Friday, August 5, 2016

Short Story - I Sell My Dreams - Gabriel Garcia Marquez


                   –Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The giant wave of destruction
The story opens with the author having breakfast one sunny morning on the terrace of the Havana Riviera Hotel. Suddenly, a huge wave rises up over the sea wall, leaps over the wide, two-way street and hits the twenty-storey building of the hotel. The wave is so strong, it throws up into the air the cars on the avenue, the tourists in the lobby and the furniture of the hotel and even shatters the window panes.

A dead woman with a serpent ring
In the chaos that follows, a car is found to be embedded in the hotel wall with a dead woman at the wheel. She is soon identified as the Portuguese ambassador's housekeeper. The only thing that could be recovered from the woman was her gold serpent shaped ring with emerald eyes.
The author is intrigued by this information as he is reminded of another woman he had met many years back who had worn a similar ring on her right forefinger. The author is unable to find out which finger the dead woman’s ring was on.

The woman who dreams
The story goes back to the author’s first meeting with this woman in Vienna at a tavern thirty-four years before. The woman had been born in Columbia and had come to Austria as a child to learn music. As she never disclosed her real name, everybody referred to her as Frau Frieda. The author wanted to know what she did for a living, to which she replied that she sold her dreams. The third among seven children, at a very young age she had convinced her family that her dreams and her interpretation of them were as potent as oracles. A dream that she had about her brother and which she interpreted established the young girl’s power to foretell events through her dreams.

Her dreams make her rich
During the intense Viennese winters, the girl secures a job at the house of a very religious family, getting a room, three meals a day and wages just enough to cover her minor expenses. Her only job is to interpret her dreams and predict the family’s daily fate based on which the family members, including children, planned their activities. The master of the house bequeaths part of his estate to her on the condition that she continue to interpret her dreams for the family.  
One evening she whispers to the author to leave Vienna right away and not come back for five years. Her conviction is so strong that the author leaves for Rome that very night and never returns.

Frau Frieda comes to Spain
Thirteen years later, the author is in Barcelona with his poet friend Pablo Neruda. This was Neruda’s first day on Spanish soil after the Civil war, a stopover en route to Valpaiso by sea. During lunch, Neruda whispers to the author that he feels somebody is continually watching him from behind. The author turns back and is pleasantly surprised to recognise the woman watching Neruda to be Frau Frieda. She had been Neruda’s co-passenger on the ship but they had not seen each other. The author introduces her to all at the table and encourages her to talk about her dreams hoping to astound the disbelieving poet.

Pablo Neruda has a dream
After lunch, the author takes a stroll with Frau Frieda and finds out that she had managed to inherit the full estate from the Viennese family. She tells him that he can go back to Vienna now. He laughingly replies that even if her dreams were false he would never go back.
The author then leaves her to accompany Neruda back to his house for his siesta. Neruda fusses over the temperature and light in his room and once satisfied with the changes, falls asleep right away. Ten minutes later he walks into the living room refreshed. He announces that he dreamt that the woman who dreams was dreaming about him. There is some light hearted banter on this and the matter soon forgotten.

Some dreams slip in
Later that evening Neruda boards his ship and the author takes his leave of him and goes in search of Frau Frieda. He finds her on the tourist deck. She too had taken a siesta. She tells him that she had dreamt that the poet was dreaming about her. Noticing the amazement on the author’s face she quickly justifies herself saying that some dreams do slip in that have nothing to do with real life. The author never thought about her after that till the Havana tragedy.

The dead woman is identified
A few months after the incident, the author finds himself at a banquet with the Portuguese ambassador and asks him about his dead housekeeper. The ambassador speaks of her with great admiration and enthusiasm without actually explaining her work. To the author’s direct question on this the ambassador replies, she dreamed.

Q1. Did the author believe in the prophetic ability of Frau Frieda?

ANSWER: The author apparently believed in her dreams. We know this by his response of Frau Frieda's request when she said that she had dreamt of him and that he should leave Vienna for five years. The author leaves Vienna the very next day and never goes back. But later in the story he reveals, "I had always thought her dreams were no more than a stratagem for surviving. And I told her so."This hints that may be he left Vienna for some other reasons and not due to the prophetic ability of Frau Frieda.

Q2. Why did he think that Frau Frieda’s dreams were a stratagem for surviving?

ANSWER:  Frau Frieda’s dreams were a stratagem for surviving because her conversations made it clear that, dream by dream, she had taken over the entire fortune of her ineffable patrons in Vienna. That did not surprise the author, however, because the author had always thought her dreams were no more than a stratagem for surviving.

