Light is Like Water

Mastering the science of sailing on light.

Inspired by “Light is Like Water” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1978)


Called to deal with the emergency, firemen forced open the door on the fifth floor and found the apartment brimming with light all the way to the ceiling. The sofa and armchairs covered in leopard-skin were floating at different levels in the living-room, among the bottles from the bar and the grand piano with its Manila shawl fluttering half submerged like a golden manta ray. Household objects, in the fullness of their poetry, were flying through the kitchen sky on their own wings. Brass instruments, which the children used when they were dancing, were drifting among the brightly coloured fish freed from their mother’s aquarium, the only creatures lively and happy in the vast illuminated marsh. All the toothbrushes were floating in the bathroom, along with Papa’s condoms and Mama’s jars of cream and spare dentures, and the television set from the master bedroom was afloat on its side, still tuned to the final part of the midnight movie for adults.

At the end of the corridor, Toto was sitting in the stern of the boat, all at sea, clutching the oars tightly with his mask on and only just enough air to reach the lighthouse he was searching for, while Joel was bobbing in the prow, still charting the north star with his sextant; and floating throughout the house were their thirty-seven classmates, eternalised in the moment of peeing into a pot of geraniums, or singing the school song with the words changed to make fun of the headmaster, or sneaking a glass of brandy from Papa’s bottle. For they had turned on so many lights at the same time that the apartment had flooded, and the whole fourth-year class at the elementary school of Saint Julian the Hospitaler had drowned on the fifth floor of 47 Paseo de la Castellana. In Madrid, Spain, a remote city of burning summers and icy winds, with no ocean or river, whose landbound population had never mastered the science of navigating on light.

“Light is Like Water” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1978)
‘Strange Pilgrims’, translated by Edith Grossman, is published by Cape