~opening line of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude
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It’s been about two years since I read those lines for the first time, and I was awestruck by them from the first moment. Who was this man? Why was he facing a firing squad? And, for goodness sake, what does ice have to do with anything?
I began reading on a Friday morning. While in the writing center, I read the first two chapters (50 pages or so) and then left work to head to my parents’ house for the weekend. I could not stop thinking about that book. I wanted to pull off onto the side of the road to keep reading. I met my parents for dinner and carried the book with me, reading the first line to my mother in hopes that she would be as riveted as I was. She wasn’t. That didn’t diminish my excitement, however. I finished the novel Sunday night, and since then, I’ve regarded it as my favorite book.
Today is Garcia Marquez’s 82nd birthday. He started as a journalist before moving to novels and short stories, and he’s considered one the most prolific novels of the 20th century. In fact, my friend Myron and I had plenty of discussions about why One Hundred Years of Solitude should be considered the essential postmodern, much like Eliot’s The Waste Land was the epitome of the modern period. However, according to Wikipedia, Garcia Marquez stated, “Most critics don’t realize that a novel like One Hundred Years of Solitude is a bit of a joke, full of signals to close friends; and so, with some pre-ordained right to pontificate they take on the responsibility of decoding the book and risk making terrible fools of themselves.” Quite an interesting comment. At any rate, the novel is still one of my favorites, and one of the first that I recommend when asked for my favorite book.
Garcia Marquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer several years ago, and although he is still alive, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever publish any new material again. However, he has already gifted the literary world with so much.
If you only ever read one book by Garcia Marquez, choose One Hundred Years of Solitude. Nothing I’ve read by him since has compared to that first novel that I read. It’s complex (I constantly had to refer to the genealogy chart at the beginning of the novel), rich in humor and Latin American culture, and so beautifully written. In fact, I so very much want to read this book again; however, I have plenty of Caribbean writing beckoning to me. Perhaps soon, Gabo. Perhaps. 🙂