I remembered [the town] as it was: a good place to live where everybody knew everybody else, located on the banks of a river of transparent water that raced over a bed of polished stones as huge and white as prehistoric eggs. At dusk, above all in December, when the rains had ended and the air was like a diamond, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and its white peaks seemed to come right down to the banana plantations on the other side of the river. From there you could see the Arawak Indians moving in lines like ants along the cliffs of the sierra, carrying sacks of ginger on their backs and chewing pellets of coca to make life bearable. As children we dreamed of shaping balls of the perpetual snow and playing war on the parched, burning streets. For the heat was so implausible, in particular at siesta time, that the adults complained as if it were a daily surprise. From the day I was born I had heard it said, over and over again, that the rail lines and camps of the United Fruit Company had been built at night because during the day the sun made the tools too hot to pick up.
He placed the glorious tome in my lap and said: “This book not only knows everything, but it’s also the only one that’s never wrong.”
It was a huge illustrated book, on its spine a colossal Atlas holding the vault of the universe on its shoulders. I did not know how to read or write, but I could imagine how correct the colonel was if the book had almost two thousand large, crowded pages with beautiful drawings. In church I had been surprised by the size of the missal, but the dictionary was thicker. It was like looking out at the entire world for the first time.
“How many words does it have?” I asked.
“All of them,” said my grandfather.
From ‘Living To Tell The Tale’; goodbye, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.