Illuminating study of the first writings of Colombian literary giant best known for One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967).
Appearing just months after Gerald Martin’s masterful biography Gabriel García Márquez, Stavans’s latest complements it with insightful readings of García Márquez’s work. The author begins with Hundred Years, a sprawling novel published in García Márquez’s 40th year, and, we learn here, written in a white-hot fury holed up in a Mexico City apartment. Stavans (Latin American and Latino Culture/Amherst Coll.; Resurrecting Hebrew, 2008, etc.) observes that the novel is “about memory and forgetfulness, about the trials and tribulations of capitalism in a colonial society, about European explorers in the New World, about the clash of science and faith, about matriarchy as an institution, about loyalty, treason, and vengeance in the political arena”—about, that is to say, just about everything, and with an endless jungle thrown in for a setting. Stavans writes literate literary criticism, but without academic archness and even with playfulness (he asks, for instance, “Quick: how many Aurelianos are there?”). His disquisitions pass academic muster nonetheless, well supported by a thorough reading of the relevant secondary literature as well as García Márquez’s own books. He makes an especially useful connection between Hundred Years and Don Quixote, each a microcosm of the Spanish-speaking world at the time of its creation—but also, he notes, a book that García Márquez resisted fiercely until reading it in visits to the lavatory. Stavans also notes the absence of a birth certificate and the author’s mythmaking about his early life.
Excellent. Longtime students of García Márquez will find fresh insights, and Stavans provides an excellent introduction for those readers new to the master’s work.