You are on page 1of 6

18 Gabriel Garcia Marquez Literary Contexts 19

resentation of the region they depict. In that sense. regionalism and re- linguists call false cognates: two words. in two different languages! that
alism are one and the same. Regionalism, indeed, is the type of Latin sound alike and whose spelling is similar but whose meanings are dif-
AmerIcan novel that first interested European and AmerIcan readers. ferent.) Gabnel Garda Marquez is not a writer of the Latin Amencan
Some of these novels are nowadays considered Latin American claSSiCS. move~ent called lIloderntslllo. During the 11lodernismo penod, Latin Amer-
Among the most conunonly known are DOlla Barbam (1929) by R6mulo ican writers were consciously working to improve the usage of language
Gallegos, DOll Segundo Sombra by Ricardo GUiraldes, and Ln vortfgme with the intention of moderruzing it. The lIIodernista writers, who wrote
(1924) by Jose Eustasio Rivera. R6mulo Gallegos wrote of the Venezuelan around the tum of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of
prairies and the local folklore, Ricardo Giliraldes described the Argentine the twentieth, were mostly poets and essayists. This was a period ot
pampas, and Jose EustaslO Rivera wrote of the South American tropIcal renovation and national pride. At that time the emphaSIS was not on the
jWlgle. novel. but on poetry. The term was coined by Ruben Dario. a Nicaraguan
This phase in Latin American literature can be considered, as some poet. who was considerably influenced by the French PamaSSJans (poets
literary critics do, a necessary step in the development of the novel and who believed that art was an end in itself, not a means to an end; for
the short story. While the writers of realism and regionalism focused on theffit poetry achieved the status of religion). French Pamassianism was
plot those who came after. like Gabriel Garda Marquez, began to focus an influential literary movement in France in the second half of the rune~
more on technique. They were concerned with the style and the methods teenth century. W'hile 11lodernismo and the modern£sta writers may have
in which they told their stories. Leaf Stoml, Garda Marquez's first no~ been out of center stage by the end of the 19205 in Latin America, their
vella, set a precedent for this literary emphasis for future Latin American influence continued into the 1930s and 1940s.
writers. ThJs emphasis has been as influential m Latin America as it had In Emope, meanwhile. in the early- to mid-twentieth century, 11I0de11l-
been in Europe and the United States. This literary style m Latin Amer* ist writers were paying particular attention to the psychology of char-
ica. however, was already being used by writers such as the Argentine acter. that 15, the inner world of the character. As IS the case with any
Torge Luis Borges; the Guatemalan lvliguel Angel AsturIas. who won the pIece of literature, the social and historical context in which the text IS
Nobel Prize in literature in 1967 (the same year Garda Marquez pub- written has an influence on it. World War I had an enormous effect on
lished GlIe Hundred Years of Solitude); and the Cuban Alejo Carpentier: the modernist writers. The devastation of the war was reflected In much
all of whom can be read in an English translation. of their writings. Their fictional universe became fragmented, with dis-
By the 1950s. critics were talking of the emergence of a "new Latin illUSIOned characters. and focused on the world of the unconscious.
American noveI." as if literary movements could begin and end abruptly Hence! their affinity for! and use of, the stream~of-consciousness tech-
rather than through gradual change or evolution. However, nothing nique (interior monologue reflecting the thought processes). The leader
could be further from the truth. While literary critics were debating of the movement, as was the case with the Latin Amencan l1lodemista
about a "new Latin American novel" conforming to a style being used movement. was also a poet: T. S. (Thomas Steams) Eliot. T. S. Eliot was
by Faulkner. Hemingway, Woolf. and Kafka's translations into English. awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1948, the year when Gabriel
Garcia Marquez"s writings, as well as those of Borges, Asturias, and Car- Garcia Marquez began lus career as a Journalist.
pentier. were also being called "modernist." The term 11loderlllsm (encom- Whether or not Latin American writers such as Borges. Astunas. and
passmg modernist authors) is often used in English to refer to the work Carpentier tnfluenced Garcia Marquez's writing, they dearly served <\S
of these Latin American authors. as well as to non-Latin American writ- his models. Borges! use of cyclical time, the universe as a labYrInth. the
ers like James Joyce. Franz Kafka, William Faulkner. and Virginia Woolf. concept of the otlier, the use of the absmd, and therole of an active reader
In fact, the term modernist has been applied to all authors who broke who has to complete the story are often found In Gabnel Garda Mar-
with established rules. traditions. and conventions and were expenmen- quez's writing. Borges, however. experimented with these literary tech-
tal in form, style, and the use of language itself. ruques as early as 1923. Asturias and Carpentier's treatment of reality
Readers of Latin American literature who are not careful may, un- deals-like Garda Marquez's writing-with myths and an Afro-Indian
knowingly, confuse modernism with the term lIIodenlismo. although. in~ folk tradition that blurs the demarcation betvveen what is real and what
deed, the two terms have totally different meanings. (They are what IS magic. as the term magic realism implies by definition. The /lllIglc, how-
20 Gabriel Garda Marquez Literary Contexts 21

