“The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor” represents the first major work of Gabriel Garca Marquez. Initially appearing as a serialized true account in the Columbian newspaper El Espectador, the book version saw the first light of the day in the year 1970. This truly represents the birthing of a master story teller, a consummate weaver who sublimates fact and fiction and a spontaneous genius who conflates the surreal with the apparent.
In the year 1955, a Columbian destroyer “Caldas”, homeward bound from Mobile, Alabama meets with an untimely natural disaster courtesy an angry and choppy ocean in the Caribbean. Eight crew members were thrown overboard and seven met with an icy feet ending up in the bottom of the sea. Only a kind turn of favour in the form of a miracle and a stupendous display of resoluteness and courage prevented Luis Alejandro Velasco from meeting with a fate akin to that of his unfortunate comrades at sea. Clinging on to a raft, tormented by an angry sun and a bunch of even angrier sharks (not to mention a mood changing huge mass of water), Velasco clings on to life for ten days before fortuitously arriving at a Columbian shoreline.
Marquez describes the ten harrowing, blister inducing days spent by Velasco in the tiny raft with only the ominously circling sharks for unsolicited company. The grandeur of the writing lies in its brutal simplicity. Shorn of overt exhibitions of glorious exaggerations and also bereft of tear inducing allegories, Marquez splendidly sticks to just placing the facts on record. The narrative is crisp and sharp, the context crystal clear and the contours, matter-of-fact. Garcia Marquez never veers away from the experience of Velasco and yet, by being incredibly minimalist, he manages to convey to the reader much more than what a veritable tome alluding to emotions and theatrics, could have conveyed.
Setting out events as they actually occurred in a manner bordering on the lethargic even takes a great amount of talent. For an overpowering tendency is to resort to embellishments, enhancements and gloss overs. Overwhelmed by the sense of the occasion, it is easier or even forgivable, to lapse into a cascade of bombastic literature and imaginary escapades. However this affliction never succeeds in clawing within the veins of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The adornment of his work is an adherence to the basics and a persevering attachment to the fundamentals. It is for the reader to don the mantle of judge, jury and executioner. The author just feeds in the rudimentary materials.
“The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor” – Sinks you without even rocking the boat!