Gabriel García Márquez


"One Hundred Years of Solitude"

(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie SEP 16, 2004)

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years Of Solitude is the literary equivalent of a magic carpet ride, your own magic genii come to life, and Shaharazade's 101 tales wrapped into one brilliant, multilayered epic novel. From page one you will voyage with the most remarkably original cast of characters, through worlds of vibrant color, where the sun shines almost always - when not obscured by a four year downpour. You will find yourself laughing out loud when you are not sobbing in sympathy with someone dying of heartbreak. I do not like to label Sr. Garcia Marquez' work "magical realism." There is no label to accurately describe the writing that gifted us with One Hundred Years Of Solitude. This is a book that defies description. You must read it to experience the fantastically real world of Macondo, and the people who live there. Once you know them, they will be a part of your own world forever. Have you ever looked at a painting, walked into it and become a part of it? When you open this novel at page one, you are beckoned to enter.

Macondo is a mythical South American town, founded, almost by accident, by Jose Arcadio Buendia, and populated primarily by his descendants. This is the story of one hundred years in the life of Macondo and its inhabitants - the story of the town's birth, development and death. Civil war and natural calamities plague this vital place whose populace fights to renew itself and survive. This is a huge narrative fiction that explores the history of a people caught up in the history of a place. And Marquez captures the range of human emotions and the reasons for experiencing them in this generational tale.

There is much that is delightful and comical here. Surprises never cease, whether it be Remedios ascending, or a man whose presence is announced by clouds of butterflies. There is satire, sexuality and bawdiness galore. But there is also a pervading sadness and futility that permeates throughout. Cruelty is a reality in Marquez' world, as are failure, despair and senseless, sudden violence. The plot is filled with passion, poetry, romance, tragedy and the echoes of the history of Colombia and Latin America.

I first read One Hundred Years Of Solitude in 1968, while living in Latin America. I have read it 2 or 3 times over the years, always picking up new pieces of wonder that I had previously missed. This is my favorite novel, and I am an avid reader. My favorite fictional character is Melquiades, the gypsy who foretells the future of the township and whose ghost accompanies the reader until there is no more to read. Having read this in Spanish and English, I must laud Gregory Rabassa's extraordinary translation which faithfully brings to life not only Marquez' story, but his lyrical prose. This is one of the 20th Century's best works of fiction. It is a masterpiece not to be missed.

NOTE FROM EDITOR:

I recommend that you start with this book, if you are new to Latin American writers, specifically the category of fiction called "magical realism," though I agree with Jana L. Perskie that it's not fair to pigeon hole this book with only this category; it is a wonderful story that combines the fantastic with the realistic. As Jana says in her review, it is one to read again and again during one's life. It is also my favorite book -- I've read it fives times so far and am due to read it again soon.

If you want more about Macondo, read Leaf Storm and Other Stories which is a collection of short stories centered around Macondo but written many years before One Hundred Years of Solitude. -- Judi

  • Amazon readers' rating: 4.5 starsfrom 985 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from One Hundred Years of Solitude at HarperCollins

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"Love in the Time of Cholera"

(Reviewed by Debbie Lee Wesselmann AUG 26, 2006)

The title of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel says it all: this is an epic story told with witty, often hilarious, insight about thwarted love. Florentino is passionately and irrevocably in love with Fermina, but when Fermina abruptly calls off their courtship, he is helpless to stop her from marrying a physician. Florentino must endure decades of unrequited love while his beloved constructs a life around another man. But this novel is about so much more than the love Florentino harbors for Fermina. This is about love in all difficult times, through social and political change, through obligation and approaching old age, through betrayal and bold declarations. Fermina's husband Juvenal Urbino is as much a part of this novel as the two lovers.

As always, Garcia Marquez supplies engaging and surreal detail to his story. Only a writer as skilled as he could succeed in exploring all the events leading to the death of a character who is trying to capture his pet parrot. The absurd and fantastical happenings harbor sharp social commentary, elevating this novel from a trifle about love to a masterpiece. As with all of Garcia Marquez's book, this novel is about gritty reality despite the playful, magic realist overlay.

You can feel the enormous satisfaction and fun Garcia Marquez had with this story. He is truly one of the greatest writers to grace the literary landscape. This book is a must-read.

 

  • Amazon readers rating: 4 starsfrom 614 reviews

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"Living to the Tell the Tale"

(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie JUN 12, 2005)

"Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it."

Living to Tell the Tale ("Vivir Para Contarla") is the first book in a planned trilogy that will make up the memoirs of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the renown Colombian writer who initially won public acclaim in the mid-1960s for his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. At that time, Garcia Marquez, a journalist and writer, had never sold more than 700 copies of a book. While driving his family through Mexico, he had a veritable brainstorm. He remembered his grandmother's storytelling technique - to recall fantastic, improbable events as if they had actually happened - literally. That was the key to recounting the life of the imaginary village of Macondo and her inhabitants. He turned the car around and drove back home to begin One Hundred Years of Solitude anew. To my mind it is one of the 20th century's best works of fiction, and was highlighted in the citation awarding Garcia Marquez the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Living to Tell The Tale relates the early years of the author's life, although some of the book's most important incidents predate Garcia Marquez's birth. The impact of these experiences, the people and their stories, were to have a powerful effect on him, as a man and as a writer. This is the tale of his parents' courtship, marriage and the birth of their children, Garcia Marquez, (Gabito), the oldest, and his ten siblings. It tells of his early years which were spent in Aracataca, in the home of his maternal grandparents. His grandfather, Colonel Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Mejía, was a Liberal veteran of the War of a Thousand Days. He was supposedly a storyteller of great repute. The Colonel told his young grandson that there was no greater burden than to have killed a man. Later García Márquez would put these words into the mouths of his characters. His grandmother, Tranquilina Iguarán Cotes, had a major influence on Gabriel's life also. Another great source of stories, her mind was filled with superstitions and folklore, and she gossiped away with her numerous sisters within hearing range of young "Gabito." No matter how fantastic her statements, she always delivered them as if they were the absolute, verifiable truth. This was the style which was to effect Garcia Marquez's fiction, sometimes called "magical realism." These women filled the house with stories of ghosts, premonitions and omens - all of which were studiously ignored by her husband. He had little interest in "women's beliefs."

