Savagery in One Hundred Years of Solitude

Marquez.jpgI am a little more than one-fourth of the way through One Hundred Years of Solitude and the savagery of Gabriel García Márquez forces me to stop dead in my reading tracks. It is raining corpses in Macondo, the town which, until recently, has never seen a death. Either by the cruelty of fate or by the brutality of revolutionaries or by the bitterness of unrequited love, men are dying all of a sudden. (I am not being specific about this for fear of spoiling the novel. I do not dare to disclose anything beyond what can be readily inferred from the jacket of the book.)

It is difficult to continue reading casually beyond a death or a renewed bout of military or carnal brutality narrated with a strange amalgam of glee and anger, and I take frequent breathers. In some of these enforced breaks, I am browsing for information about García Márquez: his Nobel Prize lecture throws up a possible justification for the shocking and brutal style of One Hundred Years of Solitude. García Márquez was speaking about Latin America and its problems with civil wars and military coups :

A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.

The book, when I finally finish it, is going to be notoriously difficult to explain, even to myself.

5 thoughts on “Savagery in One Hundred Years of Solitude”

  1. Your observation is quite correct- there are very few works from Latin America that do not show the impact of this ‘solitude’. The only significant writer i have found to differ is Mario Vargas Llosa- but only in some of his works, that deliberately steer away from the theme. But his most memorable and successful works are those that carry the typical Latin American themes- that of solitude, defeat and melancholy.

    BTW, I liked your site- do you mind if I link to your blog from my site?

  2. Bhupinder, Nice to see you here. I will check out the work of Mario Vargas Llosa. I often wonder how much the tone changes during translation. I read these books in English because my Spanish is nowhere near the level required to understand them. Perhaps my Spanish teacher might have an interesting perspective on this.

    Thanks for offering to link to Mirkwood. I found your page from John Baker’s blog and have been visiting for some time, so I’ll just add your site to my blogroll page if it is fine with you.

    Happy blogging!

  3. Thanks for the link. I have added yours to my site as well.

    My own Spanish goes little beyond “No habla Espanol”,but I have rarely felt language to become a bottleneck- not at least in case of llosa or Marquez, or Roberto Bolano and many others.

    For those that I haven’t really liked- Fuentes and Cortazar, perhaps the translation is the problem.

    Reason enough to pick up the language !

  4. Gregory Rabassa did a great job with it…don’t worry so much about that. But what you find so disturbing is only a glimpse into the otherworld that is Latin America. Tragedies considered horrific in the U.S. are no less horrific there, but there has been so much suffering…needless tragedy…one finds it difficult to be shocked. Such a mountainous history of grief imbues existence with the unreality that he speaks of. And this is another reason we need literature–to prick us awake–to give our reality back to us.

    Thank you for your frank thoughts on the work. It’s always encouraging to read of one’s naked confrontation with such a marvelous text.

  5. Ana, its nice to know that, as a native speaker, you are satisfied with the translation. Its a huge responsibility to translate, not just the words, but the tone, the background, the historical context, the topology of the place, especially in a work of such importance. We are lucky to have William Weaver translating Eco, and Rosemary Edmonds interpreting Tolstoy.

    I have to confess that part of my shock comes from my ignorance about Latin America. On US mainstream English TV, there is very little about South America. Here in California, there is a little more awareness. Not long ago at my school, I went to hear Isabel Allende talk about the massacre of her family in Chile, and the death of her daughter. I came back blown away by her passion.

    Many thanks for linking to my blog. I will do the same.

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