With novels like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, it’s clear that the Colombian Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, wasn’t one for light literature. Instead, Marquez invites his readers into a vast, magical universe, where everything is allegory, and nothing is forgotten. That is because the country which so defines Marquez, and which gave him boundless inspiration was Colombia itself.
It would seem Colombia didn’t just inspire Marquez though, it shaped and defined him, and it is the story of Colombia, inextricable from the story of the Buendia family of One Hundred Years of Solitude, which makes this novel such a masterpiece. By focusing on the narrow scope of one family over seven generations, but tackling the vast issues of colonialism, modernism, globalism, and government, Marquez produced a masterstroke of observation. Characterized by these two features of a wide frame and a narrow scope, it highlights the vastness of the country and its history, against the localized importance of family and community.
The constant recycling of names in the family – the novel contains so many Aurelianos it can make your head spin – is an allegory for the unchanging identity of family in the face of relentless modernization and change. Colombia may have changed, but if the family sticks together, the heart and soul of Colombia will never be broken.
In One Hundred Years of Solitude, we see that Colombia’s past forced Marquez to reflect on big questions: how do we want to live? And how has our past shaped us? These are questions we can still pose to ourselves today, whatever our background or way of life.
The novel is a classic, not just because of its worthiness as a story, but for its importance as a cultural reflection of an incredible country. Magical, ethereal, ambitious and humble are the way we’d describe not just One Hundred Years of Solitude but its muse, too. Colombia.