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Volume editor Ilan Stavans accurately point out that Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, "is credited for almost single-handedly reinventing Latin America." García Márquez, a trained journalist, made his indelible mark on literature with the 1967 publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude which heralded what was later dubbed "El Boom," the Latin American literary movement that came to define Latin American literature.
Edited and introduced by Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture and Five College-Fortieth Anniversary Professor at Amherst College, this volume collects varying perspectives on García Márquez, his work and its lasting importance. Stavans's introduction places García Márquez squarely in the Latin American literary culture noting that "the majority of people in Latin America approach García Márquez with utter reverence." Stavans's introduction is followed by a brief biography after which Caitlin Roper, the managing editor of The Paris Review, draws on The Paris Review interview with García Márquez in highlighting some of the writer's achievements.
The critical contexts section of this volume features original essays by Amy Sickels, Amy Green, and John Cussen as well as a contribution from volume editor Stavans. Sickels offers a timeline of García Márquez's achievements and considers his influence on a younger generation of writers. Stavans's contribution combines biographical information with a broad overview of how One Hundred Years was received by the literary world-placing that volume at the center of García Márquez's body of work. Amy Green also considers One Hundred Years, with her focus being the mystical character of Remedios. John Cussen finishes this section with a comparison between García Márquez's travelogue 90 dias and Don Quixote de La Mancha.
The section of republished essays brings together a variety of perspectives on García Márquez's major works. Seasoned García Márquez scholar Gene H. Bell-Villada considers García Márquez's shorter works after which Moylan C. Mills and Enrique Grönlund offer a brief history of how the concept of Magical Realism evolved. Deborah Cohn places the influence of William Faulkner on García Márquez alongside those of James Joyce and Virginia Wolf. Cohn's essay is followed by Rosa Simas's examination of patterns of time in One Hundred Years of Solitude through various perspectives. Brian Conniff concentrates his attention in José Arcadio Buendía and One Hundred Years while Stephen M. Hart shifts the attention to Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Michael Palencia-Roth, another scholar well-versed in García Márquez's works, considers intertextuality in The Autumn of the Patriarch while Lourdes Elena Morales-Gudmundsson concentrates on the concepts of justice and human rights expounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition as adapted into the novella No One Writes to the Colonel and The Autumn of the Patriarch. M. Keith Booker argues for a deeper reading of Love in the Time of Cholera and compares the novel to Madame Bovary and Lolita. In the volume's concluding essay, Efraín Kristal suggests that García Márquez, like many memoirists, sanitizes his past and ultimately comes to the conclusion that García Márquez remains difficult to pin down.
Each essay is 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes. Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources:
- A chronology of the author's life
- A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
- A general bibliography
- A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
- Notes on the individual chapter authors
- A subject Index
From "About This Volume"
There are several compendiums in English about the life and work of Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, that help to amplify our understanding of his influence; among the most rewarding are those by Harold Bloom and Gene H. Bell- Villada. In selecting the essays for this volume, the objective has been to reach further and deeper into García Márquez’s oeuvre while offering a panoramic view of its principal motifs and obsessions.
The piece by Amy Sickels delivers a general overview. It is followed by “The Master of Aracataca,” a piece I wrote in 1993 for the journal Transition in which I follow the author’s aesthetic arc from his literary beginnings as a journalist in Barranquilla and Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, to the mature stories in Strange Pilgrims. In “Remedios the Child Bride: The Forgotten Buendía,” Amy M. Green focuses on one of the most emblematic and endearing characters in One Hundred Years of Solitude, a female beauty whose physical presence literally hypnotizes those who see her. John Cussen sets out to understand the metabolism of García Márquez’s only freestanding travelogue, De viaje por los países socialistas, the narrative of a ninety-day journey behind the Iron Curtain, written when García Márquez was around thirty. Cussen looks at the work through the prism of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote de La Mancha, a book that, even if tangentially, is regularly invoked in any appraisal of the Colombian writer’s impact on the Hispanic world.
The third section, “Critical Readings,” contains ten essays, the themes of which range from Magical Realism to the tricks of autobiography as a literary genre. (In Spanish the word used for memoir is memorias, which means memories.) Gene H. Bell-Villada begins this section with his essay “The Master of Short Forms,” in which he argues that García Márquez would have received some accolades for his short fiction even if he had not written his longer novels, and that his control of the genre of short fiction is undisputed. After Bell-Villada, Moylan C. Mills and Enrique Grönlund follow the style of Magical Realism as it mutates from the novella Innocent Eréndira to the cinematic adaptation of that work by Ruy Guerra. Next, Deborah Cohn argues that the works of modernists such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, and most emphatically William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, and The Sound and the Fury, influenced García Márquez’s strategies of distorting time in Leaf Storm, an early novel where traces of Macondo are already on display.
Rosa Simas, in “A ‘Gyrating Wheel,’” shows the fashion in which time in One Hundred Years of Solitude moves at once cyclically and synchronically and the extent to which the novel’s first line is a map of its overall chronology. Following Simas, Brian Conniff articulates a suggestive thesis in “The Dark Side of Magical Realism.” He asserts that the character of José Aureliano Buendía, through his quest for the philosophical stone and other myths connected with science and technology, showcases the disappointment in modernity as a synonym of progress felt throughout Latin America. In his essay “Superstition, Irony, Themes,” Stephen M. Hart’s aim is to vivisect the collateral that results from the encounter between irony and superstition in García Márquez’s Crónica de una muerte anunciada.
Michael Palencia-Roth writes that the intertextual devices in The Autumn of the Patriarch juxtapose the work of Julius Caesar, Christopher Columbus, and Rubén Darío, enabling the reader to understand the lonesome life of the novel’s dictator, his relationship to power, imperialism, and the aesthetic life. Following Palencia-Roth, Lourdes Elena Morales-Gudmundsson explores the connection between García Márquez’s universe and the Bible. Her argument is that No One Writes to the Colonel and The Autumn of the Patriarch constitute a kind of “theology of justice” from García Márquez, one where the concepts of redemption, the Messiah, and the Antichrist are present. Next, M. Keith Booker suggests that Love in the Time of Cholera is filled with traps designed for a gullible reader. He argues that the novel is only superficially a romance between septuagenarians, with politics and history playing a crucial role in the narrative. Closing this volume, Efraín Kristal meditates on García Márquez’s interest in Spanish Golden Age literary classics as well as on the author’s political education, his debt to a Catalan mentor, and his adventures in bordellos. Kristal’s thesis is that Living to Tell the Tale not only sanitizes García Márquez’s life but also makes it impossible to pin him down.
It is no coincidence that One Hundred Years of Solitude receives more attention from the scholars gathered in this volume than any other of García Márquez’s books. Indeed, since its publication in 1967, this masterful genealogical saga has monopolized people’s attention for good reason. It is credited with bringing Latin American literature to the international stage. An effort of such magnitude requires a large reservoir of analysis to be fully appreciated. Every attempt has been made to balance the analysis here, however, not only in regard to García Márquez’s production but also in the analytical tools used to map his legacy.