García Márquez, always something left to love

BUENOS AIRES — At the close of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” the gypsy's scripts unravel the fated end of the Buendía family, impossible and real as ...

Apr 19, 2014

BUENOS AIRES — At the close of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” the gypsy's scripts unravel the fated end of the Buendía family, impossible and real as death propelling toward itself. Colombian writer Gabriel García Marquez died last Thursday at the age of 87. Yet with every tribute, reading and remembrance, his legend is charged with life and keeps intact something left to love.
García Márquez shocked the 20th century with his mastery of magic realism, a literary genre that combines the fantastic with everyday life. Magic realism fueled the literary boom in Latin America in the ‘60s and ‘70s — as though the times needed more than logic to make sense. Yet Márquez never conjured much of the fantastic. His genius was in finding the wonders of the real world.
García Márquez's real world, a Latin America mad with violence and dictatorship, was almost unbelievable. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” was first published in Buenos Aires in 1967, when the military government was disappearing people by tens of thousands. For Latin America's unbridled reality, as García Márquez said in his Nobel Literature Prize acceptance speech, “we have had to ask but little of the imagination.” He unraveled reality and looked at it with new eyes to find that reality had always been inlaid with the marvelous.
In “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” that unraveling is rendered with the world started over in the fictional town of Macondo. As the novel follows seven generations of the Buendía family, the more impossible their lives become, the more reality is sharpened. A man is shot in the street and the steady trickle of his blood weaves across the town square, around street corners and finally into his mother's kitchen. How is it that García Márquez found our truest lives where there are invisible doctors and a beautiful girl ascends to the heavens as she is hanging sheets in the backyard?
With García Márquez's touch, real becomes fluid with fantasy, metaphors with fact — and therein lies a miracle of literature. His fiction amplified the magic realism that we live. For some, his novel was a text that Latin American culture created to understand itself. Yet it resonated with readers around the world, was translated into 37 different languages and sold more than 30 million copies. His writing continues to astound readers worldwide, with short stories, memoirs and novels such as Love in the Time of Cholera and The Autumn of the Patriarch.
If solitude is measured by the difficulty of rendering our lives believable, as he suggested, then García Márquez has eased the solitude of how many millions of people around the world. In life and in death, seamlessly.
Joey Bui is an editor-at-large. Email her at
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