Remembering A Giant

L. R. Laverde-Hansen By L. R. Laverde-Hansen, 22nd Apr 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Celebrities>Authors

Last week Gabriel Garcia Marquez died. Here are a few thoughts on the impact of the Nobel-prize winning novelist.

The World Mourns

Last Thursday, it was announced that Gabriel Garcia Marquez had died in Mexico, presumably after a long illness. He was 87. A flood of tributes came out over the Internet. Indeed, President Obama had this posted on the White House Twitter page:

"The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers--and one of my favorites from the time I was young."

Clearly the President was a fan, but why have so many been lauding this old Latin American novelist? True, he had written some famous novels, like Love In The Time Of Cholera, but other writers have produced great works. True, he made some memorable quotes like, "I'm a nymphomaniac of the heart," but other individuals have left the world some famous sayings. All these merely added to his reputation, but they are not central to his fame.

The Masterpiece

What permanently established Garcia Marquez's place in the literary firmament was the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1967. No less a literary figure than Chilean poet Pablo Neruda called it, "the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since ‘Don Quixote.'"

How does one summarize One Hundred Years of Solitude in a short Internet article? Ostensibly it is a part straightforward, part fantastical telling of a family saga, that of the Buendías. Part of it is an epic-style history of a fictional town named Macondo. Much of its feeling is undeniably Latin American, particularly of the author's native Colombia. But that is like saying War And Peace is about war and Russia, and leaving it at that.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a tale of sometimes epic proportions, but it has little of the heaviness we associate with great big novels. It feels less like a stolid and sturdy oak forest and more like a dense jungle growth. The thing that most impressed me when I read it in college was its seemingly inexhaustible inventiveness. The novel keeps brimming with new plots, characters, descriptions and thoughts. Many of its images are absolutely uncanny, like the trail of blood, which literally keeps moving from a dying character, as if it were now alive.

The novel is often categorized as both a child of earlier Modernist movements and a landmark of the emerging Magic Realist subgenre of fiction, but for me it is just great bravura storytelling. Garcia Marquez himself called his book a literary version of Vallenato (vI-yEH-nAH-tOH), a popular Colombian style of music, which has sweet melodies, strong rhythmic changes, and intense lyrics. The problem with so much of contemporary literature is that there are all these expectations of how a work is supposed to sound like. While Gabo (as the novelist was nicknamed) assimilated many influences, he never let them define his work, but simply expressed in his own unmistakable voice. In the end, that is the real challenge for anyone who would dare to be a great artist.

Composed in New.York
April 22, 2014
Completed
April 23, 2014

Tags

Colombian, Garcia Marquez, Literature, Magic Realism, Nobel Prize In Literature, Novelist

Meet the author

author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
Poet, playwright, commentator. I write wherever I can. Currently I reside in the City of New York.

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Comments

author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
24th Apr 2014 (#)

Sad loss, good tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
24th Apr 2014 (#)

Thank you, Mark. Wish he was better known in America. People get too bogged down on literary tropes and theories, and forget that it's all about storytelling. It always has been.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
24th Apr 2014 (#)

I truly enjoyed Love in the Time of Cholera. However, in general I find GGM very difficult to follow. But there are a lot of truly great writers that just aren't my cup of tea -- it's not them, it's me.
Your coverage of the world's loss is admirable. Thanks.

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
24th Apr 2014 (#)

Thank you for your candor, Phyl. I feel that way about Bruce Springsteen's music. While he's not my go-to guy when I just want to listen to something, his total artistic achievement is undeniable--and I do like 'Glory Days.' Nobody is for everyone--I'm shocked when people tell me they hate Shakespeare. But if one stays true to his or her best true self--that's all anyone can ask.

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author avatar Ptrikha
15th May 2014 (#)

Indeed a great and inspiring person.

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
15th May 2014 (#)

Thank you, Pritkha.

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