Laureates: A Series
Garcia Marquez: Colombian Nobelist 1982
Marquez is a giant star in the galaxy of outstanding writers in
the world of literature. His name is mentioned in evaluations
of his work side by side with the influence on him of Tolstoy,
Faulkner, Kafka and Virginia Woolf. His style is deceptively plain
but captivating—neither convoluted sentences running to half
a page, nor dense allusions. “Magic realism” is a term used by
reviewers of A Hundred Years of Solitude.
His words evoke emotions of loving relationships, tragic descriptions
of painful events as well as strong accounts of retribution. Like
many other well-known authors, Garcia Marquez enjoyed the loving
care of grandparents for the first eight years of his life. Their
influence was apparent in his early education, as was the community,
Aratacata. The man whom Luisa (who was to be Garcia’s Marquez’s
mother) wanted to marry was disapproved of by her parents because
he belonged to the Conservative Camp, so very early in his life
Marquez learned about liberal causes from his grandfather.
Marquez had many years of experience as a journalist—years that
took him to several countries during that career, including some
years in New York. His writing is marked with understanding the
strong emotions of love, bitterly fought political positions and
the unquestioning and ruthless satisfaction demanded of any assault
on the rules attendant on “honor.”
A vivid and unforgettable example of that vengeance is the basis
for the story, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. The very
first sentence is heart stopping. “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 on.” Clearly the reader has no knowledge yet of the
motivation for such a terrible event. The bride, Angela,
has returned to her family because she is not
a virgin and named Santiago for the occurrence (although the reader
never learns if the accusation is true). Santiago is being sought
by the brothers of the young bride with guns in hand to satisfy
justice. The inescapable, final act—the last five pages—is almost
unbearable to read in their violence.
A quite different novel about love and marriage is Love in
a Time of Cholera. A young girl, Fermina Daza, loves and is
loved by Florentino Azira. After several years pass in which this
couple cannot marry she is courted by and marries Dr. Juvenal
Urbino. He is a good husband but clearly does not consider romantic
love a vital part of marriage.
When Fermina becomes widowed at age 72, her first love seeks her
out and finally this happy pair is able to go off on a long-delayed
“honeymoon”—a cruise on a riverboat. The relating of the reunion
of a loving couple is filled with the possibility of romance for
older lovers. Within the story Marquez points out the changes
that occur in the process of aging—Florentino loses hair and teeth;
Fermina discovers wrinkles, beginning deafness and memory losses.
This story proves that a beautiful love story can also happen—at
Hundred Years of Solitude is arguably the best known of his
books. This is not only a story but rather an invented plot based
on the beginning of Colombia’s history itself. It is not possible
to tell the plot because there are so many generations which intertwine—many
of the same names used over in different generations and a great
deal of political warfare—Conservatives versus Liberals—and everything
in heroic measure whether it concerns fighting or loving. It is
best for readers to simply fall into the pages and allow themselves
to go along, somewhat like swimming with a fast current in a tempestuous
L. Shapiro, former supervisor of high school libraries in NYC
Schools, is the author of Fiction for Youth.
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
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the publisher. © 2001.