7 Writing Lessons from Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I’m finally reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, the Nobel Prize Winning novel and one of the best selling books of all time. Gabriel García Marquez’s novel about a small village in Colombia has become the best known work of magic realism, a literary genre that blends detailed realism with elements that couldn’t possibly exist.

There are things I like and things I don’t like about the novel, but apart from personal taste, it quickly became clear to me García Márquez is a great writer, perhaps among the best writers alive (he’s eighty-six).

In this post, we will explore seven writing lessons we can learn from the Colombian master.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Good and Bad of Gabriel García Márquez

There are things I like about One Hundred Years of Solitude:

  • The freedom author García Márquez takes with magical elements
  • The unique perspective of Colombia—a country I don’t know much about
  • The strange and vivid world he creates for the reader

There are also things I don’t like about the novel:

  • García Márquez’s stream-of-consciousness style is jumpy and sometimes confusing
  • The novel doesn’t have much of a plot, or rather, there are so many plots that it’s hard to keep track)
  • There is no clear protagonist (unless you call Colombia itself the protagonist)

Whether you like him or not, García Márquez is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Here’s what we can learn from his experimental style:

1. Write What You Know

From The Paris Review:

If I had to give a young writer some advice I would say to write about something that has happened to him (want to tweet that?); it’s always easy to tell whether a writer is writing about something that has happened to him or something he has read or been told. Pablo Neruda has a line in a poem that says “God help me from inventing when I sing.” It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality.

I’ve written stories invented strictly from my imagination and stories that draw from my own personal experience. The stories that draw from experience are always better.

However, if that feels limiting to you, García Márquez proves you can still create imaginative, fantastic, speculative stories even when you’re writing what you know.

2. Draw From Your Childhood

From The Paris Review:

… I realized that everything that had occurred in my childhood had a literary value that I was only now appreciating.

García Márquez grew up in a small village in Colombia, and he drew on this setting for One Hundred Years of Solitude, as well as many of his other novels and short stories.

Don’t disdain your own experiences, especially your experiences in childhood. They can provide inspiration for your writing.

3. Create Magic

One Hundred Years of Solitude was García Márquez’s first use of the magic realism style. The story involves magical elements like flying carpets, alchemy, and candy that gives you insomnia and makes you forgetful. García Márquez says he learned this style from the way his grandmother told stories:

She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness.

What’s so surprising about García Márquez’s style is the way he goes from talking about a character’s obsession with science to a band of nomadic gypsies charging everyone in the village to ride on their magic carpet and does it with what he calls a “brick face,” with no change in tone so that the magical elements merge with the very real story without interruption.

It’s jarring and confusing… and exciting. You should try it!

4. Become a Journalist

From The Paris Review:

Journalism has helped my fiction because it has kept me in a close relationship with reality.

Despite the element of fantasy in García Márquez’s work, his stories find their foundations in real life, and part of this is because of his training as a journalist. Many of the greatest writers of the 19th and 20th century were journalists first, including Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck (another great magic realist writer, Salman Rushdie, was a copywriter).

If you want to be a great writer, consider practicing journalism.

5. Make the Reader Believe

From The Paris Review:

In journalism just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That’s the only difference, and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.

We talked about writing what you know, but what you know is just the starting point for invention. The key is that when you invent something, you have to believe in it yourself. Otherwise, how can you expect anyone else to believe it?

6. Take Sensual Leaps

One of the things I find fascinating about García Márquez’s writing is the way he connects a sensation with a feeling you wouldn’t expect, like in this example from the first line of Love in the Time of Cholera:

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.

Almonds and unrequited love? How do those two connect? I’m not sure, but the link is fascinating.

7. Write in Political Allegories

It took me more than fifty-nine pages to realize the village in One Hundred Years of Solitude is a political allegory for Colombia. García Márquez wrote the novel in period of political turmoil in the 1960s, and his feelings about his beloved nation are represented in the novel.

The secret to using allegory in your writing is to make sure the story works, first and foremost, as a story. The definition of story says that stories are meant to “amuse, entertain, and instruct.” Allegories can certainly instruct the reader, but if it doesn’t amuse and entertain as well, you probably won’t find many readers.