ever. should not be so emphasiZed as to diminish the book's faithful were not alike. their concerns were different, and they were of different
representation of Latin American reality and culture. Magic does not ages. They were not members of one generation nor of an orgaruzed
mean the pure fantasy of a fairy tale, where everything is imaginary. movement or schooi. yet soon they were identified as writers of the
Lenf Storm, a book that has often been compared to the work of William "Latin American Boom." Although nondescriptive (other than in terms
Faulkner. was published in 1955. the same year the Mexican author Juan of book sales), the term. stuck among literary critics. scholars, and the
Rulfo published Pedro Ptirnmo. There are many corrunonalities betvYeen public alike. American and European W1iversities began teaching courses
the two works in theme. language usage, and style. but whereas Garda on the Latin American Boom, and the works of this group of Latin Amer-
Marquez continued to write about the theme of death, solitude. war. and Ican writers became well known in literary circles around the world. To
the violence of rural envirorunents in many later books, Juan Rullo never date. the term continues to be used with an emphasis on chronology.
published again. Rulfo's Pedro parmno. however! contributed sub5tan~ Those writers in Latin AmerIca who began publishing in the 1970s and
I: tially to the magic realism school of Latin America. 19805 are often referred to as "Post-Boom" writers. The Chilean author
.Ii In an effort, perhaps. to associate and identify the work of writers as . Isabel Allende and the MeXican author Laura Esquivel are two such writ-
varied as Jorge Luis Borges. Alejo Carpentier. Ualo Calvina. GUnter ers. both internationally known and associated with magic realism.
Grass. Franz Kafka, and Salman Rushdie, along with Garda Marquez. Gabriel Garda Marquez is a writer of the tropiCS. His writings are
Cortazar. and Asturias (among many others), the label of magic realism Latin Amencan and, In particular. Colombian. His settings. which are
has been applied in a rather loose way. Of all these writers. however. frequently rural, resemble those found among the coastal towns of the
ij Garda Marquez has emerged as the quintessential name associated with Colombian northwest. When fully identified, the reader can identify Car~
"
magic realism and One Hundted Yeats of Solitude has been identified as tagena, Rfohacha! Manaure. Barranquilla, Santa Marta. Bolivar. Bogota,
I the magic realism book par excellence. and Medellin. OtherwiSe. the dusty isolated towns are described merely
In magic realism, the mythical elements of oral tradition are incorpo- as being along the Magdalena River or close to the Caribbean Sea.
rated into an otherwise realistic fiction. The social and economic prob~ A!; if to go back to the roots of a constant political discontent, national
lems that Garda Marquez disguises with a touch of magic realism are instability, poverty, and abject solitude! Gabriel Garda Marquez first
both past and present problems facing the individual and the COIIUnU- published a trilogy covering some of the most unportant moments of
,[ nity. If the reader fails to see through the disguise, it is because the Colombian history (from the runeteenth century up to the 19605). These
narrative··s emphasis is placed, not on the story, but rather on how the three works are Leaf Storm (1955), No One Writes to tile Colonel (1961), and
story is told. For instance. the countless wars that Colonel Aureliano III Evil Hour (1962). This trilogy establishes both thematic and technical
Buendia fights and loses in One Hundred Years of Solitude represent the elements that are recognizable In all of Garda Marquez's work. The tril-
countless civil wars that Colombians actually fought throughout the ogy also contains the seeds of One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967).
nineteenth century. There is a similar analogy for the violence in No One Whether readers of Garda Marquez see him as a modernist. a boom
Writes to ti,e Colollel. Violence was everywhere in Colombia during the writer, or a magic realist, the literary contexts of Uus Colombian author
19505. but people could not speak out against the govenunent. The dic· are determined, not by the effects of World War I, as was the case for
tatorship of President Gustavo Rojas Pinilla was so severe that much that European and American modernist writers. but by the social, political,
Colombians did was indeed clandestine. In the novel, Agustin, the old and historical events that shaped the country of his birth. His works are.
colonel's son, is killed in 1956 for distributing clandestine literature. indeed, universal inasmuch as they touch the lives of readers around the
By the time Oue Hundred Years of Solitude was published, Latin Amer~ world through his detailed development of both character and plot.
ican novelists such as Garda Marquez had begun to enJoy worldwide Most, if not all, readers can also identify with the solitude suffered by
recognition for their writing, in part. because of their use of magic re- the individual in modem times as described by Garda Marquez. How-
alism, but mostly because of their commercial success. both in Spanish ever. the solitude of Garda Marquez is the solitude of Latin America; in
and in translation. These Latin American writers, induding Julio Corta- that sense it is object specific. as is his literature.· No reader can confuse
zar, Carios Fuentes, and Mario Vargas Llosa, among others. were im- the settings. They are trOpICal, near the Caribbean Sea or the Magdalena
mediately grouped together. ignoring the fact that their writing styles River, or located somewhere in rural Latin America. The impotence that
22 Gabriel Garda Marquez Literary Contexts 23