Aracataca was a small village, a banana town on the Caribbean coast, where poverty was the norm and violence was an everyday occurrence. On December 6, 1928, in the Cienaga train station, near Aracataca, 3,000 striking banana workers were shot and killed by troops from Antioquia. Although still a baby, this event, recounted to him, was to have a profound effect on the author. The incident was officially forgotten and omitted from Colombian history textbooks.

In 1940, when he was twelve, Gabo was awarded a scholarship to a secondary school for gifted students, run by Jesuits. The school, the Liceo Nacional, was in Zipaquirá, a city 30 miles to the north of Bogotá. It was during his school years, 1940s and 50s, that he was first drawn to poetry - a national obsession in Colombia. Verse was revered as an art form, and also as an effective means of social and political commentary. He and his friends, fellow students, would read aloud and discuss poetry late into the night. The youths admired a group of poets called the piedra y cielo ("stone and sky") and they were strongly influenced by Juan Ramon Jimenez and Pablo Neruda. Too poor to buy his own books, Gabo would devour novels borrowed from friends.

While still a boy, he decided he wanted to be a writer. The people who surrounded him in his childhood later became instrumental when developing the characters and the storylines for his novels. Love In The Time of Cholera was inspired by the romance between his mother and father. And his grandfather, who had twelve children, (some say 16), by two different women, became Colonel Aureliano Buendia in One Hundred Years of Solitude.

One of the most powerful episodes of the book tells of the period called "La Violencia." In 1948 the Liberal presidential candidate, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, was assassinated. The murder led to rioting, and left approximately 2500 dead on the streets of Bogota, during "el Bogotázo." Political violence and repression followed. One of the buildings that burned was the pension where Garcia Marquez lived, and his manuscripts were destroyed along with his living quarters. The National University was closed and he was forced to go to the university in Cartagena. Garcia Marquez began his career as a journalist, writing stories and commentary for a Liberal newspaper in Cartegana. Later he moved to the coastal city of Barranquilla where he began to associate with a group of young writers who admired modernists like Joyce, Woolf and Hemingway, and introduced Marquez to Faulkner. In 1954 he returned to Bogota, as a reporter for El Espectador.

Garcia Marquez begins his book, however, not with his real birth in 1928, but with his "birth as a writer," at age 22. He and his mother took a trip from Baranquilla, where he was working as a reporter, to his childhood home in Aracataca, now virtually a ghost town. They were going to sell the ancestral house. Vivid memories were stirred up here, memories which electrified his imagination. This trip was to change the course of his writing life. "With the first step I took onto the burning sands of the town, Aracataca instantly became Macondo, an earthly paradise of desolation and nostalgia." His one great subject became his family, "which was never the protagonist of anything, but only a witness to and victim of everything." His is not a chronological autobiography. Garcia Marquez cuts back and forth through time to show how memory colors experience. As he says in the book's epigraph, "Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it."

Humor, dry wit, a sense of the absurd, is a trademark throughout the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and this autobiography is full of his deadpan humor. His anecdotes of his many mistresses and cafe society are wonderful. Living To Tell The Tale is not a conventional literary memoir. It is a magical combination of memoir and national history written in the author's remarkable voice. It is his personal mythology, from the repertoire which birthed Macondo. The narrative is intimate and sincere, filled with bewitching details and descriptions. In spite of poverty, and the political turmoil so prevalent in Colombia during his lifetime, Gabo acknowledges his early years were filled with joy, a sense of well-being and encouragement from many people. Garcia Marquez leaves us, at the end of this volume, with a glimpse of his future love, his wife, "wearing a green dress with golden lace in that year's style, her hair cut like swallows' wings, and with the intense stillness of someone waiting for a person who will not arrive."

Edith Grossman has done a fine translation. Kudos to her. Bravo Gabriel Garcia Marquez!!

  • Amazon readers rating: from 54 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Living to Tell the Tale at RandomHouse.com




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About the Author:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Columbia, in 1928. He studied journalism at the the University of Colombia in Bogatá and the University of Cartagena. He has worked as a reporter and film critic for the Columbia newspaper El Espectador, as a screenwriter and a publicist while always writing stories. His books have been published in many countries and languages and widely praised. Gabriel García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

According to a recent New Yorker Magazine, he lives mostly in Mexico and Europe and it is reported that he maintains residences in Cuernavca, Mexico; Barcelona, Spain; Paris, France; Havana, Cuba; Cartagena, Columbia; and Barraquilla, Columbia.

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