Gabriel García Márquez’s Writing Legacy

In the end, Gabriel García Márquez’s writing shows us that real life is filled with magic, that peeking between the curtains of “reason” is a whimsical magician universe who takes great delight in surprising us, if only we’re looking.

After reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, I began asking myself, What is magical about my life? And how can I incorporate a sense of wonder and surprise into my own stories?

What about you? Have you read Gabriel García Márquez’s writing? What do you like or dislike about it?

PRACTICE

Write in the style of magic realism, taking a real event that happened to you and incorporating magical elements like leprechauns, levitation, and perhaps even a flying carpet.

Write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback on a few practices by other writers.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

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  • http://www.pjreece.ca/blog/wordpress/category/blog PJ Reece

    I love Marquez. He puts me into orbit. If a book doesn’t launch me quickly, I’ll probably bail out. Reading Marquez, I’m immediately “up there” in a realm where anything is possible. I’m not sure it’s possible to invent such a magical style, which worries me because I aspire to magical writing. I suppose the test is to see if my own writing launches me. I sure know when it leaves me on the ground. This is a tough business.

  • http://www.birgitterasine.com/ Birgitte Rasine

    Ah, the paradise that is Colombia. I’ve been blessed to come to know it on many levels (been there 4 times). Some of the most magical things I’ve seen, I experienced in Colombia. Timeless rivers that swallow entire palm trees, forms of life that haven’t bothered to evolve (think fish that still have cartilage and gelatin instead of muscle fiber), forms of life that may make it hard for YOU to evolve (think piranhas and water cockroaches), and some of the most mind blowing biodiversity you will ever see.

    The magical realism is really true. There are things that happen in Colombia that could not, and would not, ever happen anywhere else.

    I wrote a few blog posts for a literary organization about our most recent trip, Dec 2012-Jan 2013: http://www.birgitterasine.com/blog/journeys

    • Jay Warner

      I’ve never been to Columbia, but it’s a part of the world that fascinates me. The rich images and stream of consciousness writing that Marquez employs have always attracted and delighted me, and I like your images, Birgitte, of fishes and trees and insects that have come to their own in the most weird and unusual way and are found no where else.

  • August McLaughlin

    Timeless useful takeaways, Joe. Thanks for sharing. Hope you had a wonderful 4th!

  • Jay Warner

    The cold was a thing that lived in our bones all the days of the year, even when the sun was out and didn’t set until nearly midnight. I remember sitting up late at night with my grandfather. Together we would count the minutes as the sun dipped itself below the horizon, The world went dark for a few minutes yet with a faint orange glow that never quite disappeared. I held my breath, he chuckled, he’d seen it so many times it was only enjoyable anymore in my young fresh eyes. Like a rubber ball, the sun bounced its way up again and started its climb into the sky. Another Arctic night. I didn’t know, then, that he had lived long months even farther north where the sun never touched the earth at all and then sank forever for months leaving the blind men groping in darkness and cold. It was amusing enough to me that “playing outside until dark” meant
    midnight in July, and mid-afternoon in January.

    He had these little wooden glasses on the stand next to the couch. They were like looking through a slot in a mailbox, all wood worn smooth by coarse hands, no glass, but we still called them glasses. He said they were to keep the Eskimos from going blind. I guess the long winters wouldn’t be so dark if one was blind. My young eyes squinted through the slot and imagined children in big wooly parkas groping with hands outstretched, these funny little glasses perched on their noses, no earpieces, wandering around in the great expanse of ice and snow as the sun that wasn’t there bounced up from all that whiteness and stabbed them in the eyes through those little slots. My grandfather let me hold and touch a number of things from this land so magical I could hardly believe it. The smooth ivory tusk of a walrus, the twirly horn of a narwhale, the knobby embroidery, the birch bark picture frame, the missing pinky finger on his right hand. He never would tell me how he lost it. I heard stories, though, and thought that maybe a polar bear bit it off or it got caught in the crevice between paddle and kayak. The truth was probably more mundane, but in my head I spun stories and adventures enough to fill a lifetime.