readers may feelm the presence of death and the discontenJ and repu- became fully ll1dependent from Spain in 1819. At that time, Colombia
diation they may experience in reaction to the arbitrariness and abuses was made up of Venezuela (Bolivar was born in Caracas), Colombia.
of corrupt, petty officials are indeed universal, but Garda Marquez's Panama, and Ecuador. In 1821 Venezuela ciaimed mdependence from
literary contexts are underuably ColombIan. Colombia. and a year later Ecuador did the same. By 1903, Panama, too,
Garda Marquez's works are read as fiction, but his sources are factual. had separated from Colombia. The General alld His Lnbyrinth IS a somber.
The absurd and mexplicable events of lus short stories and novels are sad, but humarustic study of a disillUSioned figure of a man, not of a
ironic representations of the absurdity of life. The literary context of mythic lustorical hero. In the account, Sim6n Bolivar dislikes the cen-
GarcIa Marquez can be found in the history of Colombia, his private life. tralized power of Bogota as much as any of the liberal characters m
and that of his parents and grandparents. Ameataca, the place where he Garcia Marquez's fictional works. By 1903, the year he dies, the character
was born, appears either as Macondo or a nameless town dose by a nver. of Bolivar can remember tw"enty years of useless wars.
The references to the banana boom and the aftermath of the slaughter The wars and constant violence in Garda Marquez's works represent
of the banana strikers in Cienaga, the capital of the Colombian banana- the fictionalized reality of many histOrIcal eVents. In the nineteenth cen-
producing zone i..J;J. the 1920s, are prominent in Lenf Storm and DlIe Hun- tury and the first two decades of the twentieth, the protagorusts of the
dred Years of Solitude. Echoes can also be heard in No OlIe Writes to the wars were generals, politicians, armed forces. and people at large who
Calonel and Love ill tITe Time of Cllolera. as well as m some of Garda pledged allegiance to either the Conservative or the Liberal Parties. Both
Marquez's short stories. The images of power. religIon, and celebrations parties were fighting for a Single thing: power. TIus historical context IS
all seem to have an origin in the oral traditions or the social and histoncal deady depicted in Glle Hundred Years of Solitude. Colonel Aureliano
culture ofColombta. The events in Big Mama's Funeral. for example. can BuendIa is a liberal who fights against the Conservative Party. The peace
be traced back to a three-day festival that takes place in Cienaga durmg of Macondo. in One Hundred Years of Solitude! is altered when Apotinar
~
,~, III' the last week of january. Olle Hundred Years of Solitude and Love m the Moscote and hIS family arnve in Macondo. He has been sent by the
;~.
Time of ChOlera are both based, although not entirely, On what the author Conservative Party, the central goverrunent in Bogota.. He brings an
!;;: ;~ was told about his parents and grandparents, and particularly what his armed police force to maintain law and order. He even wants all the
i~ grandmother passed on to him. houses painted blue.. one of the colors of the ColombIan flag and the
;f If Garda Marquez's works seem foreign to English-speaking readers, color of the Conservative Party. However. the BuendIa family, the foun-
'i" it is because his fiction rncludes not only a European component, but ders of the tovm, wants the houses to stay white. Ironically, disorder and
:i
~,
also a pre-Columbian (native Latin American Indian) and an African chaos break out.
to·
:, component. The tradition of Latin America is, of course, Spanish, but it Its repercussion IS fOlU\d in No Glle Writes to tlie Colonel. In thIs novel,
~~j
",
~~
is also Muslim and JeWIsh. The Muslim component of Garcia Marquez's on the one hand, the colonel is suffering the negligence and corruption
i"t' works is most evident in ClIroJllde of a Death Foretold. Latin America IS a of a bygone era, the wars of the nineteenth century. On the other hand,
!~! multiracial civilization, where Indians, Europeans, and AfrIcans have the VIolence of the 19505 IS also portrayed when the colonel's son, Agus-
.,. created a distinctly Latin American way of life rn all its forms (literature tin, IS killed by the polIce, The year of Agustin's death, 1956, clearly
ii·, bemg one of them). By the time of independence from Spain, between refers to the violence Colombia undenvent from 1948 to 1958. The Vio-
1810 and 1824, most Spartish-speakmg countnes had integrated a myriad lence began with the death of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan (in 1948), a populist
of cultures into one. TIlis was a nationalistic experience that precipitated Liberal leader who was loved by the masses. His death, once again,
~ countless civil wars In the newly formed republics. One Hundred Years of caused new CIvil wars to erupt.. again U1 the pursuit of power. Irorucally,
';~' Solitude is the novel that best plays out trus drama. Torge Eliecer Gaitan was not killed by members of the opposrng party,
However. the history of Colombia ill the penmanshlp of Garda Mar- but by other liberal leaders who were envious of his popularity and its
~
quez would not be complete had he not chosen to write about Sim6n populism. To end the constant bloodbaths, the hovo political parties
Bolivar. In The GelIernI and His LnlJynl1lh (1990) the reader witnesses the agreed to a cease-fire and formed an alliance. This arIstocratic pact be-
last days in the life of one of Latin America's greatest figures, who was tween the Conservative and Liberal Parties, known as the Frente Na-
a general. politician. and liberator. Through his military effort, Colombia cional (National Front) was instituted in 1958.

