Gabrielle Garcia Marquez has died. He had been ill for some time, and suffering from dementia. In a way, we lost him some time ago. But it is still a strange thing to learn about the passing of a great artist.
I read 100 Years of Solitude when I was in my early 20s, about a dozen years ago. It was my introduction to Magical Realism and Latin American literature. Sometimes you read a book and are entertained. Sometimes you read a book and are enlightened. Sometimes you read a book and enjoy it, but wish there was something more to it. And sometimes you read a book and when you are done, you place it gently on the table and close your eyes and wonder “How”? Solitude is one of the greatest achievements in writing. It is sprawling, yet controlled. It is philosophical, yet full of lighthearted moments. It is frighteningly poignant and blissfully whimsical. It speaks to us all, boring down at the base concepts that make us human, and yet at times, it is absolutely and proudly Fantastic.
Over the next few years, I read many of his other novels, short stories, and novellas. Love in the Time of Cholera was less interesting to me, perhaps because I have yet to discover Love, but his shorter works, such as The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother were marvelous dreams. Reading Gabo led me to other Latin authors, such as Llosa and Bolaño.
There have been only a handful of books that have affected me as Solitude had. And even fewer authors with distinct enough styles and personalities have shaped my own writing. Among the great writers of the second-half of the 20th century, only a few have had as much influence on me.
He, like Nabokov and Cormac McCarthy, was a writer who sits at the apex of the art, and challenges you to attempt the climb. You know you’ll never reach that peak, but you’re dazzled and warmed by its sparkle, and seek it, nonetheless.
There was much sadness in his writing, but a joy in the words that he used.