Gabriel Garcia Marquez Won’t Have To Explain ‘Magical Realism’ Anymore
Novelist Gabriel García Márquez died Thursday in Mexico City at the age of 87; he was one of the giants of modern literature, with a 1982 Nobel Prize and one undisputed classic, One Hundred Years of Solitude, the book that most people think of when they think of “magical realism” — and even if that term maybe gets over-used with other Latin American writers, it’s a fair cop for García Márquez. Weird stuff happens, and it’s just part of the everyday strangeness of life in his fiction — and besides, how weird is a levitating priest compared to the reality of South American politics and history? Also, he wrote one of the best first paragraphs of any novel:
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Col. Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of 20 adobe houses built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.”
It’s sort of a shame that García Márquez has a reputation for being difficult and esoteric, since he’s just so much fun to read; I put off reading One Hundred Years of Solitude far too long because of that reputation, and only got around to reading it for a book club — where one of the people at my discussion table panned it because it wasn’t especially well-suited to her speed-reading and note-taking preferences. She seemed to think García Márquez did that as a personal slight.
I also have to confess that, beyond One Hundred Years, the novella “No One Writes to the Colonel” and the short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” I haven’t gotten around to reading his other work, although I have been advised that if I don’t get Love in the Time of Cholera off the shelf and into my head, I am A Idiot. (Yes, I am one of those people with too many books that I haven’t read yet, and honestly may never get to. Stupid internet with all its cat videos.)
You should go read the New York Times obit, of course, because nobody writes a better obituary, and to learn things like how in 1973, García Márquez vowed not to write anything again as long as Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile, but then once it became clear that the bastard was not ever going to leave, he decided the protest was probably just what Pinochet might want:
The Pinochet dictatorship lasted 17 years, but Mr. García Márquez released himself from his vow well before it ended. “I never thought he’d last so long,” he said in a 1997 interview with The Washington Post. “Time convinced me I was wrong. What I was doing was allowing Pinochet to stop me from writing, which means I had submitted to voluntary censorship.”
And of course there’s the idiotic U.S. ban on García Márquez, so that he wouldn’t be able to taint our innocent country with his dangerous leftist ideas and support for Cuba (except, of course, through his writing, but you if can’t punish books, at least you can beat up on the writer). There’s one more thing to thank Bill Clinton for: that travel ban was lifted in 1995 and Clinton invited García Márquez to visit him in Martha’s Vineyard.
There’s also this bit of good news: García Márquez never sold movie rights for One Hundred Years of Solitude. You sort of have to love him for his reason:
The novel’s readers, he once said, “always imagine the characters as they want, as their aunt or their grandfather, and the moment you bring that to the screen, the reader’s margin for creativity disappears.”
Even so, it’s a bit of a disappointment to know that we’ll miss out on the Michael Bay musical adaptation, with Keanu Reeves and giant robots.