The Autumn of the Patriarch or in spanish “El otoño del patriarca” is a novel by the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez published for the first time in 1975. The work is adapted in an imaginary town in the Caribbean and exposes the decadence of a despotic dictator, in which scenes from his varied and apparent deaths, until finally the patriarch dies and his government ends.
In the best style of the writer to make use of the magic that surrounds the imaginary as a literary resource, in The Autumn of the Patriarch the central character symbolizes the authoritarian character and the dictatorial regimes of Caribbean and Latin American history.
The Autumn of the Patriarch as a well-known Garciamarquiana novel (a term that defines the author’s literary specificity) overflows with many meanings and intentions, which gives it the status of being understood from many forms and fields.
As in much of the novelist’s narrative, in The Autumn of the Patriarch the reader will encounter a hyperbolic discourse, with this resource the narrative of the work makes the facts that structure the story be told, for example, in an exaggerated way.
The novel exposes an aesthetic resource that repeatedly harmonizes the humorous with the absurd, the grotesque with the fantastic, the eschatological with the imitable, these articulations expose an authentic way of novelizing by staging meanings little used in the classic novel.
It is a work susceptible of analysis from different methods and approaches, since it represents an aesthetic-affective and intellectual world that will always be ready as in fact it has been for its approach as a Latin American critical novel.
The Autumn of the Patriarch has the peculiarity that the reader will find the summary of the novel on the first pages. The work is divided into six chapters which have no title. The facts are told from an immutable fluctuation of time, where recurrence, comments, and assumption proliferate naturally.
Summary, analysis and synopsis
In The Autumn of the Patriarch, García Márquez presents us with an absolute patriarch, who without knowing how to read or write exerts power without measure, over a people who mythologizes him and believes him endowed with surprising virtues, an example of which is reflected in the following sentence of the work “ruled with a loud voice and body present at all times and everywhere”.
However in the development of the work, that mythical image of sovereign autocrat that is found in the first half of the novel and that the author describes with phrases found in the work: “the eternal president”, “the magnificent”, “The one who distributes happiness” begins to experience a degradation that García Márquez replaces with other images.
The dominant category of the patriarch is degraded to a grotesque, ridiculous and decadent figure in the court of his homeland, where power experiences an autumn, a fading as the patriarch becomes a victim of his physical ailments as a consequence of his advanced age .
That outstanding feature that the author makes of the patriarch, that annuls and undoes him as a mythological being, for an image that is progressively destroyed, is what in literature is known as carnivalization and that García Márquez displays this resource prominently.
This carnival present in The Autumn of the Patriarch breaks the mythical structure of the hero and it is happening to the extent that humor, sarcasm, the grotesque, the ironic begins to appear in the discourse, among many other features that make the image Mythical character collapses in the eyes of attentive readers.
The figure of the patriarch is transformed into a carnival jester, whose behaviors and features described in the narrative, allow that representation of the great, the ideal and the glorious figure to be vulgarized, in other words García Márquez with this particular resource, manages to project the degradation of the figure of the Dictator but also enables the creation of a myth: the great Latin American monster.
The death of the patriarch destroys the myth externalized around him and the power he represents, that world unlike Galeano is heading for a favorable change in the people that for years succumbed to the authority of the dictator, with the news of his death, the people throw to the street to celebrate the event.
It is characteristic in the morphology of the work, the extension of the fragments of which many times without punctuation marks, there is omission of dialogues and of the use of the script. A chronological coming and going make the narrated events oscillate in the literary time of the work, where recurrence, supposition and paraphrase predominate.
This morphology present in The Autumn of the Patriarch, sets out the intention of showing how this discourse represents a tribute to orality, that is, to basically Caribbean oral language, a characteristic feature of Garciamarquiana’s literary creation.
The work belongs to the genre of novel, whose features identify it as the type of “New historical novel”, a category that well allows the conjunction of the supernatural and the strange.
The Autumn of the Patriarch recounts implausible, fantastic or wonderful events of magical inspiration, while appealing to social, political, linguistic, socio-cultural and historical realism, therefore this work is part of the Latin American current of magical realism.
- The Patriarch: He is the central figure and embodies the immeasurable power. The constructed image has the power to represent a charismatic hero, but also a disgusting, degenerate, grotesque being, among so many fantastic descriptions that are in the novel.
The patriarch, governs outside all institutional rationality, is guided by pure instinct and his governability is the result of the use of force.
The Patriarch is shown to be a fantastically atrocious being, appearing as normal to the real, but equally implausible. This is explained because in The Autumn of the Patriarch, narrations that make people think the opposite of what they apparently express are exposed in his speech.
García Márquez leaves readers the freedom to analyze the character at his mercy; with its almost two hundred years of life, with its more than seven thousand children, with immense testicles, with enormous elephant legs and with so many other irrational characters, it makes that as a furtive key some critics mention that the author as corollary, tries to demystify this character.
- Alvarado Blessing: It is the figure that personifies the mother of the Patriarch. From her it is known in the narration that her son came to power thanks to the English, the Americans and with the support of fourteen federalist leaders. She confesses before dying that she was raped and that her son was born from that rape.
Patricio Aragonés, José Ignacio Saenz de la Barra, General Rodrigo de Aguilar, Leticia Nazareno. All characters that even with their specific roles present in the narrative, in the background represent the projected power of the Dictator in an “other” in one another. The patriarch as an archetypal figure manages to transcend all possible forms of power in these characters.
Gabriel García Márquez, appealing to the recourse to hyperbolic discourse, challenges a reality that is not exaggerated. Power, as a manifest and underlying symbolism in the work, points out that its excessive use transforms the decent man into an irrational being with monstrous characteristics.
There is an “eros” that symbolizes the elements that refer to events in the life of the dictator and a “thanatos” that symbolizes with the death of the dictator and with the end of his government, the need to reestablish a centrality that normalizes and promotes restraint .
Famous phrases within the book:
“No one lives without my permission”
“Have you ever asked what hours it is and they have answered what you order my general”
“If I had known that my son was going to be President of the Republic, I would have sent him to school”
“A man like me who was able to call his entire name by his first and last name”
Importance in literature
This work ratifies for the development of Latin American literature the importance that aesthetic values and narrative techniques are capable of transcending to another dimension without detracting from those historical, political, and social issues, which speak of hardships over the peoples, making pieces like these become authentic linguistic and literary innovations.