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New York City
May 2002

Nobel Laureates: A Series
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Colombian Nobelist 1982
By Lilian L. Shapiro


Garcia 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 any age.

A 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 sea. #

Lilian L. Shapiro, former supervisor of high school libraries in NYC Schools, is the author of Fiction for Youth.


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All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2001.