Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Reviews of Two Great Latin American Novels

As a professor of literature, I spend a lot of my time reading. Some authors never seem to miss. One such is Gabriel García Márquez, who is sure to become to Latin American literature what Cervantes is to Spain's. People who like Márquez find his work appealing because of the way in which he can make the marvelous and magical seem matter-of-fact, woven into the fabric of everyday life. This is one short and certainly imperfect definitions of Magical Realism.

The fictional world of Márquez's works is pervasively Caribbean in flavor, often inspired by or even set in colonial times, such as Del amor y otros demonios (Of Love and Other Demons), a novel that takes place in 1749, beginning its action on Sunday, Dec. 7. By locating the action in a particular place at a particular time and with his well-drawn characters and journalistic veneer, this novel brings into focus the confrontation between faith and science in ways that dry academic expositions cannot. "Does the little girl have rabies or is she possessed?" "Who has control over her "treatment"?" "Why is the world she lives in as it is?" "Does that world still live in Latin America?" These are great questions to ask as you read.

Of course, his masterpiece, Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) remains his most famous and most widely read and translated work, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1982. I have read it every year since 1981. When I teach it, I begin by saying that it consists of a spiritual testiment of Latin American history, religion, folk beliefs, superstition, politics, economics, culture, war and family life -- all through the microcosm of one family over the course of several generations, ending in the 1960s.

His short stories and other writings are mutually illuminating. If you plan to work or have any extended contact with Latin America, you will be more aware of reality by having read his works. They are truly mirrors of life and the customs of men -- and women.

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