Picaresque with closure

A banner depicting late Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez is hung in Mexico City. (Reuters)

A banner depicting late Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez is hung in Mexico City. (Reuters)

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a masterpiece because it is an episodic novel that has a rigorous form – an unprecedented combination. From the very beginning we know the town of Macondo will endure only a century, so there is a limit to the length of the narrative.

We discover that we are reading the book written by one of the characters, a Gypsy named Melquiades. At the same time that Aureliano is reading the last pages (written in coded Spanish, translated into Sanskrit) so are we; the town and the manuscript go up in flames just as the century comes to a close.

Picaresque or episodic novels are usually plagued with their lack of a sense of a necessary ending, but this book has a strong sense of closure.

This became a famous novel throughout the world because it was the first celebrated text that employed magical realism, the technique by which certain details in an otherwise normal world operate according to exceptional principles; I'll never forget the moment in his novel when the blood of a dead son travels all through the village to end up at the feet of his mother.

To be sure, Jorge Luis Borges had experimented with the style before him, but Gabriel García Márquez made it his own. If he resembled William Faulkner in that he situated his book in a mythical place he invented, he resembled Ernest Hemingway in the simplicity of his style.

Spanish-language literature before him (and Borges) was verbose and given to multivolume sagas. Márquez's genius was to condense a whole saga into one swift volume, and to purify his style into a simplicity that was accessible to everyone.

Hundreds of writers throughout the world and in every language were influenced by his brightly coloured, rapidly paced, clearly expressed style. He would condense conquistadors, civil wars, and the exploitation of the banana into a whirling century of unforgettable prose. – © Guardian News & Media 2014



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