,:1
, I
I
Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers
Second Series
,
Julia Alvarez by Silvio Sirias GABRIEL
, GARCIA
Rudollo A. Anaya by Margarite Fernandez Olmos
Maya Angelou by Mary Tnlle Lupton
Ray Bradbury by Robin Anne ReM
MARQUEZ
Louise Erdrich by Lorentt I..~ Stookey

Ernest J. Gaines by Knren Can/remt A Critical Companion


John Irving by rosie P. Campbell
Garrison Keillor by Marcia SOllger
Jamaica Kincaid by Lizabeth Pamvisllli-GeberJ Ruben Pelayo
Barbara KingSOlver by MItn) {emt DeMarr
Maxine Hong Kingston by E. D. Ht/ntley
Terry McMillan by Pnt/lette Ridtflrds
Larry McMurtry by ioillt M. Reifly
Toni MorrIson by Missy DelllJ Kubitschek
Chaim Potek by Sanford Slemlicltt
Amy Tan by E. D. Hulttley
Anne Tyler by Pmtl Bail
Leen Uns by Knl1lleen Shiue Cain
Gloria Naylor by Chnrfes E. WilSall, ir.

CRfITCAL COMPANIONS TO POPULAR CONTEMPORARY WRITERS


Kathleen Gregory Klein. Series Editor

~
Greenwood Press
Westport, Connecticut· London
Library of Congress Cataloglng~jn~PublicationData
I dedicate this book both to
Pelayo. Rub~n. 1954-
Gerald A. Lamb,. my adoptive father~
Gabriel Garda Marquez. : a critical companion I Ruben Pelayo.
p•.on.-{Critic:al companions to popular contemporary writers. lSSN 1082-4979) and to the memory of my mother,
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISDN 0-313--31260-5 (alk. paper)
1. Garda Marquez, Gabriel. 1926- -Criticism and interpretation. I. Tille.
II. Series
PQBIBO.17.A73Z665 2001
863'.64-dc21 2001023337
British Library Cataloguing tn Publication Data 15 available.
Copyright C 2001 by Rubtn Pelayo
AU rights reserved. No portion of this book may be
reproduced. by any process or techrtique. without the
express writien consent of the publisher.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number. 2001023337
ISBN: Q-313-3126G-S
ISSN: 1082-4979
First published in 2001
Greenwood Press. BB Post Road West. Westport, cr 06B81
An imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group. Inc.
wl....w.greenwood.com
Printed in the United States of America

The paper used in this book complies with the


Permanent Paper Standard issued by the National
Information Standards OrganiUltion (Z39A6-1984).
1098765-1321