Gabriel García Márquez

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Introduction

(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 out,… a longing for a place." The ancient belief, common to many peoples, is that that place is the center of the earth, "the navel of the universe." Usually this place is identified with the group's point of origin, real or mythical, and in turn with paradise. The path to this place is frequently viewed as a labyrinth. The labyrinth therefore fulfills a mythic need in a people: if the key to the labyrinth can be found and the labyrinth penetrated, redemption from solitude is at hand.

This connection between the labyrinth and solitude has been explored by another of the major thinkers of Latin America, Jorge Luis Borges, who, like Paz, is one of the major influences on García Márquez's work. In Borges's short stories, the deciphering of the labyrinth is a frequently...

(The entire section is 4,222 words.)