    • randomyriad

      It is what you know and what you don’t know that makes a story work. Nice imagery. I can really inhabit the environment of your piece. It feels very substantial enough to allow the more exotic aspects to settle into a quiet glow.

      • Jay Warner

        Thank you for your input. I’m reminded that magical can apply to more than the tropical, and I’m trying to follow Marquez’s first point, “write what you know”.

    • James Hall

      Excellent attention to detail. I like the imagery of wintry weather. With its predominance, I wonder if the narrator’s grandfather didn’t lose the finger to frost bite.

      • Jay Warner

        he certainly might have, but more interesting to a child to dream of wrestling polar bears. Thanks for the comments!

    • http://www.etsy.com/store/quirkandkwizle Kim

      Great imagery, I enjoyed it.

      • Jay Warner

        Thank you!

  • randomyriad

    “I’ve got one! I’ve got one!” John wails, his eyes wide.

    “Really? Bring it in slow. Don’t rush it,” Bill, the older boy,
    says with a little disgust and sits up calmly from where he had been half
    napping. I been out there since 5 am with
    my line in the water and nothing, but this little squirt puts his line in and a
    minute later he’s bawling that he’s got one.

    John pulls and reels, jerkily and too fast.

    “Just take it easy. Let ‘er come to ya. You’re gonna lose it.”

    After a few minutes the fish, a small trout, just big enough
    to keep, comes swinging onto the beach at the end of John’s line.

    “Oh, my god it’s staring at me. It’s still breathing! It’s
    not dead.”

    “Of course not, foo. The hook don’t kill it.” Bill takes the
    fish by the tail and slaps its head into a nearby rock. “Now it’s dead.”

    That’s when they notice the three gleaming silver coins on
    the sand next to the rock.

    “Hey, Bill, that fish jus’ spit up money.”

    Bill looks at the coins and screws up his face in
    puzzlement.

    “What the . . . “

    “Bill the fish is still staring at me.”

    “I ain’t never lettin’ you fish with me again. The way you
    cry and moan. What the hell is silver money doin’ in a fishes mouth?”

    Bill bends down to take a closer look.

    • James Hall

      Interesting, the silver coins were a nice addition. Present tense sounds funny for some reason, maybe I’m just not used to hearing it used for 3rd person. Or is the narrator fishing, too?

      • randomyriad

        I often write in the present tense because of the immediacy it gives to the action. I like to imagine a story teller in the middle of a folk tale doing the voices and acting out the parts. I let him tell me the story and I write it down. Something like this happened to my brother and cousin except for the three coins. My cousin is the whiny one. I was there but mostly stayed out of it.

        • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

          In my in-progress fantasy novel, one of the characters is telling a story. (you can find a link on profile). It is pseudomedieval dialog, but I do the same thing. I imagine his voice. I try to let him tell me the tale. Only problem is. it can be really hard to hear him over the screaming kids!

          • randomyriad

            Screaming kids are a real distraction to storytellers. Mine are all grown up, but when they were young it was hard to squeeze in the uninterrupted writing time.

    • Jay Warner

      I would sure like to know more about those coins. This piece would also be an excellent exercise for the dialogue assignment. You have their voices nailed.

    • http://www.etsy.com/store/quirkandkwizle Kim

      Definitely want to hear more about the coins, great stuff!

    • Asm6706

      I really like your characters!!

  • serenity8

    It happened at a cafe in North Beach: my third eye opened. Not in a cyclops, mythological monster sort of way. I don’t wear a red dot there either, and for that matter hadn’t believed in or thought about the third eye until that day. I just looked up from my coffee and saw everyone with swirls of energy around them and it was friggin’ unnerving. Ethereal billows of color escaped from nearly every person, sometimes completely overwhelming passersby who didn’t seem to notice. People were popping out of their bodies left and right, floating on the ceiling while their corporeal containers went through the actions of ordering half caf mocha lattes. Emotional spectrums bled like wet on wet watercolors, their seeping influence made me realize almost no one was feeling their own feelings. In this surreal cloud I was truly a party of one, an observer of an extraordinary scene. I looked back at my Americano, and saw words forming from a tiny plume of steam: “Welcome to Reality”. The waitress startled me, and I wiped the words away as nonchalantly as I could. “Refill?” she asked. “Uh, no. Definitely no. Thank you. That is some kind of kickass coffee you make here!”. She smiled sphinx-like and walked away, trailing spirals of whimsy and regret, and the faint scent of roses.

