Excerpts: Living To Tell The Tale (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Interest in national politics was rather thin at school. In my grandparents’ house I had heard it said too often that the only difference between the two parties after the War of a Thousand Days was that the Liberals went to five o’clock Mass so that no one would see them and the Conservatives went to Mass at eight so that people would believe they were believers.

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At that time Bogota was a remote, lugubrious city where an insomniac rain had been falling since the beginning of the sixteenth century. I noticed that on the street there were too many hurrying men, dressed like me when I arrived, in black wool and bowler hats. On the other hand, not a single consolatory woman could be seen, for they, like priests in cassocks and soldiers in uniform, were not permitted to enter the gloomy cafes in the business district. In the streetcars and public urinals there was a melancholy sign: “If you don’t fear God, fear syphilis.”