Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

García Márquez has admitted that his primary literary debts are to the lyric, stream-of-consciousness style of William Faulkner, the restrained and stylized realism of Ernest Hemingway, and the nightmarishly concrete world of Franz Kafka. After the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude, a work which astonished the critics and the reading public with its fantastically realized world of myth and magic, many wondered how García Márquez could go beyond the experimental narrative style of that work. The Autumn of the Patriarch did not disappoint them, although many found it much less readable than his earlier works. As might be expected, professional critics have had a field day with the book, for it is surely ripe for explication. Indeed, they have itemized the obsessively repeated symbolic motifs of the novel, have suggested historical sources for the patriarch himself, and have generally delighted in demonstrating their ability to “read” and then to clarify what seems to be an extremely demanding book. Although the book has been generally praised, it has also been criticized for being too long, often too self-indulgent, and too stylistically idiosyncratic to be widely read.

Still, although it is a book more often referred to than actually read, it reaffirms García Márquez’s place as the most famous and respected figure of the Latin American literary renaissance—an elite group that includes Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, and José Donoso, all of whom share García Márquez’s narrative worldview of a reality that is much more fictional and absurd than our common sense and our sense of common decency will allow us to accept.