    • James Hall

      Interesting twist of those who claim to see “auras” around people. I loved your ending line. Definitely peaks the readers interest.

    • http://www.etsy.com/store/quirkandkwizle Kim

      Very descriptive, you tell a good tale…

    • Winnie

      Nice blending of the magical with the modern. Is this what they call Urban Fantasy?

  • James Hall

    Meeting with warmongers, what a waste of time. The door slid closed behind him. And he hated leaving his lab. He walked through the rust-bitten streets, while staring into one of his journals. Several people were about, but, without looking up, he abandoned the populated street as he turned into a secluded alleyway near his lab. A mechanical door slid open and craned shut behind him. The cubical room sunk below the floor. Eric spaced his legs for balanced as the room lurched to the his left. After a second, the room lurched and rose. The door opened once again, and he stepped out. He lifted his eyes from his journal. The Capitol du Fraa. He sighed. Warmonger central. He had little interest in politics and warfare, although the machines he built with his own two hands had taken more lives than the warmongers themselves. At least they were the good guys. Well, somewhat, though ignorant just the same. Ah, but the human race was full of idiots. Better they be ignorant and unwise than they be genius and unwise. The whole of mankind now owed their wretched existence to that kind of genius. Ah, but these things were based on old tales. Tales with sunlight, blue skies, and other oddities. It was only a myth.

    Large florescent lights dotted the huge metal building. Its dark shades of gray and bright reflecting silver jutted into the surrounding blood red rock. The metallic door opened as came close to it. His latest creation would turn the tides of the battle.

    • Jay Warner

      A great beginning, I want to read more!

    • http://www.etsy.com/store/quirkandkwizle Kim

      I love the line, ‘Better they be ignorant and unwise than they be genius and unwise’.

      • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

        Knowledge is more powerful than money or weapons. Power in the wrong hands is always dangerous. Nice eye, and thanks!

  • Missaralee

    It happened exactly like this…
    The day the wall came, we all felt it. We had been a gang of six year-old adventurers, roaming the fenceless backyards of an unfinished and infinite subdivision.The open woods invited us in, but it was the central turf that called to us. We would float down from the branches of Amber’s treehouse, after long hours hunting bandits and braving daring escapes from killer bees. We would take flight from the seats of my swingset and orbit the grey and brown shingled roofs of our neighbourhood. The siren song of the center yard would pull us like gravity from out winged dance and we would land in Danny’s yard. Danny was a captive in the tower. His parents kept him locked in when we, the famed marauders would swing through, summoning our clan of chattering monkeys into their treetops.
    Like a swarm, we covered every surface of Danny’s yard. He watched us in his looking glass as we climbed his slides, performed trapeze on his rings, and mounted the parallel bars. He must have begged his jailers to join us one time too many because on the dark day – the one that ended all our marauding and swinging – his father emerged from the cavernous kitchen draped in a velvet cloak, wielding a wand of brass. His incantations filled the air with goosebumps and poured sparks of electricity down on us.

    “You are forever banished” he said. “Never again shall flight fill you if you dare to cross into my kingdom.”

    We fled the yard. From the safety of Amber’s treehouse we heard a crunching and booming like stones falling into place. A shudder ran through me as the magic words continued to coat my skin and tongue and as they danced in my belly.

    It couldn’t be true. We were the children of dragons and swans, how could a sorcerer troll take the gift of flight from us? I decided to test the limits of his powers. By the dark of 7pm I crept into Stephen’s yard, adjoining the troll’s kingdom. Seizing a stone, I tossed it into the midst of Danny’s trapeze. Nothing. The stone came to rest as all stones not imbued with the glamour were wont to do. Emboldened by this test, I wiggled my big toe over the invisible line. I felt again the sound of stones falling into place. The goosebumps colonized first my foot then my shins and knees and body and finally filled my throat with chills.

