Gabriel García Márquez García Márquez, Gabriel (Vol. 3)

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García Márquez, Gabriel (Vol. 3)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

García Márquez, Gabriel 1928–

García Márquez, a Colombian novelist and short story writer, writes strange and richly textured fiction considered some of the most important now being written in South America. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36.)

In the hands of such writers as Gabriel García Márquez, [the novel] is "advancing in an opposite direction from reality"—like one of the armies in this his masterwork One Hundred Years of Solitude—by discovering such delirious carnivals of invention and such circuses of delightful performance that the truly "new novel" must be called Latin American and not French.

Of course there are people who prefer their circuses to be European, one-ring affairs, and García Márquez's prodigal book is not for them. It has enough characters with repeating, confusing names for a Russian novel and enough ghosts, necromancers, gypsies, cannibals, levitating priests and incestuous lovers for a side show, while its golden chamber pots, plagues of insomnia, rains of yellow flowers, flying carpets and even a guest appearance by the Wandering Jew and the ascension into heaven of a girl named Remedios the Beauty qualify it as one of the very best if not in truth the greatest show on earth.

Which is to say that One Hundred Years of Solitude is a book of wonders written by a man, who, like one of his characters, has an unbridled imagination that is always going "beyond the genius of nature and even beyond miracles and magic." But not to say that the book is merely a literary freak-out. Because what García Márquez frequently uncovers for us is the extravagance of the commonplace….

[Reality]—the one García Márquez deals with—is nothing less than the ethos of Latin America, and in order to make his discovery, in order to say the truth about the world he lives in, without resorting to the jargon of sociology or the nit-picking of analytic psychology, he has had, heroically, to invent a territory—Macondo—to conceive a people—the Buendías—and to inform his geography and population with a mythology—a Borgeséan Eternal Return. Explicitly inspired by Faulkner and his evocation of real life through the imaginary Yoknapatawpha County, García Márquez has single-handedly mythologized a whole continent in telling the multiple story of the Buendías, a story, first, of guilt and innocence in a prototypical endeavor to found a community; then, of subsequent generations confronting forces from the outside world (like railroads and banana plantations); and, eventually, of the family's deterioration from within and final obliteration. In a word, the story of Macondo and the Buendías is a résumé of the Ages of Man and as García Márquez remarks: "… the history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spinning into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle."…

[The] mania for metaphysics, which disfigures so much Latin American writing, does not obtrude here, where a vast, Gothic humor alleviates, for the reader at least, "the crushing weight of so much past."…

Call the book bizarre, certainly call it funny; analyze it as primitive myth but notice its colorful sophistication equal to one of Chagall's crowded murals—describe the work how you will, it looks as if García Márquez, while we have been worrying about the great American novel, may well have written the great novel of the Americas—and had a grand time doing it too.

Ronald Christ, "A Novel Mythologizes a Whole Continent," in Commonweal (reprinted by permission of Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.), March 6, 1970, pp. 622-23.

Gabriel García Márquez is a storyteller, which, as Walter Benjamin has shown, is not the same thing as a short-story writer. It is a rare talent these days when oral literature has virtually disappeared and the only stories people want to hear are those that can be fitted on to a 22-inch screen. His new collection of...

(The entire section is 4,909 words.)