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Gabriel García Márquez was born in 1928,
in the small town of Aracataca, Colombia. He started his career
as a journalist, first publishing his short stories and novels in
the mid-1950s. When One Hundred Years
of Solitude was published in his native Spanish in 1967,
as Cien años de soledad, García Márquez achieved
true international fame; he went on to receive the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1982. Still a prolific writer
of fiction and journalism, García Márquez was perhaps the central
figure in the so-called Latin Boom, which designates
the rise in popularity of Latin-American writing in the 1960s
and 1970s. One Hundred Years of Solitude is perhaps
the most important, and the most widely read, text to emerge from
that period. It is also a central and pioneering work in the movement
that has become known as magical realism, which was characterized
by the dreamlike and fantastic elements woven into the fabric of
In part, the magic of García Márquez’s writing is a result
of his rendering the world through a child’s eyes: he has said that
nothing really important has happened to him since he was eight
years old and that the atmosphere of his books is the atmosphere
of childhood. García Márquez’s native town of Aracataca is the inspiration for
much of his fiction, and readers of One Hundred Years of
Solitude may recognize many parallels between the real-life
history of García Márquez’s hometown and the history of the fictional
town of Macondo. In both towns, foreign fruit companies brought
many prosperous plantations to nearby locations at the beginning
of the twentieth century. By the time of García Márquez’s
birth, however, Aracataca had begun a long, slow decline into poverty
and obscurity, a decline mirrored by the fall of Macondo in One
Hundred Years of Solitude.
Even as it draws from García Márquez’s provincial experiences, One
Hundred Years of Solitude also reflects political ideas
that apply to Latin America as a whole. Latin America once had a
thriving population of native Aztecs and Incas, but, slowly, as
European explorers arrived, the native population had to adjust
to the technology and capitalism that the outsiders brought with
them. Similarly, Macondo begins as a very simple settlement, and
money and technology become common only when people from the outside world
begin to arrive. In addition to mirroring this early virginal stage
of Latin America’s growth, One Hundred Years of Solitude reflects
the current political status of various Latin American countries.
Just as Macondo undergoes frequent changes in government, Latin
American nations, too, seem unable to produce governments that are
both stable and organized. The various dictatorships that come into
power throughout the course of One Hundred Years of Solitude, for
example, mirror dictatorships that have ruled in Nicaragua, Panama,
and Cuba. García Márquez’s real-life political leanings are decidedly
revolutionary, even communist: he is a friend of Fidel Castro. But
his depictions of cruel dictatorships show that his communist sympathies
do not extend to the cruel governments that Communism sometimes
One Hundred Years of Solitude, then,
is partly an attempt to render the reality of García Márquez’s own
experiences in a fictional narrative. Its importance, however, can
also be traced back to the way it appeals to broader spheres of
experience. One Hundred Years of Solitude is an
extremely ambitious novel. To a certain extent, in its sketching
of the histories of civil war, plantations, and labor unrest, One
Hundred Years of Solitude tells a story about Colombian
history and, even more broadly, about Latin America’s struggles
with colonialism and with its own emergence into modernity. García
Márquez’s masterpiece, however, appeals not just to Latin American
experiences, but to larger questions about human nature. It is,
in the end, a novel as much about specific social and historical
circumstances—disguised by fiction and fantasy—as about the possibility
of love and the sadness of alienation and solitude.
Ace your assignments with our guide to One Hundred Years of Solitude!