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One Hundred Years of Solitude ()

Nobel Prize Winners (1982)

The Modern Age, or the Age of Reason--dating to the late 1400s and the Fall of Constantinople, the Discovery of the New World, the invention of moveable type and the rise of Protestantism--has seen a gradual triumph of the politicoeconomic theory of liberal, capitalist, protestant, democracy.  The fundamental idea which underlies this system comes from Thomas Hobbes, that Man was born free, but that in the state of Nature, life was "poor, nasty, brutish and short"  This realization--wonderfully expressed in an aphorism by Edmund Burke : "There is no safety for honest men but by believing all possible evil of evil men"--led to the idea that the rise of the State represented a willingness of men to part with some measure of their personal freedom to a central authority in exchange for a guarantee of protection from their fellow men.  The great project of Western politics over the past 500 years has been to find a point of equilibrium where both freedom and security are maximized.  Despite it's fabulous origins, this understanding of man and politics can be broadly referred to as rational.

Though there is a powerful conservative critique of the over reliance on Reason--particularly Burke's defense of tradition and institutions against nihilist impulses and Hayek's powerful argument that the complexity of human affairs and decision making will simply not yield to rational analysis by intellectuals and bureaucrats--there is not much genuine opposition to Reason per se, with the possible exception of some nearly theocratic religious conservatives.  The real opposition to Reason has come from the Left.  It is founded on Rousseau's competing idea of man in the State of Nature as a peaceful and communal creature.  Where Hobbes looked backward and saw a time of unremitting brutality, Rousseau harbored utopian visions of a time when Man was blissfully happy.  Hobbes understood the rise of society as necessary to provide security; Rousseau understood the rise of civil society to have been a corrupting influence on Man, an artificial taint upon Nature which introduced vice into a previously pure world.  Since this view is contradicted by everything that we know of history, anthropology, archaeology, psychology, etc., it seems fair to call Rousseau's vision antithetical to Reason. Indeed, the political movements that have grown up on the Left--Socialism, Communism, Nazism, etc.--have been largely utopian and have partaken of the aspects of religious movements (see Eric Hoffer and Robert Conquest).

It is surely no surprise then to read the following assessment of the Marxist author Gabriel Garcia Marquez :

    Magical realism expands the categorizes of the real so as to encompass myth, magic and other
    extraordinary phenomena in Nature or experience which European realism excluded.
        -(from Gabriel García Márquez, eds. Bernard McGuirk and Richard Cardwell)

As a writer of the Left, it is Marquez's mission to annihilate the Western belief in Reason and realism and to erect in it's place a belief in idealized Nature, the innate wisdom of the proletariat, and utopian political ideologies.  In this, his most renowned novel, Marquez tells the history of the Buendia family, or of the imaginary town of Macondo, or of his own home town, or of Colombia, or of Latin America, or of the world, depending on your perspective and ability to follow his rather obscure allusions--it's equally difficult, despite Rabassa's excellent translation, to follow the Buendias from one generation to the next since everyone is named either Jose Arcadio or Aureliano.  Added to the familiar epic multi-generational chronicle epic is Marquez's own contribution to literature : magical realism.  Thus we get a woman ascending into heaven while hanging out laundry, an amnesia plague, alchemy, etc.  And at the end of the story, it is discovered that a pre-existing scroll written one hundred years before foretold the whole tale.

The elements of fantasy, while adding nothing to the story, serve to reimagine history from an anti-Western perspective.  Meanwhile, the scroll suggests that historical determinism has been at work and that the players were not even in control of their own lives.  All of this quite naturally won him a Nobel Prize in 1982, sort of the politically corrupt committee's way of dissing Ronald Reagan and siding with the communists in Latin America.

Everytime I pan one of these "world classics" I end up getting angry emails telling me that "everyone" knows it's a "great" book, so let me just put this as clearly as I can : I understand that many people think that this book is the greatest thing since canned beer, but I find it nearly unreadable.  Moreover, as if his continued adherence to Marxism wasn't sufficiently off-putting, Marquez has recently written editorials for American publications comparing Bill Clinton to Hester Prynne and lamenting the plight of Elian Gonzalez, not when he was shipped back to Cuba, but while he was safe here in America.  I find this magical realism stuff almost uniformly annoying, but I admit that I'm willing to humor the great conservative novelist Mark Helprin when he resorts to it, though not happily.  In Gabriel Garcia Marquez's case, a man who still consorts with Fidel Castro and does his vile bidding, I'm not even willing to make the effort any longer (this is my third time reading this one book and I always end up skimming.)  Literature, intentionally or not, serves political purposes and the literature of Gabriel Garcia Marquez serves evil purposes.  Pity me if you will, but I'll stick to the dead white males of the Western Canon who have served us so well.  After all, we won the culture war and the Cold War, we live in the Hobbesian world, not that of Rousseau, can't we finally stop reading the other side's propaganda ?


