Fredric Jameson on ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’

Fredric Jameson in the London Review of Books:

SolitudeThe first centennial of the Soviet revolution, indeed the fifth centennial of Luther’s, risk distracting us from a literary earthquake which happened just fifty years ago and marked the cultural emergence of Latin America onto that new and larger stage we call globalisation – itself a space that ultimately proves to be well beyond the separate categories of the cultural or the political, the economic or the national. I mean the publication of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1967, which not only unleashed a Latin American ‘boom’ on an unsuspecting outside world but also introduced a host of distinct national literary publics to a new kind of novelising. Influence is not a kind of copying, it is permission unexpectedly received to do things in new ways, to broach new content, to tell stories by way of forms you never knew you were allowed to use. What is it, then, that García Márquez did to the readers and writers of a still relatively conventional postwar world?

He began his productive life as a movie reviewer and a writer of movie scenarios nobody wanted to film. Is it so outrageous to consider One Hundred Years of Solitude as a mingling, an intertwining and shuffling together of failed movie scripts, so many fantastic episodes that could never be filmed and so must be consigned to Melquíades’s Sanskrit manuscript (from which the novel has been ‘translated’)? Or perhaps it may be permitted to note the astonishing simultaneity of the beginning of his literary career with the so-called Bogotazo, the assassination in 1948 of the great populist leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (and the beginning of the seventy-year long Violencia in Colombia), just as García Márquez was having lunch down the street and, not much further away, the 21-year-old Fidel Castro was waiting in his hotel room for an afternoon meeting with Gaitán about the youth conference he had been sent to organise in Bogota that summer.

The solitude of the title should not at first be taken to mean the affective pathos it becomes at the end of the book: first and foremost, in the novel’s founding or refounding of the world itself, it signifies autonomy.

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