “The Sea of Lost Time” (1961) is surely the same Mr. Herbert who shows up six years later in One Hundred Years of Solitude. All this is typical of what García Márquez has done in his work over the last twenty years. He has created a fictional world which is the subject matter of all his novels and stories, so that the same characters appear in different works, and the same strange physical and metaphysical phenomena occur in all these pieces of fiction.

Of course, this technique of creating a fictional reality that serves as the substance of more than one work is not unique to García Márquez. It was common in the work of the nineteenth century realistic novelists and, more recently, in the work of writers such as William Faulkner. It does pose a problem at times in García Márquez’ fiction, however. Because of his unusual vision of reality, it is very obvious when he repeats himself. Tobís and Clotilde in “The Sea of Lost Time” spend their afternoons frolicking in bed, doing it “like earthworms, then like rabbits, and finally like turtles.” This is amusing and gives a powerful impression of the personality of these characters, but it is so distinctive that the reader will surely remember that there are characters in One Hundred Years of Solitude who do exactly the same thing. In like manner, the characters’ obsession with a smell of roses so palpable that Tobías could “pick it up in his hands and exhibit it” and Clotilde could brush it away like a cobweb is a phenomenon that occurs in several variations in the 1967 novel.

The problem of the repetitiveness of García Márquez’ fiction has its source in the vastness of One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is an overwhelming work in which the author has perhaps exhausted the astounding view of reality that he created. Even though “Innocent Eréndira,” “The Sea of Lost Time,” and “Death Constant Beyond Love” tell stories that do not appear in the novel, the strange world of these stories is the same strange world of One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is a stark reality presented through the strong sensory perceptions of the characters. The dialogue is scant, as almost everything comes from the omniscient narrator who communicates the characters’ vision of a meta-physical universe in which all things are possible. Thus, when Ulises stabs Eréndira’s grandmother, her blood spurts out oily, shiny, and green, “just like mint honey,” and covers him with “living matter that...

(The entire section is 1729 words.)


(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 17)

Atlantic. CCXLII, August, 1978, p. 84.

Business Week. July 30, 1978, p. 13.

New Republic. CLXXIX, August 26, 1978, p. 44.

New York Review of Books. XXV, October 12, 1978, p. 61.

Time. CXII, July 10, 1978, p. 81.