A Celebration of Gabriel García Márquez
by Public Service Associate Owen
September is Hispanic Heritage Month! In celebration, I would like to use this space to highlight and honor one of the most prolific Latin American authors, whose innovative style, elegant prose, and rich, emotive themes have enlivened bookshelves continents over. The Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez who lived from 1927-2014. He was one of the most prolific writers of the last century, and, together with authors such as Julio Cortázar of Argentina, Carlos Fuentes of Mexico, and Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru, was a key figure in the Latin American literary boom of the 1960s and 1970s. His novels, especially One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, are pioneering works that provide a window into the condition of Latin American life. These works helped establish Latin America as a bastion of innovative literary styles, as García Márquez’s signature style, magical realism, was pioneered in these novels.
One Hundred Years of Solitude in particular is an enrapturing read, as it is an excellent example of García Márquez’s effusive magical realist style. In this style, of which García Márquez was a key innovator, magical elements are infused into the mundane, creating an atmosphere that is familiar and realistic yet surprising and fantastical. Space and time are toyed with in ways the reader would not initially expect. Macondo, the fictional town that is the setting for the book, features the generations-long familial saga of the Buendía family. As the novel progresses, the Buendía family, who ebb and flow through the liminal world of Macondo, are seemingly unable to escape from their own misfortunes. The family contains many colorful characters, especially the founder of Macondo, José Arcadio, who is determined to construct the town following a utopian vision. As generations of Buendías come and go, Macondo reacts to the evolution of Latin America around it. Reflected in the novel are the post-colonial civil wars of Latin America and the manifestation of American commercial intervention by way of fruit corporations. Throughout all of these external pressures, Macondo remains a liminal place, a place where the Buendías are doomed to their fate. It is a work that Latin America has created in order to understand itself, and as such it remains García Márquez’s magnum opus as well as a towering icon of Latin American and World literature.
While One Hundred Years of Solitude demonstrates García Márquez’s deft ability to weave the extraordinary into the mundane, Love in the Time of Cholera instead demonstrates how the mundane in and of itself can be quite extraordinary. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, myths and dreams seem to be more grounded in reality than actual observed facts, leading to a subversion of space and time as the reader moves through the novel. In Love in the Time of Cholera, emotiveness is instead contained in the relationships that Fermina, the central figure of the novel, has with her two distinct lovers throughout her life. One lover possesses passion in spades, while the other is aloof and clinical in his love. In designing these characters as such, García Márquez leaves it up for the reader to decide if a steady relationship that forgoes passion for stability is more fulfilling than one in which passion takes center stage. Thus, even while abstaining from including many of the hallmarks of magical realism that made One Hundred Years of Solitude so compelling, García Márquez is still able to deliver a crushingly soulful novel of passion and love.
Both of these novels are exceptional works of literature, and both demonstrate both the effervescent and lush style of García Márquez. They are towering achievements of fiction, and I wholeheartedly recommend both. If you are searching for novels that are effortlessly emotive, or ones that commentate deeply and richly on the human experience, then look no further.
Request both of these titles in print or digitally with your BPL card!