But despite Faulkner's influence, Leaf Storm is not a derivative work. Its own language is rich, dense, but without the difficulty that goes with much of Faulkner. It is occasionally surreal in a way that Faulkner's work is not. And though it establishes Macondo in emulation of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, it does so with such originality and relevance to Latin American life that by the time Macondo matured into the fully appointed village in Cien Años, multitudes of Latin readers recognized it as the dwelling place of their communal spirit.
The world García imagines is always solidly grounded in the real world, but it is deceptive, for the real is also frequently surreal.
In Leaf Storm, the old doctor sits down to a pretentious, bourgeois dinner and startles everybody by saying to a servant: "Look, miss, just start boiling a little grass and bring that to me as if it were soup." "What kind of grass, doctor?" the servant asks. "Ordinary grass, ma'am," the doctor says. "The kind that donkeys eat."
Surreal? Not to García. "A man said that in my house," he said.
He believes that Faulkner differs from him on this matter in that Faulkner's outlandishness is disguised as reality.
"Faulkner was surprised at certain things that happened in life," García said, 'but he writes of them not as surprises but as things that happen every day."
García feels less surprised. "In Mexico," he says, "surrealism runs through the streets. Surrealism comes from the reality of Latin America."
About two weeks before he talked, a newsman had called to ask García for his reaction to an occurrence in a rural Colombian town. About ten in the morning at a small school, two men pulled up in a truck and said, "We came for the furniture." Nobody knew anything about them, but the schoolmaster nodded, the furniture was loaded onto the truck and driven off, and only much later was it understood that the truckmen were thieves.
"Normal," says García.
"One day in Barcelona," he continued, "my wife and I were asleep and the doorbell rings. I open the door and a man says to me, 'I came to fix the ironing cord.' My wife, from the bed, says, 'We don't have anything wrong with the iron here.' The man asks, 'Is this apartment two?' 'No,' I say, 'upstairs.' Later, my wife went to the iron and plugged it in and it burned up. This was a reversal. The man came before we knew it had to be fixed. This type of thing happens all the time. My wife has already forgotten it."
García likes the principles of surrealism but not the surrealists themselves. Given a choice, he prefers the painters to the poets, but he does not think of himself as being like any of them. And it is true that his work is based more in the anecdote than in the symbolic or random flow of events so important to the surrealists; true also that his aim is to be accessible, not obscure. And yet, a surreal quality, a rendering of the improbable and impossible as real, pervades his work. And its importance to him has obviously intensified since the tepidly surreal grass-eating of Leaf Storm. In Cien Años he made the leap to earth-eating, to a plague of insomnia, to ghosts that grow old, to a young woman who ascends bodily into heaven and takes two bed sheets with her. His improbability usually extends an everyday reality. In Cien Ahos, for instance, José Arcadio, son of Ursula, enters his bedroom, closes the door, and a pistol shot is heard. Then:
A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta's chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.
"Holy Mother of God!" Úrsula shouted.
She followed the thread of blood back along its course, and in search of its origin she went through the pantry, along the begonia porch where Aureliano José was chanting that three plus three is six and six plus three is nine, and she crossed the dining room and the living rooms and followed straight down the street, and she turned first to the right and then to the left to the Street of the Turks, forgetting that she was still wearing her baking apron and her house slippers, and she came out onto the square and went into the door of a house where she had never been, and she pushed open the bedroom door and was almost suffocated by the smell of burned gunpowder, and she found José Arcadio lying face down on the ground on top of the leggings he had just taken off, and she saw the starting point of the thread of blood that had already stopped flowing out of his right ear.
We talked of this passage in connection with the surreal aspect of the book, but García all but dismissed the improbable quality of it, saying only: "It is the umbilical cord." And we moved on to something else.