    A force moved my limbs like a wooden puppet. I jittered back out into the street and into my own, fenceless yard. I fell into a deep sleep in the seat of my swing.
    When the fireflies awoke inside the street lamps, I stretched and grasped the chains of my beloved swing. Pumping my legs I lifted higher and higher into clouds. The birds sang their welcome song and I prepared to join them above the rooftops. But the incantation filled my ears: never again shall flight fill you. The tingles and sting of the goosebump curse filled me. I could not let go the chains to fly into the softness of air.

    I have grown old and nervous. I keep to my yard and always lock the fence gate.

    • Jay Warner

      a very entertaining and magical tale

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      I love how it relates to the transition from the innocence and blissful ignorance of being a playful child, to the fear and realness of adulthood. I love your writing style.

      • Missaralee

        Thanks James. Of all the days spent playing in those yards, this one still sticks out most. It really was the start of fencing in my world.

        • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

          You should write another part describing how you unfenced it. Would be very interesting.

          • Missaralee

            I really like this idea, thanks James.

    • http://www.etsy.com/store/quirkandkwizle Kim

      A wonderful tale with some really great imagery, the start of something great…

  • Kevin Lull

    “Almonds and unrequited love? How do those two connect? I’m not sure, but the link is fascinating.”

    I’ll field this one. ;)

    Bitter almonds smell very different from sweet almonds, which are the kind you eat (and the only kind most of us have ever seen). The thing that most famously smells like bitter almonds is hydrogen cyanide. He’s connecting unrequited love with death.

    Sorry if that made it less fascinating.

    • Patrick Marchand

      It makes it even more interesting in my opininion

      • Bob DeSpy former Spycacher

        That shows how different every one reacts with the written. A description can lead to different conclusions. ¡Viva la literatura!

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      I didn’t know that. Thanks for breaking it down, Kevin.

      • Kevin Lull

        No problem. Always happy to share random tidbits of information I’ve picked up, and this one jumped out at me.

  • Patrick Marchand

    Under the blinking lights of the bar, I made my way to the nearest exit, confused by the dancing bodies that would pop in and out of existence, somewhat in harmony with the chaotic motions of the kaleidoscopic lights above. Bursting out into the peace and quiet of the falling rain, I was finally able to take a breath of fresh air, while the rain and the music engaged in a passionate colloquy about the theory of chaos and its myriad meanings.

    Standing straight, I looked at my watch, seeing that the bus would not be here for another hour or so, I decided to walk back home. Little did I think about the time such a journey would take, for my brain was still fighting with the numbing effects of alcohol. A covert enemy, it had presented itself in the form of a lovely blond, short, yet well proportioned, that had enthralled me with her graceful dancing. Managing to start my walk down the long watery streets, I came upon a map of the city, which confused me with its fainted colours and names.

    Unwilling to let myself bogged down by something as petty as wrong directions, I turned at the first northbound road I encountered, knowing by the sight of rats carrying what seemed to be tiny frogmen, that the road would lead me to the wild north, where I was born and raised.

    # I stopped writing after fifteen minutes, I might continue this, it was fun.

    • Jay Warner

      I can certainly feel his foggy brain as he stumbles around in the streets of illusion.

  • http://www.etsy.com/store/quirkandkwizle Kim

    It all started when I coulldn’t say another name for magpie even though I knew it had one, I opened my mouth, like a fish gasping but all that came out was a ‘caw’. He told me that one day I’d find my voice. He was the first real gypsy I’d met. He took me to a lonely field and we sat looking at the scene surrounded by secret holly bushes, our protectors, Winter was baring it’s teeth and we observed it’s claw. I noticed a group of crows were nesting in a tree, three crows starting fighting, spiralling as they wrestled, tumbling to the floor like sycamore seeds. He pointed, “Again” he said the smile wide on his face, three crows starting fighting, spiralling as they wrestled, tumbling to the floor like sycamore seeds. He pointed, “Again”, he was speaking softer, three crows starting fighting, spiralling as they wrestled, tumbling to the floor like sycamore seeds, I felt the world revolve and I thought I might pass out, he grabbed my hand, “Say it, now, say it!” I swallowed back the bile, “Sendre”, my voice, my voice…

    • Jay Warner

      good use of repetition and imagery to set the scene. Watch your spelling and punctuation, it distracts from the story. Otherwise good!

