I write mostly about the reality I know, about the reality of Latin America.
Known by his affectionate name Gabo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez became the voice of Latin America. He was a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, and journalist. He is considered one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, particularly in the Spanish language.
He gives a voice to all those who died. He gives a voice to all those who are not born yet. He gives a voice to Latin America.Ariel Dorfman, Chilean novelist.
Garcia’s works are brimming with enchanting events, love, passion, wars, politics, dreams, and death. His novels have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide.
Once Garcia said in an interview that whatever he wrote, he knew or had heard of in his childhood. His source of inspiration was his grandfather. He was once quoted saying, “here was the world of my grandmother, which was full of fantasy, completely outside of reality.”
He achieved international fame for writing One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and Love in the Time of Cholera. Garcia popularized magical realism in English literature and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
Here are 7 books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that you must read and why.
You can read some of his short stories translated in English and Urdu here.
1. One Hundred Years of Solitude
One minute of reconciliation is worth more than a whole life of friendship!
One Hundred Years of Solitude is regarded as the modern bible. It pioneered magical realism, the delusional style where the extraordinary is treated like every day’s mundane.
This 5000 pages long novel features three generations of a Buendía family. It’s an epic story from a mythical Colombian town describing the glories of Latin American people. The novel is brimming with natural catastrophes, civil wars, and magical realism.
Jose Arcadio Buendia begins his journey to find a land of greener pastures with his few trusted companions and finds Macondo. Garcia paints the picture of a utopia where everything is seemingly perfect.
Many supernatural phenomena occur in the town of Macondo. Numinous magic, ghosts, and walking dead are a common sight, dreams are revealed, and men live much longer than typical.
The small town escapes the world’s eye for thousands of years, until it is exposed. It meets its inevitable destiny when Buendía’s son who is born with a pig’s tail is prophesied.
Once a growing and flourishing town under the Buendia family, Macondo witnesses decline when war, politics, and madness for technology replaces love, care, and passion.
I agree with Catherine’s review of One Hundred Years of Solitude that Garcia’s impressive description makes you feel a part of the Buendia family.
2. The Autumn of the Patriarch
Fear of death is the amber of happiness.
If you haven’t read Garcia yet, let this not be the first book you read of this writer. It’s another fine example of magical realism that took Garcia 17 years to complete. This novel portrays the psychological portrait of a nameless dictator who refused to die. He declares himself the General of the Universe and belongs to a nameless Caribbean city in Latin America.
Only Garcia has the guts to engage readers without any paragraphs or punctuation marks, merely hiding his voice behind the commas. The style of the novel is dense, rich, and complex.
It narrates the decay of the General’s bloody reign; the life and death, fading uncontrolled power, torture, brutal execution, sadism, destruction, violence, cruelty, and construction of whatever he wants.
Most of the story is explained through flashbacks when the tyrant Patriarch is waiting for the death to cease him.
People loved him as a savior, a healer who deserved to rule them but absolute power corrupted his human heart, and consequences are borne by the masses. They adapt to the life they’re faced with. They walk under his shadow and fear steals away their reasons for happiness.
I agree with Erik Shinker’s review of The Autumn of the Patriarch that it’s not an easy or casual read and only those who like poetic verse might enjoy it.
3. Chronicle of a Death Foretold
A falcon who chases a warlike crane can only hope for a life of pain.
Perhaps more of detective fiction than magical realism, this novel has been set on the pace of pseudo-journalistic construction.
Santiago Nasar, a wealthy person, is accused of dishonoring a girl from a respectable family and has been murdered by her brothers. It’s a wicked crime that will haunt the whole town for the next twenty years.
The brothers announce their heinous intentions to the whole town but still, the incident takes place. The rumors reach all the ears in the village except Santiago Nasar, and finally, he’s stabbed at dawn outside his own house.
Many incidents in the novel raise questions in the readers’ minds, questions NOT of ‘what and who’ but ‘why?’
Why couldn’t anybody prevent the crime when everyone knew it was going to happen? Why was he accused without any trial based on the mere accusation of the girl? Why did Nasar’s mother lock the door when he could use it to escape? Why were the accused of murder not arrested and trialed? And finally, did Nasar had anything to do with dishonoring the girl, or was it a conspiracy based on falsehood?
The novel has many perceptions and Nasar’s fate is left to the leader’s conscience to decide whether sentencing Nasar was poetic justice or a modern tragedy.
According to Zee in his review of Chronicle of a Death Foretold, this novel is a perfect fit for those who need a starter to digest Garcia’s writing.
4. No One Writes to the Colonel
For nearly sixty years—since the end of the last civil war—the colonel had done nothing else but wait.
