When I read of the news of Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s death from pneumonia yesterday, it didn’t register with me right away. I remembered him as an author that I had fond memories of reading, mainly in high school - One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera, No One Writes to the Colonel, etc. Then I started to reflect on exactly why I hadn’t read him since high school.
One Hundred Years of Solitude was one of my favorite books in high school. I feel this was the case for many other people. At first glance, it’s hard to see why Marquez appeals so much to young people. A first encounter with Marquez can be bewildering. Trying to keep all the characters straight is too taxing for quite a few readers. It can also be hard for many readers to relate to characters who are mostly older adults for the most part, in a country that is completely foreign to them. For many teenagers who are reading one of Marquez’s books for the first time, the whole experience can be new and potentially alienating.
But for the determined few who stick with it, we are richly rewarded. For one thing, there is his writing style. Marquez’s rich prose resonates even in translation. Lines like “He dug so deeply into her sentiments that in search of interest he found love, because by trying to make her love him he ended up falling in love with her” are typical of Marquez and can make him difficult to read. It’s possible to see his writing as cheesy and overly dramatic, but Marquez never loses the conviction behind his florid prose even in his long books and the overall effect is wonderfully overwhelming.
Marquez also touched upon deep themes. He wrote of the inevitability of escaping your background and your heritage. He wrote about l’amour fou, the crazy love, the love that everyone is against except the two at the center. He also managed to maintain his sense of childlike wonder in his often touted “magical realism.” He could write about ice and telescopes with convincing childlike fascination, and then he would write about magic carpets and miraculous floods as if they were everyday occurrences.
As a teenager I responded to all of the themes mentioned above. At that age, Marquez’s basically optimistic and highly dramatic outlook on life appealed to me and reflected my own adolescent mentality. I have cooled on him in later years as I have become a more widely-read and experienced adult, but now I want to revisit him. I want to see if I can recall the wonder and joy I felt when I first immersed myself in his world. In any case, Marquez will never die, for me and for many other readers, as long as his words live.