‘Strange Pilgrims’ by Garcia Marquesisa collection of twelve tales heralded in mystery, intrigue and superstition. These stories are full of superstition and cultural beliefs of Latin speakers. This is explained by Garcia Marques’s history. Garcia Marques was born in 1927 and brought up by his grandparents who had strong belief in superstition and supernatural activity. The protagonists of these stories are all Latin speaking individuals in foreign lands. This could be attributed to the feeling of loneliness and unbelonging that Garcia Marques experienced while he was in Rome and Barcelona. The writer’s style of writing involves interweaving of genuine ordinary events and expressive details with eccentric and surreal elements as well as with materials resulting from fairy tales and myths.
The mix between fantasy and reality is effectively explored in the story of Maria dos Prazeres. The story revolves around the struggles of a seventy six year old whore who believes she is on the verge of death. Maria goes about the business of preparing for her death by choosing a tomb, purchasing a coffin and even choosing the clothes to be dressed in after her death. These painstaking activities are motivated by a vision that the whore had experienced. These are rather absurd activities even for a whore. Not many people plan, with such excruciating detail, their burials. Maria then undertakes the process of training her small dog to find her tomb and cry. This rigorous training takes up a lot of her time. The story has nostalgic details like the small dog (Hoi) crying big tears after being reprimanded by Maria. After successfully training her dog, Maria is on the way back home when she meets a young man. The man looks at her with longing and desire-filled eyes. The whore knows that look. The rains outside were a sign of new beginning, a fresh start. As Maria goes up the stairs of her house, she can feel her heart pounding with excitement.
The mix between fantasy and reality is further explored in ‘The Saint’. The story is about a faithful Christian, Margarito Duarte, who loses his seven year old daughter bya strange malady. Inexplicably, the young girl’s body does not decompose. Upon exhumation, Margarito Duarte discovers that the body is completely weightless and smells of roses. This discovery convinces Margarito Duarte that his daughter must have been a saint. He sets off for the Vatican where he spends the rest of his life trying to convince the Pope and other Catholic priests to christen his daughter as a saint. The Catholic community refuses his request but it turns out that Margarito Duarte was the saint. This is as a result of his strong Christian belief and his virtues of patience, perseverance and undying hope. This story emphasizes on the inborn goodness of the underprivileged and the pessimism of the elite and powerful. In this case the Vatican community is hesitant about christening Margarito Duarte’s daughter as a saint thus demonstrating their lack of hope and belief despite being the custodians and preachers of these virtues.
Throughout the ‘Strange Pilgrims’, there are instances that question the line between objectivity and subjectivity. The stories philosophically delve intothe role of fate and chance in the lives of the protagonists and characters of the stories. For instance, in ‘I only came to use the phone’ Marques tells the storyof a woman who found herself in a mental hospital by bad luck. It is an act of chance that makes her land in the mental hospital. The woman, Maria de la Luz Cervantes, undergoes a horrific ordeal in the mental hospital. Despite the story being pure fiction, we cannot help the wonder whether such an incident could not possibly happen.