Surfing through Lit Hub yesterday I came across a reminder that One Hundred Years of Solitude turned fifty yesterday. How quickly they grow.
The piece, Fecund, Savage and Irresistible: One Hundred Years of Solitude at 50, features a collection of some of the first English language reviews of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez masterpiece in which the Colombian Nobel laureate gave us his Utopian Macondo.
A couple examples LitHub shared, first from Robert Kiely’s review in the March 29, 1970 New York Times:
“It is not easy to describe the techniques and themes of the book without making it sound absurdly complicated, labored and almost impossible to read. In fact, it is none of these things. Though concocted of quirks, ancient mysteries, family secrets and peculiar contradictions, it makes sense and gives pleasure in dozens of immediate ways.
“…to isolate details, even good ones, from this novel is to do it particular injustice. Márquez creates a continuum, a web of connections and relationships. However bizarre or grotesque some particulars may be, the larger effect is one of great gusto and good humor and, even more, of sanity and compassion. The author seems to be letting his people half-dream and half-remember their own story and what is best, he is wise enough not to offer excuses for the way they do it. No excuse is really necessary. For Macondo is no never-never land. Its inhabitants do suffer, grow old and die, but in their own way.”
And Paul West, writing in the February 22, 1970 Washington Post:
“This extraordinary novel obliterates the family tree in a prose jungle of overwhelming magnificence … Above all, García Márquez (via his translator) feeds the mind’s eye non-stop, so much so that you soon begin to feel that never has what we superficially call the surface of life had so many corrugations and configurations, so much bewilderingly impacted detail, or men so many grandiose movements and tics, so many bizarre stances and airs.
“Let it be said that, although the man’s sentences are immaculately built, the vision they contain is violent and lurid enough to make the works of two better-known Latin Americans, J. L. Borges and Julio Cortázar, look (respectively) mincing and pretty.
“It’s a prose that’s always controlled, but it expresses a vision full of lunges, spurts, mild or maniacal hallucinations, preternatural heavings and bulging gargoyles. Tracing the growth of Macondo, García Márquez is rather like an infatuated god watching a planet seethe and bubble, settle and cool, and then develop forms of life that finally annihilate themselves. The town, of course, is made of prose, as is the ever-encroaching jungle; and, such is the prose’s dense physical immediacy, you have the sense of living along with the Buendías (and the rest), in them, through them, and in spite of them, in all their loves, madnesses and wars, their allegiances, compromises, dreams and deaths.
“The verbal Mardi Gras which is his mode of narrating invokes a before and an after (birth and death), which no hyperboles, his or ours, can alter. Like the jungle itself, this novel comes back again and again, fecund, savage and irresistible.”
The image at top and shown in full below, snapped in Bogota in August 2015 and proudly serving as the site’s 1,245th straight Pic du Jour, is the way I remember Macondo, more of a visual Mardi Gras, to borrow from West’s analogy, with Marquez, either figuratively or literally, never too far away.
And while we’re looking back, some more remembrances:
- Here’s Alvaro Santana-Acuna’s How One Hundred Years of Solitude Became a Classic, published last week (22 May) in The Atlantic.
- Abe Books offers a ‘making of a classic’ summary that traces the book’s roots back to 1944.
- And, since every great work of art is shrouded in secrets, consider The Secret History of One Hundred Years of Solitude, published in Vanity Fair in January 2016, fifty years after Marquez finished it.