On Gabo Conquering the World

My latest column is up at Lit Hub this week, “Why is One Hundred Years of Solitude Eternally Beloved?

I found this an interesting question to ponder, as One Hundred Years of Solitude turns 50 this year (apparently it happened right on May 30), and it has had astonishing success in terms of translation and sales, success which far outstrips the other Latin American authors García Márquez is typically classified with (Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Julio Cortázar).

I get things started off with a possibly apocryphal anecdote about García Márquez. The more and more I’ve thought about this bit since I published the article, the stranger and stranger this seems as a thing to do:

There is an oft-told anecdote that cuts to the heart of this writer’s greatness. As he wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude, he would regularly meet with his fellow great Colombian author Álvaro Mutis, updating Mutis on his progress by narrating the latest events from his novel. There was just one problem: none of what García Márquez told Mutis actually occurs in the book. He had effectively made up an entire shadow-novel while in the middle of writing one of the most imaginative and jam-packed books in the history of modern literature. This is a measure of how many competing realities existed in García Márquez’s voracious mind.

And, as always, the column ends with some reading recommendations. As much of the column deals with how One Hundred Years is a narrative that could only have come from Lain America, the reading list covers other narratives that I feel are particularly Latin American in nature and that have contributed much to our world’s collection of necessary stories.

Love in a Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (tr. Edith Grossman)
The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector (tr. Idra Novey)
The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares (tr. Ruth L. C. Simms)
Thus Were Their Faces by Silvina Ocampo (tr. Daniel Balderston)
Kiss of the Spiderwoman by Manuel Puig (tr. Suzanne Jill Levine)
Seeing Red by Lina Meruane (tr. Megan McDowell)
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (tr. Megan McDowell)
Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra (tr. Carolina De Robertis)



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