Gabriel García Márquez García Márquez, Gabriel (Vol. 2)

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García Márquez, Gabriel (Vol. 2)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

García Márquez, Gabriel 1928–

Colombian novelist, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36.)

[Only] García Márquez has succeeded in giving Colombia imaginative existence in fiction….

Thanks to García Márquez, the most interesting spot in Colombia today is a tiny tropical village called Macondo, which is not on any map. Macondo, set between dunes and marshlands on one side and an impenetrable sierra on another, is a decadent, dusty little coastal town, like thousands of others in the heart of the hemisphere, but also very special, at once strange and familiar, specific and general, immediate as an insight, remote as an image of a forgotten landscape. Its visible lines chart a secret course. It is one of those places a voyager reaches without ever leaving home, sure to arrive before he sets out. Macondo is everywhere, and nowhere. Those who travel there take an inner trip to a port of call that is part of the hidden face of a country…. History is about to catch up with Macondo. The bad omens are multiplying. Not long ago birds fell from the sky. Macondo—Colombia's Jefferson, Mississippi, with a touch of the small-town tedium of Winesburg, Ohio—is on the eve of a final holocaust. García Márquez captures and fixes the moment. Nothing has happened yet. But in a sense everything has. The night before—a long wake—is a clear premonition of the morning after….

If he tells a story, it is less to develop a subject than to discover it. Theme is less important than wavelength. His facts are provisional, valid not as statements but as assumptions, what he feels today he may discard tomorrow. If in the end not everything adds up to a net result, it is perhaps because we must subtract, not add, to reach a final balance. His world has no beginning or end, no outer rim. It is centripetal. What holds it together is inner tension. It is always on the verge of taking concrete shape, but remains intangible. He wants it that way. Its relation to objective reality is that of an eternally fluctuating mental portrait where resemblances at any given moment are striking but tenuous. Because García Márquez never fully defines his terms, their possibilities remain inexhaustible. A single source has fed all his books, which grew side by side in him like different aspects of a single basic image. In fact, El Coronel No Tiene Quien le Escriba, Los Funerales de la Mamá Grande, and La Mala Hora were all more or less written together, each an echo of the others, a hint containing its sequel or, inversely, deriving from it. Thus in the beginning there was meant to be only one book, La Mala Hora, which would be all-encompassing….

Having struck a rich vein, García Márquez has been tapping it ever since. He realizes the dangers of such a procedure, but the compulsive need to tell and retell the same stories, to go over the same material again and again, wringing new shadings out of it each time, is something of an umbilical force with him. He constantly rereads his books. He can quote at length from them. He knows them almost by heart. To keep them alive and burning, he has to review them every day, ceaselessly retreating along familiar landmarks, in hopes of finding a way around them. But he always circles back to the starting point. There seems to be no way out….

Everything he has written to date, he says, he already knew or had heard before he was eight. It takes him years to be able to draw on the residues of his experiences. They have to settle first. And he lets them take their time. To transpose he must first restore. It is delicate work, for which there is no sure method. He plays by ear. Things seem to come to him from nowhere, out of the haze of a past at moments withheld, at others full of missing places and people. If he invents anything, it is almost by mistake….

[García Márquez] relation to Hemingway is platonic; a matter of general stylistic tendency. The Faulknerian glare has been...

(The entire section is 3,302 words.)