In my dreams, I was inventing literature
December 13, 2015 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Gabriel García Márquez began writing Cien Años de Soledad—One Hundred Years of Solitude—a half-century ago, finishing in late 1966. The novel came off the press in Buenos Aires on May 30, 1967, two days before Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, and the response among Spanish-language readers was akin to Beatlemania: crowds, cameras, exclamation points, a sense of a new era beginning. In 1970 the book appeared in English, followed by a paperback edition with a burning sun on its cover, which became a totem of the decade. By the time García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize, in 1982, the novel was considered the Don Quixote of the Global South, proof of Latin-American literary prowess. [...] How is it that this novel could be sexy, entertaining, experimental, politically radical, and wildly popular all at once? Its success was no sure thing, and the story of how it came about is a crucial and little-known chapter in the literary history of the last half-century.
The Secret History of One Hundred Years of Solitude
posted by shakespeherian (12 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Synchronicity! I'm just finishing a re-read of this novel for the first time in over 20 years.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:09 PM on December 13, 2015

I'm knocked out by Paul Elie's gift for narrative flow. I've already downloaded Reinventing Bach to my nook.
posted by cleroy at 6:11 PM on December 13, 2015

Thanks for this post. Love in the Time of Cholera, is a great soul gift as well. Nice to read the history.
posted by Oyéah at 7:06 PM on December 13, 2015

From the article:
The world went from black-and-white to Technicolor,” he says. “I was a young Latino-American-Caribbean writer desperately looking for models. This novel went through me like a lightning bolt: it entered through the crown of my head and went right down to my toes, redounding through me for the next several decades—up to right now.
Gosh, that liberating feeling when you first read the novel. Makes me want to fish out my dog eared copy and read it again.

Fantastic piece, thanks for sharing!
posted by the cydonian at 7:15 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

The first line of One Hundred Years of Solitude, mentioned in the article, is perhaps my all-time favorite: Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. Sublime.
posted by carmicha at 7:31 PM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

It's been 20 or 30 years since I last read it too, and it's still fresh in my memory. Time for a re-read for me as well, I think.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:35 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I read this the summer between third and fourth year art school, when I was living a peripatetic existence and just barely getting by. It read like it was on fire and I've meaning to reread it, so thanks for the lovely link.
And mods, thank you for deleting the 'bro' comments.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 12:03 AM on December 14, 2015

I read this when I was 13 or 14, and I should have been reading my assigned book for language class. I didn't care, I binged through it in 2 school days.
posted by signal at 5:01 AM on December 14, 2015

It's been a while I've read it in English, and I'm about due for a re-read. I've also got a copy in Spanish on my shelf, with a dream to be able to read it fluently someday.
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:13 AM on December 14, 2015

It's been so long and I still have vivid images of ice and dresses and assumptions and ants. Definitely time to dig it out.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:57 PM on December 14, 2015

My secret history of One Hundred Years of Solitude: unreadable. And I love and have spent much time in Latin America.
posted by telstar at 7:03 AM on December 15, 2015

Very timely: I just got back from a trip to the same Carribbean coast where much of Cien Anos de Soledad is set. It's like traveling back in time to go from cosmopolitan Barranquilla to tourist-friendly Santa Marta to the deepest jungles of Palomino. You can see the influence of Garcia Marquez all over the area (including an exhibit in Santa Marta's library about the plants of Macondo).

I very much recommended traveling to the Caribbean coast of Colombia if you get the chance to go. The region still has traces to Gabo's time (especially when there's no electricity on a hot and sweaty night and you wish in vain for some ice!).

As for Cien Anos itself, ahhhh. I read the book in Spanish as part of my capstone seminar in university and it blew me away. It was a rough, difficult read--full of words that don't exist now or only exist in coastal Colombia or otherwise were impossible for my trusty dictionary to translate. My profa was an old Cuban refugee, a bitter former lawyer from the pre-1959 upper-class elite, and she could hardly stand to discuss Gabo's politics but she was rapturously in love with his books.

If you can't make it through Cien Anos, I'd suggest trying Cronica de una muerte anunciada/Chronicle of a Death Foretold before giving up on Gabriel Garcia Marquez completely. It, too, has a stupendous opening line ("On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming in on") but is much shorter than Cien Anos (though no less dense). Definitely my favorite of the major books.
posted by librarylis at 9:35 AM on December 15, 2015

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