My rating: 5 of 5 stars
While on a family vacation in Acapulco, Gabriel García Márquez became struck with a vision of a story that, in two years, would become the sensational 1967 novel called One Hundred Years of Solitude.
The story involves the life of the Buendía family over roughly one hundred years in the town of Macondo, and Márquez’s writing reflects his culture and heritage, often moving in a downward spiral that folds back on itself rather than a linear approach often found in American literature.
E.L. Doctorow explains that most “American writers have always been disposed to move along at a snappier pace than their European counterparts. But the minimal use of exposition does suppose a kind of filmic compact between writer and reader, that everything will become clear eventually” (50).
Despite the often crawling pace of Márquez’s South-American prose, which also includes a straight-faced magic realism, he is able to bring characters, who often have a lasting impact,alive in just one sentence, and convey extraordinary events clearly and convincingly.
Characters are the heart of the story and although their action and dialogue can make or break a plot, it is their vivid emergence onto the scene of the fictive dream that must be handled with alacrity. “Nearly every one can be summed up in a sentence,” writes E.M. Forster in Aspects of the Novel, “and yet there is this wonderful feeling of human depth” (71).
Márquez’s novel is an extensive history filled with countless characters, and most are memorable because of how he introduces them with such clarity and power that they are not easily forgotten. The first example is for a major character that is referenced throughout the novel unto its end.
Márquez writes: “A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquíades, put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Macedonia” (1).
Márquez does this with every character he writes into the story, and this last example is for Petra Cotes described as “a clean young mulatto woman with yellow almond-shaped eyes that gave her face the ferocity of a panther, but she had a generous heart and a magnificent vocation for love” (188).
The depth through brevity is what allows these characters to be fully shaped as quickly as possible, and Márquez is a genius at making these characters come alive, mostly fully formed, as they step out onto the stage of the story.
CG FEWSTON was born in Texas in 1979 and now lives in Hong Kong. He’s been a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy).
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father‘s Son, The New America: A Collection, Vanity of Vanities, A Time to Love in Tehran, and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can read more about the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 275,000+ followers