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Marquez Biographer: He Wanted ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ to Be his First Novel | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Cartagena, Colombia in 1991. (Getty Images)

London – Gabriel Garcia Marquez always reminded people that he had become very poor by the time he completed writing “One Hundred years of Solitude”, his most famous work, in 1966.

He was so poor that he did not have enough money to send the 590 pages of the book from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. During a ceremony thrown in his honor in 2007, “Gabo” as he was fondly known by his fans, said that the very little money that he and his wife Mercedes had was enough to only send the second part of his novel to publishers. The editor was so enraptured with the book, even though he had only read the second part, that he sent Marquez enough money so that he could send the rest of the final draft.

In only a few months after it was published, this novel rose to the top of the world of international literature and was a main reason for the author’s winning of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” was translated into over 32 languages and it is believed that 50 million people have read it.

On the occasion of 50 years since its publication, Gerald Martin, Marquez’s biographer, highlighted to Asharq Al-Awsat the significance of this novel and just how close it is to Arabian culture.

“I believe that this is one of the most important books that have been published in the past 50 years,” he said.

“It is about what was then known as the ‘third world’ and it paves the way for the so-called ‘global village’, or in other terms, the culture and economy of globalization that we now see around us,” he added.

It was the first South American novel to draw the attention of readers from all over the world and it has become part of Latin American identity, he continued.

Martin attributed the secret to the novel’s success to its tackling of the idea of the history of the nation and “each one of us belongs to one nation or another.”

“It is also a family saga and each one of us has a family. The novel is really very enjoyable even though it implies a deep sadness and hints at light and darkness at the same time. It is easy to read, while also being very deep and complex,” he explained.

The novel was an embodiment of Colombian culture, he stated, while noting that “historically, Latin America was always one of the most isolated continents. This is why the theme of ‘isolation’ is very important in the context of the story.”

Addressing critics’ labelling of the novel as “magic realism”, Martine remarked: “Critics have had extensive discussions on this issue and the majority believe that the book mixes elements of realism and fantasy. In my personal belief, magical realism is the more unique and interesting mixture.”

Marquez’s biographer revealed that the author wanted to write “One Hundred Years of Solitude” since he was 17 years old. He wanted to call it “La Casa” or “The House” through which he would relive the childhood experiences in his grandfather’s house in Aracataca, Colombia.

“He did not however have the literary experience to meet his ambitions and he did not find the necessary vision and technical prose until he was 40 years old,” said Martin.

“Almost everything in the book was inspired from his life and the main character Colonel Aureliano Buendía is a sort of embodiment of Marquez himself. Other members of his real family have been embodied in various characters in the novel,” he noted.

On the novel’s ties with Arabian culture, Martin said that the Colombian cities of Sucre and Aracataca, where Marquez grew up, have a large Arab population. He also knew several Arabs in the various Colombian cities he lived in while growing up and his father-in-law was Egyptian.

There are several references to Arab culture and traditions in “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and other works written by Marquez, stated Martin.