Gabriel García Márquez García Márquez, Gabriel (Vol. 10) - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

García Márquez, Gabriel 1928–

García Márquex is a Colombian novelist, short story writer, journalist, and screenwriter. Effectively combining imagination and corrupt reality, his novels often occur in a setting of political oppression and conflict. His invention of the town Macondo with its function as microcosm, and his use of interior monologue often elicit comparison to Faulkner. (See also CLC, Vols. 2, 3, 8, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36, rev. ed.)

Linda B. Hall

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

When the first edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude was published …, there was an immediate storm of critical attention and acclaim which has not yet subsided…. One Hundred Years of Solitude brings to the novel form a deep exploration of aspects of solitude, from the loneliness of power to sexual anguish, drawing heavily on the earlier ideas which had been suggested by Paz and Borges.

García Márquez's novel takes place in Macondo, a mythical town in Colombia, and the one hundred years represent both the life of the town from its founding to its collapse and the survival of the Buendía dynasty—from its founders, José Arcadio and Ursula, to the death of the last Aureliano Buendía…. García Márquez uses all the techniques of magic realism to give his town an enchanted yet real aspect: the Buendía family lives, dies, works, but is surrounded by ghosts, especially that of Melquiades, the old gypsy who first introduced them to the outside world. Melquiades has brought with him parchments, which off and on fascinate certain male members of the family, but are indecipherable to them. Only the last member is able to read them, and that in the moment of ultimate destruction.

In many ways, García Márquez's characters are embodiments of the aspects of solitude which Octavio Paz has pointed out in his essays. In "The Dialectic of Solitude," published in his work The Labyrinth of Solitude, Paz says, "Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone, and the only one who seeks out another…. Man is nostalgia and a search for communion." García Márquez's characters, particularly the series of male members of the family named Aureliano, have a profound sense of their solitude and vacillate between an attempt at communion and a return to total absorption in themselves. (pp. 254-55)

For both Paz and García Márquez, the deepest form of communion and the closest antidote to solitude is sexual love….

The most fascinating parts of García Márquez's work are those which describe in a kaleidoscopic fashion many aspects of love—as communion, as frustration, as a breaking away from accepted patterns. The love which furnishes a release from solitude is always a love which defies society and leads to ultimate destruction and the return of solitude. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, loves which are forbidden between members of the same family, between individuals of varying ages, between people of different social classes, are endowed with universal, mythic qualities. (p. 256)

But if love cannot permanently relieve solitude, what then is left? Paz believes that the essence of the feeling of solitude is "a nostalgic longing for the body from which we were cast...

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Kessel Schwartz

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

García Márquez' mysterious caudillo, perhaps a composite or a specific individual like Juan Vicente Gómez, symbolizes the abuse of power as traditionally practiced in novels from Amalia to Carpentier's current El recurso del método. In his novel, which resembles El gran Burundún Burundá of his countryman Jorge Zalamea, García Márquez copies his own verbal mythology to describe a dictator whose life extends beyond a hundred years. Combining erotic fantasies, mystery and nightmare visíons, both real and imagined, he uses the oneiric, symbolic, temporal and atemporal to obfuscate his "reality." He uses plural address, interminable sentences, multiple person changes and points of view to reflect the bits and pieces of the rambling memory of the dying dictator.

Part of the recall involves a series of horrific scenes. His bosom companion, Rodrigo de Aguilar, who had once saved his life, is cooked and fed on a platter to his fellow conspirators. The dictator's wife and son are eaten by a pack of attack dogs trained for that specific purpose. Children, used in a scheme to win lottery prizes for the patriarca, are dynamited at sea.

A series of women affect his life. Leticia Nazareno, a novice nun spared from a general exile when the Church refuses to accept the sainthood of his mother, Bendición Alvarado, becomes his only wife and love. Newly wed Francisca Linero, whose husband the dictator has sliced to bits so he can enjoy her, lives to be ninety-six and is buried with honors, though he cannot remember why….

García Márquez mixes horror with black humor. The dictator dips food in private parts to add flavor and defeats a series of deposed dictators at dominoes. So great is his power that when he asks what time it is the reply is: "las que usted ordene mi general…."

García Márquez' vision of the lonely old dictator who dreams, sweats, and recalls serves him as a kind of exorcism. But, however sincere, the novel, a self-repetition, offers us one more version of the idle jabber which characterizes the latest works of many of the greatest Spanish American novelists of the day. (p. 557)

Kessel Schwartz, in Hispania (© 1976 The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, Inc.), September, 1976.

