Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Strange Pilgrims epitomises a journey to the hearts and minds of people he encountered during the Colombian writer’s stay in Europe. He blended the natural and the supernatural in portraying dreams.
Garcia Marquez has drawn the whole picture reflecting on the firsthand experience of a tourist, a migrant, or an acquaintance. The intended picture of a society is viewed as a real life situation, the originality of which lies somewhere else for he preferred to embrace life as an illusion. He was always in search of a meaning in life - be it with friends, family, or loved ones.
The supernatural would come in different forms and shape: a blessing, an awakening, an introduction, a fate, the conspirator. In seeking the derivatives of his characterisation, we have to look into the very psychology of his treatment of the theme and portrayal of a particular sequence.
Dream sequence acted as a major source of all the drives in our lives and played a significant role in projecting the true meaning of life. Dreams are an awakening for him; the supernatural is always at work to mould the life of an ordinary human being, the invincible truth, the existence of god in our lives.
He treated God and fate as absolute reality which we cannot deter. The role of nature in manipulating our future with the conspiracy of the supernatural is the one and only game that we are playing. No matter how hard anyone tries he cannot change that. He doesn’t seem to have any reliance on free will; it’s all about destiny; we are vulnerable to our future in the making.
In I Sell My Dreams, the role of dreams is immense and interpreted as a blessing. The heroine Frau Frieda received the gift of dream as a blessing. Though she had the potential to become a singer studying music at an Austrian university, she turned out to be a dream interpreter. She acquired a talent which is entirely out of this world skill, and a prophetic vision to make a living. This is not only unusual; it resembles the role of the supernatural collaborating with the natural in shaping our destiny.
The story was narrated in a flashback method where the heroine dies at the outset of the story: “She wore a gold ring shaped like a serpent, with emerald eyes.”
The gift she got was a blessing in disguise. It all started in her childhood. She made it a habit of interpreting her dreams to the family as most dreams are in their purest form in the morning. Her interpretations proved to be right with deadly precision. Later, in her life she was employed by a Viennese family as their fortuneteller. With her skills, she took control of the family and part of their fortune. In this instance, Garcia Marquez gives his opinion about the Viennese family who employed her as a fortuneteller:
They were all religious and therefore inclined to archaic superstitions, and they were delighted to take in Frau Frieda whose only obligation was to decipher the family’s daily fate through her dreams.
Religion is viewed as archaic and obsolete. People and society cannot prosper with backward religious dogmas and superstitions. Garcia Marquez tried to raise the issue of religion which is counterproductive to growth and prosperity for it inhibits the flourishing of individuality. Superstition is not only a religious preoccupation; it is a lot more than that. Even people with modern conscience and beliefs can be influenced by this archaic practice. As it happened to the narrator who was told to stay out of Vienna: “I only came to tell you that I dreamed about you last night,” she said. “You must leave right away and not come back to Vienna for five years.”
The prophecy had an intoxicating effect on him and he never came back to Vienna for years. It is a kind of awakening on the part of the modern man that he still believes in prophecy rather than religion.
There is an instance of Frau Freida’s encounter with Pablo Neruda, another Latin American Nobel laureate in literature from Chile. Naruda, as a modern poet, has little respect for prophetic dreams which can be compared with Garcia Marquez himself. Neruda writes: “Only poetry is clairvoyant”.
But he disproved himself by dreaming about Frau Freida. To his utter surprise, she had the same dream. Would it be a coincident if two people have the same dream? It could all be a supernatural where two people’s wishes unite somewhere else outside this natural world. It also recognises the fact that we are still vulnerable to supernatural.
As Pablo Neruda Explains about his dreams: “I dreamed about that woman who dreams,” he said./ Matilde wanted him to tell her his dream./ “I dreamed she was dreaming about me,” he said./ Later, the narrator explains Frau Freida’s dream:/ “I dreamed about the poet,” she said./ In astonishment I asked her to tell me her dream.
She continues: “I dreamed he was dreaming about me,” she said, and my look of amazement disconcerted her. “What did you expect? Sometimes, with all my dreams, one slips in that has nothing to do with real life.”
It all shows the importance of dreams in our lives, for dreams symbolise hopes, aspiration, and a desire to live. Garcia Marquez inherently believes in dreams, for it shapes his whole life, a source of his creativity. He dreamt of his own funeral which inspired him to be a writer. As he puts it: “Dying means never being with friends again.”
Mohammed Mohsin Miyan is an Associate Professor of English at Asian University of Bangladesh. He can be reached at [email protected].