By Chuck Ross
The writing of Gabriel García Márquez was magical, period, though he was hailed as a writer of magical realism.
García Márquez, who died today, April 17, 2014, at his home in Mexico City at age 87, was one of the great writers of our time. In 1982 the Colombia native won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the beginning of his 1967 novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” transfixed readers the world over:
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Col. Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of 20 adobe houses built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.”
My favorite writing of García Márquez was in his 1985 novel “Love in the Time of Cholera” (published in English in 1988). Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley once said of García Márquez’s two most familiar novels: " ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is his best-known novel, his most admired, most imitated and most honored. ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ is his most beloved, one of the great love stories of world literature.”
I agree. If you have never read García Márquez, or want to re-read him, I suggest reading this remarkable novel of profound tenderness and passion.
The estimable New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani, in her review of “Love in the Time of Cholera," wrote that the novel “ is at once an old-fashioned love story, elegantly fashioned out of the clockwork pieces of romantic fiction (secret love letters, unrequited passions, noisy declarations of undying devotion and long, melancholy honeymoons spent at sea), and an anatomy of love in all its forms: the gushy, irrational love of adolescents and the mature love of people who have suffered loss and grief; the high-flown love, immortalized by poets, and the love without love found in bordellos and motels; marital love and adulterous love, spiritual love, physical love, even love that resembles cholera in its symptoms and its pain.”
Kakutani also wrote, “The other great subject of this novel, like Proust's ‘Remembrance of Things Past,’ is time — how time past shapes time present and how memory transfigures and redeems all that has gone before. We are shown, through the story of one woman and two men, the ways in which love changes and endures through time, and we are also shown the ways in which our apprehension of the fact of death constantly alters our ideals and our goals.”
At the end of the speech he gave when he won the Nobel Prize for literature, García Márquez talked about how “we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of … [a] new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on Earth.”
Gabriel García Márquez