      • http://www.etsy.com/store/quirkandkwizle Kim

        Mmmm… thanks, my ipad was playing up and I posted it in a hurry!

    • serenity8

      Intriguing, Kim! I would gladly read more of this tale.

      • http://www.etsy.com/store/quirkandkwizle Kim

        Thanks Serenity!

        • http://www.etsy.com/store/quirkandkwizle Kim

          Most of it is true…

    • Winnie

      Mystifying.

  • Renia Carsillo

    I love Marquez but One Hundred Years of Solitude is my least favorite of all his writings. Love in the Time of Cholera is by far his best work (in my humble opinion).

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Good to know! Thanks Renia.

  • Paisley Welch

    The stalks of wild parsnip are flanking me on either side of the trail of mowed greenery that snaked around my field. My dogs are joyfully prancing around, sometimes flying through the tall grass to chase a bird before I call them back. Of course I care about the bird, but truthfully I’m also scared. The grass, the wild
    parsnip and the trees seem to be getting bigger and a canopy has grown over me. The trail is being shadowed and the trail keeps twisting around. I straighten
    my shoulders and keep walking.

    I finally come up to a hill and the grass has grown over it so it seems like the whole thing is a frozen wave of green. I didn’t want to stare at it too long, because everyone knows that in the movies if you stare at something too long something will jump out at you. So I keep walking, trying mush too hard to look ahead rather than the side. Finally, the oak tree is in view.

    I quicken my pace. Suddenly, I hear a loud snap ahead of me. I turn around just in my time to see my dogs running off around the corner, out of sight and tails
    tucked. I shudder and turn around.

    I gasp. A pile of feathers are splayed out before me. But that’s not what catches my attention. There is a creature amidst the grey feathers. It’s licking its paws
    with a slithering tongue and blood coats its chin and mane. Only, it doesn’t look like a lion.
    Actually, I have no idea what it is. A bony body with greasy fur stretched around it, an unimpressive mane surrounding its snakelike head. It stops its grooming and looks me dead in the eye, and that’s when I realize I should be running away alongside my dogs. Its eyes are a hypnotic azure and it slowly begins to walk towards me. Its tail slithers around through the air and its head is swaying back and forth. I turn to run but I can’t seem to tear my gaze away. It just keeps on walking towards me, head swaying and heavy paws crushing what little grass was growing.

    A rustling is heard, and the beast looks sharply to its left. That’s what I needed. I spin around and takeoff running, because my life actually depended on it. I couldn’t hear it, so I assumed that it didn’t chase me or better yet, it was never
    there. I sigh happily and turn.

    I stop, my heels digging into the soft mud beneath me. The thing is perched on the hill, looking down on me with those eyes. I grab a stick off the ground and prepare to fight, but only half-heartedly. It was hopeless, I knew. I knew it the moment it opened its jaws and I saw the rows and rows of spinning teeth.

