Read In Evil Hour Online

Authors: Gabriel Garcia Marquez,Gregory Rabassa

In Evil Hour

Gabriel García Márquez
Translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa

In Evil Hour


Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia, in 1927. He studied at the National University of Colombia at Bogotá and later worked as a reporter for the Colombian newspaper
El Espectador
and as a foreign correspondent in Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Caracas and New York. He is the author of several novels and collections of stories, including
Eyes of a Blue Dog
Leaf Storm
No One Writes to the Colonel
In Evil Hour
Big Mama's Funeral
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories
The Autumn of the Patriarch
Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Love in the Time of Cholera
The General in His Labyrinth
Strange Pilgrims
Of Love and Other Demons
(1994) and
Memories of My Melancholy Whores
(2005). Many of his books are published by Penguin. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. Gabriel García Márquez died in 2014.



‘Márquez weaves together the strands of action, personality and image with impressive skill. A masterly book'

In Evil Hour
was the book which was to inspire my own career as a novelist. I owe my writing voice to that one book!' Jim Crace

‘Belongs to the very best of Márquez's work … should on no account be missed'
Financial Times

‘Underlying the marvellous wit, the inimitable humour and the superbly paced dialogue, there is the author's own anger, always controlled. A splendid achievement'
The Times

‘Márquez writes in this lyrical, magical language that no one else can do' Salman Rushdie

‘One of this century's most evocative writers' Anne Tyler

‘The most important writer of fiction in any language' Bill Clinton

‘Márquez has insights and sympathies which he can project with the intensity of a reflecting mirror in a bright sun. He dazzles us with powerful effect'
New Statesman

‘The vigour and coherence of Márquez's vision, the brilliance and beauty of his imagery, the narrative tension … coursing through his pages … makes it difficult to put down'
Daily Telegraph

‘Sentence for sentence, there is hardly another writer in the world so generous with incidental pleasures'

‘Márquez is the master weaver of the real and the conjectured. His descriptive power astounds'
New Statesman

‘Underlying the marvellous wit, the inimitable humour and the superbly paced dialogue, there is the author's own anger, always controlled'
The Times

‘Every word and incident counts, everything hangs together, the work is a neatly perfect organism'
Financial Times

sat up with a solemn effort. He rubbed his eyelids with the bones of his hands, pushed aside the embroidered mosquito netting, and remained sitting on the bare mattress, pensive for an instant, the time indispensable for him to realize that he was alive and to remember the date and its corresponding day on the calendar of saints. Tuesday, October fourth, he thought; and in a low voice he said: “St. Francis of Assisi.”

He got dressed without washing and without praying. He was large, ruddy, with the peaceful figure of a domesticated ox, and he moved like an ox, with thick, sad gestures. After attending to the buttoning of his cassock, with the languid attention and the movements with which a harp is tuned, he took down the bar and opened the door to the courtyard. The spikenards in the rain brought back the words of a song to him.

“ ‘The sea will grow larger with my tears,' ” he sighed.

The bedroom was connected to the church by an inside veranda bordered with flowerpots and paved with loose bricks between which the October grass was beginning to grow. Before going into the church, Father Ángel went to the toilet. He urinated abundantly, holding his breath so as not to inhale the intense ammonia smell which brought out tears in him. Then he went out onto the veranda, remembering: “This bark will bear me to your dreams.” At the narrow little door of the church he smelled the vapor of the spikenards for the last time.

Inside it smelled bad. There was a long nave, also paved with loose bricks, and with a single door opening on the square. Father Ángel went directly to the bell tower. He saw that the counterweights of the clock were more than a yard above his head and he thought that it was still wound up enough to last a week. The mosquitoes attacked him. He squashed one on the back of his neck with a violent slap and wiped his hand on the bell rope. Then from up above he heard the visceral sound of the complicated mechanical gears and immediately thereafter—dull, deep—the bell tolling five o'clock in his stomach.

He waited until the last resonance died down. Then he grabbed the rope with both hands, wrapped it around his wrists, and made the cracked bronzes ring with peremptory conviction. He had turned sixty-one years of age and the effort of ringing the bells was too strenuous for him, but he had always made the call to mass personally and that exercise strengthened his morale.

Trinidad pushed open the street door while the bells were ringing and went to the corner where she had set the traps for the mice. She found something that brought on repugnance and pleasure in her at the same time: a small massacre.

She opened the first trap, picked up the mouse by the tail
with her thumb and forefinger, and threw it into a cardboard box. Father Ángel had just opened the door onto the square.

“Good morning, Father,” Trinidad said.

