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Gabriel García Márquez

"Death Constant Beyond Love"

Gabriel García Márquez is one of the most celebrated writers of our time.  He is best known for his novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and his characteristic style, known as "magical realism."

"Death Constant Beyond Love" (1970) has a political setting, but it also looks into the broader realm of death.  The main character, Senator Onésimo Sánchez, is  indeed corrupt, but there is no indication that he had ever been an unfaithful husband until "he found the woman of his life" (2430), just after he had found out he was dying.

Senator Sanchez has made a career of selling illusions to his impoverished Mexican constituents.  Every four years at election time, he makes his rounds, producing his illusory campaign spectacle, but this time, having been told of his imminent death, he's only going through the motions.  He has realized that his illusions cannot hide the reality of death and its solitude.

The meaning, or truth, of the story resides in its title, "Death Constant Beyond Love," which is a reversal of the title of a sonnet by the famous seventeenth-century Spanish writer Quevedo, "Love Constant Beyond Death."  Also, Márquez is reversing our normal concept of love, how it is able to transcend the boundaries of life and death.  You might recall this same move in Rilke.

Márquez's style is commonly referred to as magical realism, a technique that uses broad concepts of life, death, and love in an almost allegorical realm, and leads the reader, through his rich use of language, into a completely unexpected place.  I think his story, "The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is a clearer example of this technique.  In this story, an old angel washes up in someone's yard and is nursed back to health amid a rather large spectacle.

Beneath all of this, however, as in most of Márquez's work, lurks the political.   Márquez is an active socialist, and he treats many of the usual socialist concerns in his work--the corruption of bourgeois politics, the plight of the working class, the distribution of wealth.


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