  • Janey Egerton

    García Márquez is a genius! Writing exactly like him has been my secret wish for the last twenty years (will never be fulfilled). I was thirteen the first time I read “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. Of course I was not able to grasp GM’s lesson on Colombian history and politics and his wonderful essay on human nature that first time (I’ve read the book at least five times since then), but I loved the language from the very first page. I don’t want to brag without necessity, but I’m one of those lucky people who can speak Spanish and are thus able to understand GM’s original words (I bought an English copy only recently, curious whether the translation can live up to the original, and I’m going to start reading it right after posting this). The way in which he uses language to convey meaning is fascinating. When you read GM, you are immediately transported into the book and all your senses are activated. After having read for an hour, you might feel like you haven’t been reading at all, but rather been in the book as an omniscient observer. You don’t remember his descriptions of smells and sounds; you smell and hear them! Wonderful! And if there are seven synonyms for a certain concept, he always uses the one out of seven that fits perfectly, grasping like no other the nuances in meaning of apparently equivalent words. He also stretches the laws of grammar to achieve the most amazing effects. There is a passage in which Fernanda starts complaining about her husband and his family, and then her complaints quickly develop into an epic three-pages-long rant about how she was raised to be a queen only to end up being the servant of her in-laws. It’s only when you have finished reading it all that you realise that the whole rant is composed of one single sentence! And that no one, not even the worst grammar fetishist, would dare to change a single word of that epic sentence without diminishing its quality. I can spontaneously think of only one English-speaking writer who masters language in the same way — Philip Pullman.

    BTW, for confirmed GM fans: The Modena City Ramblers’ third CD “Terra e Libertà”.

    • Winnie

      I agree. GGM always seems to find the EXACT word to show something. His lyrical prose sweeps you up in the telling; you find yourself immersed in the story, however unremarkable it is. I particularly like his short stories.

  • Asm6706

    It’s rest time and everyone is asleep, even my mother, I
    suppose, because I don’t hear anything. No clinking dishes, no running water,
    not even the TV has been left on. It is
    perfectly quiet. I open my bedroom door
    just a crack, and peer down the hall, looking and listening for any sign of
    movement. There is nothing. I carefully close my door, and a little
    shiver of excitement runs down my back.
    I race to my bed and scoot under the bed skirt, careful not to bump my
    head on the bedrail. Lying flat on my
    stomach, I reach for the beige loop of carpet that is only slightly bigger than
    the normal loops and tug gently. A
    perfectly round piece of carpet pops up, revealing a hole that is just big
    enough for a small child to slip through.
    Without hesitation, I spin my body around, and let my feet slide into
    the hole first followed by the rest of my body.
    My little fingers cling to the soft carpet around the rim of the opening while my body dangles
    below me, and I let go, plunging into the darkness. I free fall into nothingness, surrounded by a
    cool breeze that blows my hair away from my face. I close my eyes. This is it. My favorite part because it’s the
    only time I feel like I’m flying. I land with a thud, and open my eyes to see
    that I am once again, in the White Room.
    It is cavernous, with no walls for as far as I can see. The pure, clean,
    whiteness just goes on forever.
    Randomly, there are tall pillars of varying colors of the rainbow
    scattered throughout the room. I guess
    they support the ceiling, but I can’t really tell that there is a ceiling. All the whiteness really distorts my depth
    perception. I dart over to the second
    blue column to my left and knock three times.
    I’m smiling as the little sparkling light begins to shine, and slowly
    begins illuminating the outline of a small door. The door opens, but not like our doors do at
    home, but like a mailbox is opening, and out she prances.

    “Willow!” I
    exclaim. I’m so excited to see her
    again. I hold out my hand and she hops
    into it, leaving a trail of glittering gold on my index finger as she walks down to the center of my palm. She is my very own fairy, chosen just for me
    by The Whisper.

    “Are you
    ready to continue our challenge, Matilda?” she asks in her sing song voice, and
    I nod excitedly. “Well, then, lets go!”
    She springs from my hand and darts through the white room, soaring around the
    columns with ease. I run as fast as I
    can, trying to keep up.

  • Winnie

    I also found “One Hundred Years” confusing in places. I read somewhere
    that the process he describes is part of a shaman ritual, when the subject teams up with an animal spirit. (And moves around so swiftly that there’s no time for a full stop between sentences? Lol).
    The novel I most enjoyed was “Autumn of the Patriarch,” the story of an old dictator approaching the end of his days.
    Here’s my stab at magic realism.