Q3. Why does the author compare Neruda to a Renaissance pope?

ANSWER: The author compares Neruda to a Renaissance pope because he moved through the crowd like an invalid elephant, with a child’s curiosity in the inner workings of each thing he saw, for the world appeared to him as an immense wind-up toy with which life invented itself. Moreover the author compared Neruda to a Renaissance pope because he was gluttonous and refined. Even against his will, he always presided at the table. Matilde, his wife, would put a bib around his neck that belonged in a barbershop rather than a dining room, but it was the only way to keep him from taking a bath in sauce.The author had never known anyone closer to the idea one has of a Renaissance pope other than Neruda.


Q1. In spite of all the rationality that human beings are capable of, most of us are suggestible and yield to archaic superstitions.

ANSWER: In spite of all the rationality that human beings are capable of, most of us are suggestible and yield to archaic superstitions because superstitions are a part of human life since in every tradition there are some superstitions, for instance, the author of the story is also yield to superstition since he obeyed the dreams of the lady and left Vienna forever and the same situation arises in everyone’s life.

Q2. Dreams and clairvoyance are as much an element of the poetic vision as religious superstition.

ANSWER: Dreams and clairvoyance are as much an element of the poetic vision as religious superstition because dreams are the root of a good poem and most poems based on dreams and clairvoyance enriches the readers with the creativity of the poet and dreams and clairvoyance are also part of religious superstitions too because in many fortune-telling priests implies their superstition to the people by making them believe that they dreamt about it.


Q1. The story hinges on a gold ring shaped like a serpent with emerald eyes. Comment on the responses that this image evokes in the reader.

ANSWER: The image of the lady in the story will have different effects on the readers but the author is successful in creating the image of the lady like a traditional fortune teller who wore golden ring shaped like a serpent and with emerald eyes. The narration is effective in order to gain the acceptance of the readers with a horror style of narration even though it is not a horror story.

Q2. The craft of a master story-teller lies in the ability to interweave imagination and reality. Do you think that this story illustrates this?

ANSWER: The craft of a master story-teller lies in the ability to interweave imagination and reality because story telling becomes effective when it interweaves imagination in the readers and take the listeners to a virtual world. This story too illustrates this because the craft of the author in narrating the story is revealed through his masterpiece work which takes the readers to the virtual world created by the story which makes the listeners more interested.

Q3. Bring out the contradiction in the last exchange between the author and the Portuguese ambassador ‘In concrete terms,’ I asked at last, ‘what did she do?’ ‘Nothing,’ he said, with a certain disenchantment. ‘She dreamed.’

ANSWER: The last part of the story highlights the talk between the author and the Portuguese ambassador but it contains a contradiction even though the author knew what did the lady actually does he again put forward the question before of the Portuguese ambassador for his answer and the ambassador replied that she did nothing but she dreamed was the answer which the author actually knows.

Q4. Comment on the ironical element in the story.

ANSWER: Throughout the story the author utilizes all methods to create irony in the story even though the characters appear to be realistic the ironical element is hidden inside the story in the form of superstition and the appearance of lady implies an irony and in the last part of the story which highlights the talk between the author and the Portuguese ambassador is also ironical too because even though the author knew what the lady does he asks the ambassador the same question which is really ironical.


Q1. How did the author recognize the lady who was extricated from the car encrusted in the wall of Havana Riviera Hotel after the storm?

ANSWER: The author recognized the lady who was extricated from the car encrusted in the wall of Havana Riviera Hotel after the storm because of the gold ring she wore which shaped like a serpent and her emerald eye helped the author to identify the similarities with the lady which he knew from Vienna who used to wear the same type of ring and who had emerald eyes.

Q2. Why did the author leave Vienna never to return again?

ANSWER: The author left Vienna and decided never to return again because the lady who used to dream told him to leave Vienna and not to return there for next five years the author thus decided not to return to Vienna again.

Q3. How did Pablo Neruda know that somebody behind him was looking at him?

ANSWER: Paulo Neruda came to knew that somebody behind him was looking at him when he was eating he noticed a lady three chair away from him was staring at him and reported to the author that somebody behind was looking at him and when the author noticed it he found a lady staring at him and identified her it was Frau Frieda, with the snake ring on her index finger.

Q4. How did Pablo Neruda counter Frau Frieda’s claims to clairvoyance?

ANSWER: Pablo Neruda countered Frau Frieda’s claims to clairvoyance by telling her that according to him ‘Only poetry is clairvoyant,’. When she interacted with them at their table Pablo Neruda paid no attention to her and he had announced that he did not believe in prophetic dreams.