When I first wanted to learn Spanish, I listened to a lot of reggaeton and bachata, watched a lot of telenovelas, and tried to get my Spanish speaking friends to teach me something other than how to curse people out. Then I was told that if I wanted to learn Spanish, especially Spanish from Latin America, then I had to read Gabriel García Márquez. In Spanish.
Which I did. Junot Díaz once referenced the Caribbean and Latin America as being the ideal world for stories of magical realism and the fantastic to be set in, and Gabriel García Márquez is definitely a main reason why Díaz can come to such a conclusion. García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude found it's way into my hands for a dollar in it's original Spanish. The lines were so tightly scrunched together that I had almost no place to write translated sentences. Eventually translating line by line got tedious and I decided to read the Spanish version side by side with an English one. The edition I have now, translated by Gregory Rabassa and published in 2006 is a good one, but nothing compares to García Márquez's illustrations and diction in their native Spanish.
Creating a mystical town, García Márquez focuses the story around a woman named Ursula, who is not always the main character, but the oldest link between everyone before she passes after turning 130 years old and welcoming six generations. The only tricky part of this story, which gives it it's infamous "never ending story" tag, is the repetition of names. For North Americans...well actually maybe anyone from any countries colonized by France, England or the Netherlands, the double last name is unfamiliar. Coupled with that, many of the men in the novel have the same name without the noted generational titles. Luckily for me, my edition from Harper Perennial Modern Classics has a simple genealogy chart that breaks down the novel by generation. Once you get the characters down, which can also be said to be an effective way of getting a reader to pay close attention, the story comes alive.
To say that the Buendia family has issues from the day it sets up camp is an understatement. From fanatics to roaming travellers, men who cannot die and escaping firing squads, a woman who kills small animals and leaves them in the road, a flood that swamps the whole town, and the extremes of going between being rich and poor, One Hundred Years of Solitude is imagination at it's finest. Charming and consistent in it's air of "that couldn't happen? could it...", I'm definitely glad that I was suggested this be my first introduction to literature in Spanish, especially being that is from Latin America.
Recently a friend of mine began (I'm assuming with strong belief) to reread One Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish, and as I was freshly done my last book, I decided to refresh my memory and reread it as well. Recently rereading it has served me well; since his passing before the Easter weekend surrounded by loved ones, more people are coming in looking for his books. While keeping this and Love in a Time of Cholera on the shelves is difficult, expressing my love for Hundred Years of Solitude and García Márquez's other novels is not. It's unfortunate that his death is what had to bring a new popularity to his work, but it will definitely be reflected on by me and many others with warmth.
Labels: 50 books in 52 weeks, gabriel garcia marquez, one hundred years of solitude