    We called him The Prophet. Dressed in a loincloth, his possessions in two
    bundles hanging from the ends of a pole he carried on his shoulder, he moved up and down the countryside, proclaiming the gospel to all within range of his
    voice. His diet was the food his audience gave him, his bed, wherever he happened to be when the day ended.
    Despite his loud voice and fearsome beard, his soft yet piercing eyes are
    what I remembered most about him.
    “Keep away,” my mother warned, one day when he’d stopped near our
    farmhouse and had soon gathered an audience around him.
    He motioned to me. I couldn’t resist, being drawn towards the little
    bundle in his hand.
    He’d offered to open the linen cloth to whoever dared to look. While the
    others shrank back, he slowly peeled back the cloth a fraction and showed me … a solid ball of light. That’s exactly what I remember seeing.
    I’ve thought about it over the many years that have passed since then,
    but could never get beyond that, to the substance behind it. It was a solid
    glowing orb, made of light.
    A few years afterwards he was attacked by robbers as he slept. He landed
    up in hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
    They say his meagre possessions were scattered around where he’d laid his
    head for the last time. Were his killers common robbers or were they possessed of a darker motive – to destroy something that made them uncomfortable?
    The folk in that part of the country have a reputation of being
    superstitious. That’s having a belief that one event leads to the cause of another without any natural process linking the two events.
    Come to think of it, I’ve had my share of little miracles in my life.
    But I always believed they were in answer to prayer.

    

  • Bob DeSpy former Spycacher

    Guys I ‘m so moved by this post. Of course, there are many reasons for it; one because I lived in Colombia for over 20 years and I know Aracataca, the village where Gabo – the name given by the Colombians to their national hero – is from and the base scenery for Macondo. On the other, it reassures and motivates my path of the writer.

    A portion of the time I spent there was during my puberty, and naturally my testosterone were unbridled. I’m not certain if this were the reasons why my memories have that bewitching love described by Gabo in his novels or because actually Colombia and especially the Caribbean coast, has such charm. It could also be that just at that time, when he received the Nobel Prize, I read One Hundred Years of Solitude and my feelings of love blended with the magic of the novel. I can just say that after reading the novel in Spanish, in German and in English, only the original can show by heart, the idiosyncrasies of the people and show the magic within. To be honest, in the novel I am writing now, I try to portray my scrambled feelings that I had for a long time; because of the way I acquired knowledge of love by then, collided with the dryness and coldness of the adulthood, or perhaps because later I absorbed a different culture, alien to that enchantment. And yes, definitely Colombia is the protagonist and you can be assured that this is with all his novels. Take for a sample, No One Writes to the Colonel (Colonel Aureliano Buendia also portrayed in his master novel One Hundred Years of Solitude), which, by the way, describes the 1000 days civil war; Leaf storm, and so many others.

    And if I may, the bitterness of the almonds is compared with the unrequited love because you may be lovesick but unreciprocated or unreachable love will leave bitterness behind.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your lifelong experience with this novel. Reading your comment enhances my own experience of the book.

  • Cyn

    This is one of my favorite books, sothank you so much for offering these tips from one of my favorite writers–and BTW, some of the things you don’t like are the things I DO like. I love it that he doesn’t follow any of the conventions of plot and character. I love it when any writer proves the “rules” to be not “wrong” but more pliable than we tend to think. These are usually the authors that move their genres a few giant leaps ahead–and who win those coveted awards, too.

    Most of my favorite books don’t follow the “rules.” Catcher in the Rye has no plot, for instance. And The Sound and the Fury…we’re not sure what it has and doesn’t have, but the author won the Nobel and is also one of my favorites! I think magical realism is so intriguing to me for those reasons as well. Anything can and does happen–you have to be willing to work a little bit, to relax a little bit, to give in a little bit. And when you do…it’s like flying! I just love it–thanks again!

  • Melanie Wardlow

    Where am I?

    Just then I heard several noises that spooked me! I had no idea where they came from. All I knew was there were 12 of them there in front of me. THE 12 SIGNS of the ZODIAC. I wondered if in my sickness my mind was playing pranks on me.

    Something like a ram came ready to ram me. Pun intended! A bull did not look amused either. Just then I saw a crab and the symbol of Scorpio standing next to each other. I was about to scream, but instead not wanting to provoke any of them I wondered if this was a nightmare and when it would end….

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