Reviews

Further Years of Solitude

Anson Ching

I picked up Miguel Bonnefoy’s Black Sugar (Gallic Books)—translated from the French by Emily Boyce—when I visited the new bookstore Upstart & Crow on Granville Island in Vancouver. I fell into the story immediately, feeling as if I had jumped back into Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Black Sugar is also set in a remote village in a tropical rainforest, where connections with the coast and the outside world seem to have been severed so long ago that villagers find it absurd to think that the notorious privateer Henry Morgan’s lost treasure might be buried somewhere nearby. Each time travellers seeking Morgan’s fabled treasure come to the village, they bring with them snippets from the modern world at large. What I love about reading this kind of story is seeing how many nuggets of history I can prospect from the fable-like prose. There’s truth in the tale, but facts as well, with the facts being the embellishment. There’s a lushness to stories like Bonnefoy’s that I wish North Americans weren’t so standoffish towards. In contrast to Márquez’s sprawling novels, Bonnefoy is able to rein in his story, exploring just a few strands of thought. Black Sugar is a rich but short read, and if I were asked to suggest an introduction to the world of magic realism, this is certainly one of the options that I’d recommend.

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