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On Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Magic Realism and the Postcolonial Legacy

The world mourned the recent death of Gabriel García Márquez, also known as Gabo in the Latin American continent. The Great Colombian author was known around the world for his novels: One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985).

Winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1982, García Márquezplaced the magic realism genre into the spotlight. In his Nobel lecture entitled “The Solitude of Latin America,” emphasis was made discussing various instances of Latin American history. Using the Eurocentric perspective, which we have grown accustomed to, would render this reality unusual, or even magical:

“A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.”

The genre encompasses the magical, the inexplicable, the supernatural, and even the absurd synthesized, with the reality as we know it, the reality that we can see, feel and touch and put into our own words to the point where the distinction would not matter anymore. For what is reality anyway? Is irrationality the only opposite of rationality? Should we always attempt to explain the inexplicable?

The setting, the events, the tragedy, the soul and the body bring forth an experience uniquely Latin American but relatable to us Filipinos, as we share the same history of colonialism: the judgment of being the other, our reality being labeled as the magical, the mythical, the frenzied, and the unreal. Gabo’s writing and speeches placed the colonial subject vis-a-vis Western culture on the forefront, such that by his veracity, he was labelled a subversive and was denied visas by the United States authorities for many years.

Reading Recommendations

Looking into Gabo’s writing, two of his novels: One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, both explore the themes of loneliness and isolation.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the novel begins with the fictional town of Macondo in its isolated and innocent state, later stirred by a change in government, death, and civil wars, only to be brought back to where it started: alienated from the outside world leading to a solitary ending. Love in the Time of Cholera on the other hand, begins with Florentino Adaza’s profession of “eternal fidelity and everlasting love” to Fermina after her husband dies, fifty-one years, nine months, and four days after Florentino first confesses his love for her.

For a taste of Gabo’s writing, one of his most popular short stories: The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World, a drowned man is seen afloat a shore; he completely transforms the demeanor of the people who found him. The villagers were awed by his appearance; and upon knowing that he has no known relatives in the nearby towns, they proceeded to name him and give him his home.

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