Grade: (F)


Book-related and General Links:
    -Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1928-) (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "Gabriel Garcia Marquez"
    -FEATURED AUTHOR : Gabriel Garcia Marquez (NY Times Book Review)
    -ARCHIVES : "Gabriel Garcia Marquez" (NY Review of Books)
    -ESSAY : Shipwrecked on Dry Land (GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ, NY Times, March 29, 2000)
    -ESSAY : The mysteries of Bill Clinton : Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez compares the president's fate to that of Hester Prynne (GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, Salon)
    -ESSAY : THE SOLITUDE OF LATIN AMERICA  (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, NY Times Book Review, February 6, 1983)
    -ESSAY : GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ MEETS ERNEST HEMINGWAY  (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, NY Times Book Review, July 26, 1981)
    -ARTICLE : Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez emerges from seclusion (Michael Easterbrook, AP)
    -INTERVIEW : A TALK WITH GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ (Marlise Simons, NY Times, December 5, 1982)
    -INTERVIEW : GABRIEL MARQUEZ ON LOVE, PLAGUES AND POLITICS (Marlise Simons, NY Times Book Review, February 21, 1988)
    -INTERVIEW : Garcia Marquez Looks At Life, Love and Death  (ROGER COHEN, August 21, 1991, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE : Last words of Garcia Màrquez : Magical realism ... and fakery : The ailing Nobel Laureate is  writing the definitive account of his life, reports Vanessa Thorpe  (Sunday January 21, 2001, Observer uk)
    -The Nobel Prize in Literature 1982 : Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Official Nobel Site)
    -Gabriel Garcia Marquez : 1982 Nobel Laureate in Literature (Nobel Prize Internet Archive)
    -BIO : Biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1928- ) (Classic Notes)
    -The Internet Public Library Online Literary Criticism Collection : Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1928-)
    -Gabriel Garcia Marquez : Macondo (The Modern Word)
    -AUTHOR PAGE : GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ (1928-)(books unlimited uk)
    -Gabriel García Márquez (1928- ) (Bohemian Ink)
    -Gabriel José Garcia Márquez (1928- ) (Malaspina Great Books)
    -Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1928- )(Poster Art)
    -Gabriel García Márquez and Magical Realism (Elizabeth Van Tillburg and Kelly Goodall)
    -PROFILE : Everyone from Clinton to Castro listens to him. But can he help rescue Colombia from left-wing guerrillas and right-wing death squads?  (Jon Lee Anderson,  Written on September 27, 1999. A New Yorker Profile)
    -ARTICLE : GARCIA MARQUEZ OF COLOMBIA WINS NOBEL LITERATURE PRIZE (John Vinocur, The New York Times, October 22, 1982)
    -ESSAY : Typing for Castro: The Awful Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Mark Falcoff, May 1, 2000, National Review)
    -ESSAY : Distressing Portrayal By Garcia Marquez: Bolivar's Feet of Clay (LARRY ROHTER, The New York Times)
    -ESSAY : Millennium reputations: Which are the most overrated authors, or books, of the past 1,000 years? (Jonathan Bate, Sunday Telegraph)
    -ONLINE STUDY GUIDE : One Hundred Years of Solitude (Josh Perry, Spark Notes)
    -ESSAY : Gabriel Garcia Marquez and His Approach to History in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Maria R. Estorino
    -LECTURE : On Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude   (full text of a lecture delivered, in part, in Liberal Studies 402, on Tuesday, March 28, 1995, by Ian Johnston, Malaspina)
    -REVIEW : of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (ROBERT KIELY, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of One Hundred Years of Solitude (Mostly Fiction)
    -REVIEW : of CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD. By Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa (1983) (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD, By Gabriel Garcia Marquez.Translated by Gregory Rabassa (1983)(Leonard Michaels, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE STORY OF A SHIPWRECKED SAILOR. By Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Translated by Randolph Hogan (1986) (MICHIKO KAKUTANI, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THE STORY OF A SHIPWRECKED SAILOR By Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Piers Paul Read, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of CLANDESTINE IN CHILE The Adventures of Miguel Littin. By Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Translated by Asa Zatz (1987)(Michael Wood, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Love in the Time of Cholera By Gabriel Garcia Marquez Translated by Edith Grossman  (1988) (MICHIKO KAKUTANI, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA By Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Translated by Edith Grossman (1988) (Thomas Pynchon, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of  Love in the Time of Cholera (Robert Couteau,  Arete Magazine, Dec. 1988)
    -REVIEW : of THE GENERAL IN HIS LABYRINTH By Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Translated by Edith Grossman (1990) ( MICHIKO KAKUTANI, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THE GENERAL IN HIS LABYRINTH By Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Translated by Edith Grossman (1990)(Margaret Atwood, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Strange Pilgrims Twelve Stories By Gabriel Garcia Marquez Translated by Edith Grossman (1993)( MICHIKO KAKUTANI, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of STRANGE PILGRIMS Twelve Stories. By Gabriel Garcia Marquez (William Boyd, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of OF LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS By Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Translated by Edith Grossman (1995)(A. S. Byatt, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Of Love and Other Demons (R.Z. Shephard, TIME)
    -REVIEW : of NEWS OF A KIDNAPPING By Gabriel Garcia Marquez Translated by Edith Grossman (1997) (MICHIKO KAKUTANI, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of News of a Kidnapping By Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Robert Stone, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : Alastair Reid: Report from an Undeclared War, NY Review of Books
       News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel García Márquez and translated by Edith Grossman
    -REVIEW : News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Adam Mars-Jones, Books Unlimited uk)

    -ESSAY: Re: Gregory Rabassa : The Translator who brought us Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Feed Mag)
    -AWARD : American Translator Wins Award  (EDWIN McDOWELL,  May 8, 1988, NY Times)

    -ESSAY : WHY SOME WRITERS AREN'T WELCOME HERE (Jeri Laber, NY Times, April 29, 1984)