One Hundred Years of Solitude is a book every lover of literature should read - a book which portrays the brilliance that is Márquez. Strange Pilgrims is a collection of short stories by the same brilliant writer, comprising stories bordering on fantasy - or magic realism as it is called. Containing twelve short stories, the book explores themes of exile and dislocation and each are in their own way memorable and stays with the reader long after they have been read.
The first story of the book, 'Bon Voyage, Mr. President' is about an overthrown president in exile in Geneva looking for a diagnosis for his chronic pain. The characters grab the attention right from the start and the storyline unfolds while keeping eyes glued to the pages. The first story gets one immersed into the book and it is difficult to not keep on reading till all the stories with their wild, but somehow believable, plots end.
I Only Came to Use the Phone and The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow are two other good stories in the book. Both of these have a very Kafka-esque plot. In the first, a woman gets mistaken for a mental patient as she goes into an asylum to use the telephone and the story deals with her eventual reconciliation with living as a lunatic. In the latter, a wife dies from bleeding from a cut in her finger she received during her wedding ceremony and her husband hopelessly tries to see her, steering past the bureaucracy of the hospitals. Both stories leave the reader feeling a little sad and dejected.
The Saint tells the story of a man trying to prove to the Pope that his dead daughter should be a saint, and his lifelong failed attempts to do so. He travels around Rome with the body of his dead daughter, which after decades has not decayed. The eventual realisation that dawns on the narrator and the reader about the real saint in the story is brilliant.
Light is Like Water is undoubtedly one of the best stories in the collection. It is the most fantastical story of the lot, telling the tale of two young boys who break light bulbs when their parents are away and fill the apartment with light to sail their row boat and go diving. It seems like the vivid imagination of children which ultimately the reader knows is reality.
Other fantastic stories include I Sell My Dreams and Tramontana. While Marquez is not a writer everyone would usually read, the stories in this collection have the elements to get any reader hooked. Anyone looking for good stories, a wonderful narrative and brilliant imagery should definitely give Strange Pilgrims a try. And if the reader has a good imagination, the book becomes all the more magical as they picture drops of blood trailing on the snow, dogs trained to weep at their owner's grave and of sailing ships across oceans of light.