Learning From the Great Novels – One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ writing has the depth and force of childhood memories, your own. His endlessly captivating novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude shines with prose so rich and nostalgic you’ll think you’re remembering things instead of hearing them for the first time. What can you learn from this master of the art of fiction?

Have the courage to let your imagination run wild. Garcia Marquez is a wonderful example of unfettered imagination. His ability to get aloft and take you flying with him will remind you of Ray Bradbury. The stories are astonishing but you are drawn in because they are so masterfully told. His grandmother was evidently a great storyteller. She told fantastic stories, he says “… but she told them with complete naturalness. She did not change her expression at all when telling her stories.” While your imagination soars, your feet need to stay on the ground. “I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face.”

Make the place a character. Macondo grows from a small village of adobe houses by a river to a thriving settlement, and then it falls and finally disappears. Successive generations of the Buendia family are the founding architects and principal residents of the town. And what a town it is! A colorful progression of characters finds their way to this isolated place. Troupes of gypsies demonstrate fascinating trinkets and processes, Arabs with the latest inventions from the wide world over, settlers from Europe bringing their books full of classical culture, a two hundred year old traveling minstrel named Francisco the Man, and more mix with native tribesmen to make the main street of Macondo a parade of delights.

Don’t be afraid of emotion when you write. In fact emotion is absolutely necessary to good writing. You need a mix of the mental process that lets you drive the story forward and strong feelings about what you’re writing. If you don’t feel anything, neither will your reader. The first sentence of One Hundred Years is a good example. “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Whoa! You’re in up to your eyeballs right away. You feel distress and want to know how he got into this situation. Then you feel the fascination of a small boy in a tropical village experiencing ice for the first time. You just have to know who this person is and what led him to this point. You are emotionally involved.

If you are a writer One Hundred Years of Solitude is worth your while. We have to note that the book was written in Spanish. If you can read it in the original language, it will surely add to the experience. If you cannot read Spanish, Gregory Rabassa’s translation will do just fine.

Happy reading and writing!