cover image Strange Pilgrims

Strange Pilgrims

Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Alfred A. Knopf, $21 (188pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42566-3

Exile and loss are the principal subjects of these 12 stories from the author of Love in the Time of Cholera , which capture with lyrical precision the emotions of disorientation and fear, coupled with a sense of new possibility, experienced by Latin Americans in Europe. Their pilgrimages seldom achieve their goals: the deposed politician in `` Bon Voyage , Mister President'' sells all his personal belongings to have an operation in Geneva that doesn't alleviate his pain; the devoted father who brings the miraculously intact remains of his seven-year-old daughter to Rome in ``The Saint'' can't get an audience with the Pope; a particularly chilling tale, ``I Only Came to Use the Phone,'' shows a woman accidentally taken to an insane asylum who can't get out even after she contacts her husband in Barcelona. A note of hard-won hope enters in stories like ``Maria dos Prazeres,'' which portrays an elderly prostitute selecting her burial site, but the mood darkens again as the collection closes with ``Tramontania,'' ``Miss Forbes's Summer of Happiness,'' ``Light Is Like Water'' and ``The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow,'' tales of suicide, murder, accidental death and tragically missed communications. Lovely prose and some poignant insights contribute to a collection that pleases in its parts but fails to strike a lasting note. But even a minor effort from Garcia Marquez is a standard toward which other writers aspire. 75,000 first printing; BOMC alternate. (Oct.)