My reading week looks like this: Moby Dick, -currently on chapter LVI, almost half way through it-, Eco’s book on translation, the latest article by Imprimis, my daily Scripture reading, and this short book by Márquez, The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.
I will never tire of saying how amazing Moby Dick is. Not only I’m enjoying it, I know I’m going to want to read more about it, and read it again. I always try to read several books at once, but Moby Dick requires my attention, and apart from a few other reads, I’m happily concentrating on the whale.
From Imprimis article, entitled Rediscovering the Wisdom in American History, I’d like to share a quote that was very inspiring.
The stakes were beautifully expressed in the words of the great Jewish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer: “When a day passes it is no longer there. What remains of it? Nothing more than a story. If stories weren’t told or books weren’t written, man would live like the beasts, only for the day. The whole world, all human life is one long story.”Imprimis
Singer was right. As individuals, as communities, as countries: we are nothing more than flotsam and jetsam without the stories in which we find our lives’ meaning.
The power of stories. The essence of stories. This is the theme of Márquez’s book based on the true event that happened to Luis Velasco. Luis Velasco was already considered a hero when he approached the newspaper where a young Gabriel García Márquez worked at. The story Velasco told Márquez,
Garcia Marquez later wrote. “It cost him his glory and his career and it nearly cost me my hide.”
My copy said ‘it nearly cost me my skin‘, -I bet in Spanish it says “pellejo”, for “costarme el pellejo” is a Spanish idiom that means something almost took your life. I wonder if this has anything to do with Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice pound of flesh.
Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum or sums as are
Express’d in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.
Back to the story. Velasco had been made a hero by the regime of Gustavo Rojas Pinilla’s dictatorship. He was a naval crew member of the Caldas destroyer that was being repaired at Mobile, Alabama, which set to go back to Colombia. When he showed up at the port of Cartagena de Indias, half dead, his story became famous. But it was not the real story. Velasco went to the paper with his real story, and it was one that discredited Colombia’s regime.
Velasco had a series of long interviews with Márquez, who agreed to write his story in the first person using all the material. Worth mentioning is that Velasco was a very able narrator, as said by Márquez and others.
Thus the 104 pages that my edition has, were a quick read that I both wanted to keep reading but didn’t want it to end. His experience of near death and survival is unique, but many of his remarks resonate with all of us. At least I identified myself with many of his observations.
Last comment I’d make would be to say how much all that Velasco knew about the sea, animals, fish, human body, etc., proved so vital to his survival. It was a nice complement to my reading of Moby Dick. Stories in any form, -in print, movies, orally transmitted-, are the vessels of our knowledge, the substance of our mind and soul.