No One Writes to the Colonel is a collection of nine short stories that prove there’s no one like Garcia who could use simple and ordinary and make it magically vivid and colorful. Garcia transforms the concept of nothingness into hope. It’s what keeps the colonel, the novel’s unnamed protagonist, positive, loving, and caring to his wife who is the only asset he has left in the world.
It’s a beautiful story of an old couple who have spent 60 years waiting for good fortunes to hit their doors and might have to spend the next 60 years for the same purpose. Who knows?
The unnamed town is under martial law where the colonel’s son has died of political repression alongside many others. Indeed, a factual story exploring the theme of individuals against the government and highlighting the corruption of the local and national officials.
For the last sixty years, every Friday their eyes are on the door waiting for the postman to bring the Colonel’s pension so they could fulfill their small desires. Without a penny in the pocket and unsure of the next meal, the couple is hopeful the sun will shine for them one day.
Joe D. Hirst suggests this novel to those stuck in the despair of life in his review of No One Writes to the colonel.
5. Love in the Time of Cholera
Wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.
The sense of humor and the magic Marquez sprinkled in this novel will move you. Perhaps the first novel of its kind that will make you think about what pure love is, or maybe what it isn’t. Many think this book is a tale of love, romance, and possibilities of life. But there are many who think otherwise!
Apparently, this is the story of true love that flourishes between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, two main characters of the novel. They share love letters, exchange romantic gestures but once Fermina Daza’s father gets to know about it, he forces her to move to another city and gets her married to a wealthy doctor, Dr. Juvenal Urbino.
She accepts the decision and moves on considering the love affair with Florentino as an infatuation and dream-like fantasy.
But, Florentino had sworn to wait for her and did not let the despair of love get to him. As he waits and yearns for his true love, he enjoys the company of any girl he meets, which is quite ironic.
That’s why many people believe that this novel is more about jealousy, obsession, desire, and vengeance. According to them, it’s a lustful story instead of a tale of purity of love and Garcia uses scathing similes to teach the hollow people of the modern age about what pure love should mean.
Ted Gioia has presented her review of Love in the Time of Cholera in quite a sarcastic way. She puts forward all the evidence for why it’s an anti-love story.
6. Of Love and Other Demons
One never quite stops believing, some doubt remains forever.
This novel might be a lesson to those who believe in superstitions and look for signs of doom everywhere. In fact, one of the major characters, Abrenuncio, is seen as the advocate of rationality, logic, and reason.
Part of the story revolves around a 12 years old girl Sierva Maria who is bitten by rabies-infected dogs which changes her fortune forever. While many other people who were attacked died of the disease, Maria survives and remains safe.
Rumors begin to prevail that Maria is being held by the demons for even dogs couldn’t hurt her.
Religion is used as a refuge or as a mere excuse to exert power on the helpless. That’s what we see when Maria’s father approaches an exorcist after becoming suspicious of his daughter’s demonic possession.
The other part of the novel revolves around the most shocking and appalling moment when Delaura, a 36 years old exorcist, supposed to treat Maria falls in love with her, a doomed love story.
Had there been an ordinary writer, he couldn’t have managed to keep the readers convinced to believe but this is Garcia, the greatest author of the 20th century.
How does Delaura face the judging eyes of the church? How does Garcia arouse the feeling of abhorrence towards love and then change his readers’ perception? It’s a story that will make you cringe and rethink!
Saloni in her review of Of Love and Other Demons believes Garcia purposefully leaves it up to the readers to predict a suitable ending for the novel, depending on their view of true love.
7. The General in His Labyrinth
There is great power in the irresistible force of love.
Although famous for magical realism, Garcia also has a vast knowledge of his country’s freedom movement, heroes who fought, died, and became iconic figures in Latin America. This time, Garcia becomes the voice of the national heroes.
A concise, coherent, and historically evident recollection of the dying general, The General in His Labyrinth, is the life journey of Simon Bolivar, aka the Liberator of South America from Spanish colonial tyranny. The book presents most of his past life through the narrative of his memories.
Renouncing the presidency and political power, Bolivar became the voice of the Latin American people. The book talks about the towns and villages that were named after him, showcasing the glory and fame he earned throughout his life.
A man who led the Latin American people to freedom and broke the curse of slavery is now seen lamenting for his only dream of creating an alliance between American nations.
Marquez did extensive research, interviewed many historical people to find the most authentic information about Simon Bolivar, and then blended it with his exceptional writing style.
Marquez selected this completely different genre because he wanted the readers to view the hero of Latin America from his perspective in quite a realistic view. Read the in-depth review of The General in His Labyrinth.
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