García Márquez, Gabriel 1928–
García Márquez 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, 10, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36, rev. ed.)
Garcia Marquez has been translated into so many different languages, and acclaimed for so many different reasons, that any generalisation about the secret of his success is bound to look unsatisfactory. But in this country, at least, part of his appeal is as an expansive and full-blooded alternative to our tight little novels of social manners. The energy and excess which would probably not be tolerated in an English writer present no problems when they come from a Latin. Garcia Marquez has revitalised that dead phrase 'larger than life'. His characters eat more voraciously than real people, they make love more noisily, they live more adventurously and to a much greater age. They survive firing squads, suicide attempts, massive doses of poison. They experience the worst weather the world has ever known…. Garcia Marquez's love of statistics helps normalise the abnormal and is a key factor in his special blend of realism and fantasy: the impossible spans of time over which people sleep, disappear, play chequers or whatever are recorded with scientific care.
Given this love of scale, it is not surprising to find that the best story in [Innocent Eréndeira and Other Stories] is the biggest—the novella which gives the collection its title…. It is Garcia Marquez at his best, a world of lonely itinerants and haunting desert landscapes.
This story and the next two in the collection are all fairly recent ones. The remaining nine come from the years 1947–53, when the author was a comparative beginner … and still had much to learn. Most of the stories have a strong, but often imperfect, surrealist strain. As in the later work, there is a merging of animal and human living and dead…. But much of the angst seems unearned, and there's little of the vivid symbolism of more recent work. What the early stories do usefully show is Garcia Marquez's awareness of European Modernism. Some commentators have presented him as the man who came from nowhere, but a tale such as 'Dialogue with a Mirror' looks to be indebted to Kafka and Magritte, and in general the earlier the text, the less South American its antecedents.
Blake Morrison, "872,315 Pesos," in New Statesman (© 1979 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. 97, No. 2513, May 18, 1979, p. 727.∗
Marquez's style (unlike Borges, who has been influenced by writers as diverse as Poe, Stevenson and Carlyle) is perhaps more what the European would expect from Latin America: earthy, sprawling, often ludicrously hyperbolic. And, again unlike Borges' refined economical tone, one suspects it translates badly. Certainly the punctuation in [Innocent Eréndira] is wayward and Marquez's vocabulary is obsessive: favourite words—'arid', 'radiant', 'torpor'—appear again and again.
The three most recent stories (1972, 1970 and 1961) are undeniably the best. The other nine (all written between 1947 and 1953) are repetitive, overly-symbolic tales of the fantastical folk-myth variety. Marquez's development, as illustrated here anyway, is to be applauded. Since the early stories he has acquired a sense of humour, discovered dialogue and now roots his narratives in a more convincingly realised landscape. The long title story 'The Incredible Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and her Heartless Grandmother' is the outstanding one of the book….
[The folk-tale tone] is complemented by a sardonic relish in the corruption and venality of the world and Marquez's expansive style bludgeons the reader into an admission of the story's force: the...
(The entire section is 2,451 words.)