Finally a Gabriel Garcia Marquez post! I have been searching for the right story to put up here for some time. My local libraries have shelves groaning with books by Garcia Marquez but they are only his novels. I had been trying to find a story for this blog, when I was speaking to an individual whose opinion I greatly respect, who out of the blue, told me that The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World was his favourite short story – ever. This from an individual who can quote literature in an everyday conversation like he was talking about the football scores on the weekend.
“Ever” is a statement that holds weight. I wouldn’t be able to state my favourite short story ever, this blog has so many of my favourites I couldn’t elevated one over the others. Yet, I certainly have a favourite album (Sgt. Peppers by the Beatles) that always stands out, so I can understand that someone can have a favourite something. (On a side note, if you, gentle reader have a favourite short story – ever, can you let me know in the comments below? I’d be curious to know if someone else had a favourite short story that could never be surmounted.)
I raced out and located a copy of The Handsomest Drowned Man In the World. I wasn’t disappointed, as it was the kind of Gabriel Garcia Marquez story that I was looking for. One that seemed to characterise the blending of fictitious reality with a hint of the supernatural. It is a particularly beautiful story though and quite inspiring.
A drowned body washes up on the beach on the coast near a small fishing village. The dead man is not known to anyone in the village of 20 houses, so the men go off to the neighbouring villages to see if anyone is missing. Meanwhile the women ready the man for a proper sea burial. They find the man is massive, taller than anyone in the village. No shirt will fit him, nor no trousers so they have to sew him clothes. Even in death he is the handsomest man they have even seen. They dub him Esteban.
When it is time to take him into the sea, the women try to disrupt the process to keep the drowned man with the village as long as possible. The men of the village are confused, but when the man’s face is revealed they do realise how special the drowned man is to them.
The village holds a splendid funeral for Esteban and adopt him into the collective memory of the village. They plant flowers on the cliff where they threw the body from, and it becomes a sight to all sea farers going past.
The short story is a pageant to beauty, timeless against the ravages of the earth. It is mystical in a way that can’t be prescribed to some existing fairy tale tradition or religion. A story where the hero begins dead but manages to outlast everyone else. This story is a type of poetry.