Paul West

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

What is supremely interesting [in The Autumn of the Patriarch], and more so than anything in One Hundred Years of Solitude, is García Márquez's modus operandi, which a merely cursory description would have to call a voluptuous, thick, garish, centripetal weaving and re-weaving of quasi-narrative motifs that figure now as emblems, now as salient samples of all the stuff from which the world is made (at least the Caribbean one), now as earnests of a dominant presence who might be the dictator's wife Leticia, the dictator aping his double, the double aping the dictator's aping the double or the dead head of either or schoolgirls, or even an indeterminate chorus of voices all of whom have something to contribute to the burgeoning mythos of one distended career…. (pp. 76-7)

Hyperbole is the keynote, of course; even when it isn't on stage it is hovering, off, ready to be exploited. But what lodges in the mind after finishing the book is a technique I'd call horn-of-plenty bravura, not so much hyperboles amassed as Caribbean phenomena keenly registered nonstop, so that what you read is a flood, a crop, a spate, all the more poignant because, as often as not, it's the general's vision of "life without him," by and large going on as if he had never been…. A great deal of García Márquez's book, therefore, is construable as posthumous present, with the constant implication that, insatiable as it is, the observing eye takes in the merest fraction of available phenomena and has to make do with, in fact, next to nothing.

Such is my own reading of this technique, at any rate. Crammed with data, the book is a bulging elegy for the unseen, the not-experienced…. The evoked theme is ancient, a fusion of carpe diem and Husserl's "More than anything else the being of the world is obvious." Not that García Márquez lists things; he does, but he assembles them in such a pell-mell fashion that the movement from one item to the next becomes almost a...

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Ronald De Feo

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Though he is one of the wittiest and most exhilarating of contemporary Latin American writers, García Márquez has repeatedly created characters who live, to varying degrees, in a state of solitude. From the earliest work, Leaf Storm, to the wonderful novella No One Writes to the Colonel, to the masterwork One Hundred Years of Solitude, we find people existing not only in spiritual isolation but in physical isolation as well: Macondo, the author's miraculous mythical town—the setting of much of his work—has been "condemned" to solitude, and indeed is so remote from the rest of the world that it possesses its very own laws of nature and logic.

The Autumn of the Patriarch … is García Márquez' most intense and extreme vision of isolation. In this fabulous, dream-like account of the reign of a nameless dictator of a fantastic Caribbean realm, solitude is linked with the possession of absolute power. The author has worked with this theme before—notably when tracing the career and increasing loneliness of Colonel Aureliano Buendía in One Hundred Years of Solitude—but here it receives the grand treatment.

Yet the book is in no way a case history or a psychological portrait of a dictator. It is, rather, a rendering in fantastic and exaggerated terms of a particular condition of might and isolation. As such, it is essentially plotless, though it is stuffed with enough anecdotes and incidents for several novels. When, at the beginning of the book, an unidentified party breaks into the decaying presidential...

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Autumn of the Patriarch translates into words an image that haunted Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It was the image of an old man wandering aimlessly through the wasting rooms of a palace. It was an image of death and decay. The Patriarch is an ancient dictator whose exact title is General Of The Universe even though his domain is a poor Caribbean country, dependent upon the charity of world powers. His Autumn is the personal decay that preceeds his death. And his death is the focal point with which the novel begins, returns and ends. Each chapter begins with a different stage of discovering the general's corpse and backtracks to a different stage of the moral/physical decay that leads to such an end….


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John Sturrock

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Since ["One Hundred Years of Solitude"] and since its successor, "The Autumn of the Patriarch,"… García Márquez has felt doubts about what he is doing. His is the old quandary of the "committed" writer: should he continue to luxuriate in exile, writing books mocking the stagnation and repression of his native continent, or would it not be more honorable to attempt something practical in order to remove them? García Márquez hankers after political activism, to make propaganda for the many as against an exclusive art for the few. But literature needs him. He will do more good for his socialist cause by continuing to write fiction, guilty conscience and all, than by demagogic pamphleteering. He is one of the small number of contemporary writers from Latin America who have given to its literature a maturity and dignity it never had before. That in itself is good propaganda….

["Innocent Eréndira"] is in García Márquez's most beguiling manner: ruthless, fantastic and eventful. The stories [which form the remainder of the collection], on the other hand, mostly are not. They are makeweights here, the ambitious but as yet uncertain and over-abstract tales of a writer too young to recognize that even the most imaginative fiction needs to be filled with things as well as strange thoughts. Indeed, García Márquez's own imagination is now at its most prodigious when he allows his characters no obvious thoughts at all….

["Innocent Eréndira"] is about exploitation and what makes exploitation so distressingly easy—the subhuman resignation that has much to answer for in García Márquez's unhappy world. Eréndira [the story's protagonist] is criminally passive. She has the family gift of being able to work even in her sleep and is victimized by nature and human nature alike, being in every sense too dumb to tell the difference.

John Sturrock, "Shorter Márquez," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1978 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 16, 1978, p. 3.