His baritone voice didn't register. The desolate square, the almond trees sleeping in the rain, the village motionless in the inconsolable October dawn, produced in him a feeling of abandonment. But when he grew accustomed to the sound of the rain, he made out, in the rear of the square, clear and somewhat unreal, Pastor's clarinet. Only then did he respond to the good morning.

“Pastor wasn't with the people serenading,” he said.

“No,” Trinidad confirmed. She approached with the box of dead mice. “It was all guitars.”

“They spent almost two hours on one silly little song,” the priest said. “ ‘The sea will grow larger with my tears.' Isn't that how it goes?”

“That's Pastor's new song,” she said.

Motionless by the door, the priest experienced an instantaneous fascination. For many years he had heard Pastor's clarinet as two blocks away he would sit down to practice every day at five o'clock with his stool up against the prop of his dovecote. It was the mechanism of the town functioning with precision: first the five bell tolls of five o'clock; then the first call to mass, and then Pastor's clarinet in the courtyard of his house, purifying the pigeon-filth-laden air with diaphanous and articulated notes.

“The music is good,” the priest reacted, “but the lyrics are silly. The words can roll either backward or forward and it won't make any difference: ‘This bark will bear me to your dreams.' ”

He turned half around, smiling at his own discovery, and went to light the altar. Trinidad followed him. She was wearing a long white robe with sleeves down to her knuckles
and the blue silk sash of a lay order. Her eyes were of an intense black under the merged eyebrows.

“They were around here all night,” the priest said.

“At Margot Ramírez' place,” said Trinidad distractedly, shaking the dead mice in the box. “But last night there was something better than the serenade.”

The priest stopped and fixed his eyes of silent blue on her.

“What was that?”

“Lampoons,” said Trinidad. And she let out a nervous little laugh.

Three houses beyond, César Montero was dreaming about elephants. He'd seen them at the movies on Sunday. Rain had fallen a half hour before the film was over and now it was continuing in his dream.

César Montero turned the whole weight of his monumental body against the wall while terrified natives fled the herd of elephants. His wife pushed him softly, but neither of them woke up. “We're leaving,” he murmured, and recovered his initial position. Then he woke up. At that moment the second call to mass sounded.

It was a room with large screened openings. The window on the square, also screened, had a cretonne curtain with yellow flowers. On the small night table there was a portable radio, a lamp, and a clock with a luminous dial. On the other side, against the wall, an enormous wardrobe with mirrored doors. While he was putting on his riding boots, César Montero began to hear Pastor's clarinet. The raw leather laces were stiffened with mud. He pulled hard on them, drawing them through his closed hand, which was rougher than the leather of the laces. Then he looked for his spurs, but he couldn't find them under the bed. He went on getting dressed in the dark, trying not to make any noise
so as not to awaken his wife. As he was buttoning up his shirt he looked at the time on the clock on the table, then went back to looking for the spurs under the bed. First he searched for them with his hands. Progressively, he got down on all fours and started scratching under the bed. His wife woke up.

“What are you looking for?”

“The spurs.”

“They're hanging behind the wardrobe,” she said. “You put them there yourself on Saturday.”

She pushed aside the mosquito netting and turned on the light. He stood up, shamefaced. He was monumental, with square, solid shoulders, but his movements were elastic, even when he wore his boots, the soles of which looked like two strips of wood. His health was somewhat barbarous. He seemed of an indefinite age, but the skin on his neck showed that it had gone beyond fifty. He sat on the bed to put on his spurs.

“It's still raining,” she said, feeling that her aching bones had absorbed the dampness of the night. “I feel like a sponge.”

Small, bony, with a long, sharp nose, she had the quality of not seeming to have finished waking up. She tried to see the rain through the curtain. César Montero finished adjusting his spurs, stood up, and stamped several times on the floor. The house shook with the copper spurs.

“The jaguar gets fat in October,” he said.

But his wife, in ecstasy over Pastor's melody, didn't hear him. When she looked at him again he was combing his hair in front of the wardrobe, his legs apart and his head bent over, because he was too tall for the mirrors.

She was following Pastor's melody in a low voice.

“They were plucking that song all night long,” he said.

“It's very pretty,” she said.

She untied a ribbon from the headboard of the bed, gathered up her hair at the back of her neck, and sighed, completely awake: “ ‘I'll stay in your dreams until death.' ” He paid no attention to her. From a drawer in the wardrobe, where, besides some jewels, there were a small woman's watch and a fountain pen, he took out a billfold with some money. He extracted four bills and returned the wallet to the same place. Then he put six shotgun shells in his shirt pocket.

“If the rain keeps up, I won't be back on Saturday,” he said.

