Algis Valiunas has little affection for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Columbian author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, inventor of "magical realism," and one of the most widely read and best-loved living writers. In a brief review of the first volume of Marquez's memoirs, Valiunas summarizes some of the smarmier incidents of Marquez's own life (drink, drugs, affairs, brothels), all of which is recounted in the memoirs with an unrepentant macho swagger. Nor does Valiunas think much of Marquez the writer. At the root of everything in Marquez, he says, is an "elemental collision between Life and Death," and there is a continuous message that "one must be determined to live Eabove all, to love Ewith fearless devotion to the very end, or else consign oneself to the ash-pits for those who have given up living before they are actually dead." In Love in the Time of Cholera, this thematic clash is worked out with sufficient "hopefulness as to make one's misgivings seem rather small," but Valiunas has not even so tepid a commendation for Marquez's supposed masterpiece, which he characterizes as follows: "few works of man enjoy such vast renown and deserve it so little." Far from being, as it and its fans claim, an exploration of the richness of life, One Hundred Years of Solitude is "the most smotheringly bookish of books," one whose opinions and ideas are drawn from earlier writers without "vital and convincing action" to give them fresh life. It is always invigorating to see a critic buck such a massive critical consensus.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Sunday, April 04, 2004 at 11:23 PM
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