One Hundred Years of Solitude | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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One Hundred Years of Solitude | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, beloved by critics and readers alike, popularized Latin American fiction and magic realism. Telling the story of the Buendía family and the town of Macondo, the book spans several generations, seamlessly blending fantasy with the Colombian history of civil war, plantation economy, labor strikes, colonialism, and modernization.

The novel, published in 1967, won Italy's Chianciano Award, France's Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, Venezuela's Rómulo Gallegos Prize, and the Books Abroad/Neustadt International Prize for Literature. García Márquez won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.

1. García Márquez didn't have enough money to mail the whole manuscript of One Hundred Years of Solitude to his publisher.

García Márquez was broke when he was writing One Hundred Years of Solitude. His wife kept away the bill collectors by selling off household goods as he typed. When he completed the 1,300-page novel, he took it to the post office—but he didn't have the 82 pesos to send it to his publisher. Instead he sent the first half. Then he and his wife went to the pawnshop—though what they pawned isn't clear—and finally sent off the second half of the novel.

2. One Hundred Years of Solitude was an immediate best seller.

The intital printing of 10,000 copies, published by Editorial Sudamericana, sold out in a month. By the time of García Márquez's death in 2014, the novel had sold more than 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.

3. García Márquez's biggest problem in writing One Hundred Years of Solitude was finding enough paper.

After García Márquez typed the first line of One Hundred Years of Solitude, he continued typing daily for 18 months to complete the whole story, throwing away any page that had a grammatical, spelling, or language mistake. He said:

I had the bad manners of believing that misspelled words, language mistakes or errors in grammar were actually created. And whenever detected, I would tear up the page and throw it into the trash basket to start again.

4. García Márquez insisted that everything in One Hundred Years of Solitude actually happened.

Although García Márquez wasn't the first to use magic realism in his work, One Hundred Years of Solitude helped popularize the literary genre, especially among Latin American writers. However, the writer denied the idea that the events in his book sprang from his imagination. He said, "The truth is that there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination."

5. Reviewers compared One Hundred Years of Solitude to the Bible.

A March 1970 review in The New York Times called One Hundred Years of Solitude "A South American Genesis." Library Journal's review claimed the town of Macondo went through experiences that, "In an Old Testament manner, suggest the history of mankind." And novelist William Kennedy, in the National Observer, stated, "One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race."

6. García Márquez was forbidden to enter the United States for 30 years.

García Márquez was often invited to universities and book festivals in the United States, but when he applied for a visa to enter the country, his application was denied. This continued for three decades, supposedly because of García Márquez's ties to the Communist Party in Colombia during the 1950s. Bill Clinton, however, was a great fan of García Márquez, and after he became president in 1993, he lifted the travel ban and invited the author to be his guest in Martha's Vineyard.

7. García Márquez's style was influenced by James Joyce.

García Márquez began writing short stories while in college. When they were published in a Bogotá, Colombia, newspaper, he was told they had "Joycean influences." However, he had never read James Joyce. He immediately turned to Ulysses, Joyce's epic novel, and discovered the use of the interior monologue, which he used in later works.

8. The real banana company described in One Hundred Years of Solitude had to rebrand itself as Chiquita.

The American banana company that destroys Macondo, the town in One Hundred Years of Solitude, was based on the real United Fruit Company. The company's support of dictators and use of violence toward its workers was revealed after the publication of García Márquez's novel, so the company renamed itself Chiquita and developed a cartoon banana spokesperson.

9. García Márquez said One Hundred Years of Solitude could be turned into a film on one condition.

García Márquez did not want a film made of One Hundred Years of Solitude, though there have been films of some of his other works. He turned down every offer, though when producer Harvey Weinstein wanted to buy the film rights, he declined in an unusual way. He agreed that Weinstein could make a film based on the book, but only if he would release one two-minute chapter every year for 100 years.

10. When García Márquez died, the Colombian president declared three days of mourning.

When García Márquez died in 2014, he was so beloved and so well-known in his native Colombia that President Juan Manuel Santos declared three days of national mourning. The president stated,

As a government, and in homage to the memory of Gabriel García Márquez, I have declared a state of national mourning for three days, and I have ordered all public institutions to fly the national flag at half-mast. And we also hope Colombians will do the same in their homes.

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