When he opened the door to the courtyard, he paused for an instant on the threshold, breathing in the somber smell of October while his eyes became accustomed to the darkness. He was going to close the door, when the alarm clock in the bedroom rang.

His wife leaped out of bed. He remained in suspense, his hand on the knob, until she turned off the alarm. Then he looked at her for the first time, pensively.

“Last night I dreamed about elephants,” he said.

Then he closed the door and went to saddle up the mule.

The rain grew stronger before the third call. A low wind pulled the last rotten leaves off the almond trees on the square. The street lights went out but the houses were still locked. César Montero rode the mule into the kitchen and without dismounting, shouted to his wife to bring him his raincoat. He took off the double-barreled shotgun which he had slung over his shoulder and fastened it horizontally with the saddle straps. His wife appeared in the kitchen with the raincoat.

“Wait for it to clear,” she told him without conviction.

He put the raincoat on silently. Then he looked toward the courtyard.

“It won't clear until December.”

She accompanied him with her gaze to the other end of the veranda. The rain was pelting the rusty sheets on the roof, but he was going. Spurring the mule, he had to bend over in the saddle so as not to hit the crossbeam of the door as he went into the courtyard. The drops from the eaves exploded like buckshot on his back. From the main door he shouted without turning his head:

“See you Saturday.”

“See you Saturday,” she said.

The only door on the square that was open was that of the church. César Montero looked up and saw the sky, heavy and low, two feet above his head. He crossed himself and spurred the mule, making it whirl about several times on its hind legs until the animal got a grip on the soapy soil. That was when he saw the piece of paper stuck to the door of his house.

He read it without dismounting. The water had dissolved the colors, but the text, written with a brush in rough printed letters, could still be made out. César Montero brought the mule over to the wall, pulled off the paper, and tore it to bits.

With a slap of the reins he pressed the mule into a short trot, good for many hours. He left the square through a narrow and twisted street with adobe-walled houses whose doors turned out the dregs of sleep when they were opened. He caught the smell of coffee. Only when he left the last houses of the town behind did he turn the mule around and, with the same short and regular trot, return to the square and stop in front of Pastor's house. There he dismounted, took off the shotgun, and tied the mule to the prop, performing each action in the precise time needed.

The door was unbolted, blocked at the bottom by a giant sea shell. César Montero went into the small shadowy living room. He heard a sharp note and then an expectant silence.
He passed by four chairs arranged around a small table with a woolen cloth and a vase with artificial flowers. Finally he stopped in front of the courtyard door, threw back the hood of his raincoat, released the safety catch of the shotgun by feel, and with a calm, almost friendly voice, called:


Pastor appeared in the frame of the door, screwing off the mouthpiece of the clarinet. He was a thin, straight lad with an incipient line of mustache trimmed with scissors. When he saw César Montero with his heels planted on the earthen floor and the shotgun at waist level pointed at him, Pastor opened his mouth. But he didn't say anything. He turned pale and smiled. César Montero first firmed his heels against the ground, then the butt, with his elbow, against his hip; then he clenched his teeth and, at the same time, the trigger. The house shook with the explosion, but César Montero didn't know whether it was before or after the commotion that from the other side of the door he saw Pastor dragging himself with the undulation of a worm along a furrow of tiny bloody feathers.

The mayor had begun to fall asleep at the moment of the shot. He'd spent three sleepless nights in torment because of the pain in his molar. That morning, at the first call to mass, he took his eighth analgesic. The pain gave way. The crackling of the rain on the zinc roof helped him fall asleep, but the molar was still throbbing painlessly while he slept. When he heard the shot he awoke with a leap and grabbed the cartridge belt and revolver that he always left on a chair beside the hammock, within reach of his left hand. But since he could hear only the noise of the drizzle, he thought it had been a nightmare and he felt the pain again.

He had a slight fever. In the mirror he noticed that his cheek was á¹£welling. He opened a jar of mentholated vaseline
and rubbed it on the painful part, tight and unshaven. Suddenly he caught the sound of distant voices through the rain. He went out onto the balcony. The residents of the street, some in their nightclothes, were running toward the square. A boy turned his head toward him, raised his arms, and shouted without stopping:

“César Montero has killed Pastor.”

On the square, César Montero was walking around with his shotgun pointed at the crowd. The mayor recognized him with a little trouble. He took his revolver in his left hand and started forward toward the center of the square. The people made way for him. Out of the poolroom came a policeman holding his rifle, aiming at César Montero. The mayor said to him in a low voice: “Don't shoot, you animal.” He holstered his revolver, took the rifle away from the policeman, and continued toward the center of the square.

“César Montero,” the mayor shouted, “give me that shotgun.”

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