A new Portrait of Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Alejandro Cabeza
García Marquez, as a new demiurge, by means of a unique and personal language and calling to life by the power of word–like Yahweh himself does in Genesis: "And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light" (Gn 1: 3)–, as when during the epidemic of insomnia José Arcadio saves the world from oblivion and reinvents it by labelling things, builds a universe, an absolutely particular one. It resembles suspiciously our everyday world, but when we look at it through Marquez eyes, suddenly it fills with magic and mystery.
In One Hundred Years of Solitude coexists the wonder and the ordinary, the heroic and the vulgar. This novel has the power to sublimate the human, or to bring the legendary closer to average people, depending on how you want to interpret it. So it avoids the idealization of the characters but at the same time arouses a higher fervour towards them.
As creation myths, ancient anthropogonical and cosmological narrations, One Hundred Years of Solitude tries to explain the originsâ€’Only by knowing our past we can predict our future, although in this case it reveals a future of deathâ€’. As in them, a fatalistic view prevails in the novel; the unavoidable is strongly presentâ€’like in Chronicle of a Death Foretoldâ€’. The human being can not escape his fate, which is written beforehandâ€’here literally in Melquiades' parchmentâ€’. Ancient societies often cultivated pessimism and a recalcitrant feeling of helplessness. It makes sense because then the human, in a world that just came to understand, had to feel much more helpless than now. In this regard, I think the sciences have released us from many fears. And this also allowed us to believe in benevolent gods, essentially deities of love. If you look at the past, the gods of antiquity used to be vindictive, capricious, tyrannical ... too human. The mankind was simply a servant, a slave to their wills. And if it disobeyed, even inadvertently, was punished. Let us think in Mesopotamia, for example: the Mesopotamian human lived believing that if he fell out of favour, he must be guilty, he probably would have angered some god with improper attitude although he was not aware of it. There was no concept of chance. Evil and suffering are always interpreted as the result of action-reaction binomial. Indeed it must generate an unfair sense of guilt. But it is also true that that interpretation was convenient because it allowed to explain, although the explanation might disturb or hurt, any misfortune that happen around people. I think the ancient human being faces their world as children do: they are not able to accept that some questions have no answers, that not everything has a logical reason. The notion of fortuitousness does not fit on their head because it is beyond their control and even their calculation. Humans feel helpless against it. That possibility would create them a huge distress, something that humanity has only recently overcome. Look how curious, in Akkadian is used the same word, arnum, for "crime" and "punishment": action-reaction. I would say it means a lot about the mentality of these people.
García Márquez leads us back to a primitive world populated by supernatural forces and atavistic fears to which humanity is subject, as it is in classical tragedies or sometimes in Shakespearian too. A universe from which Melquiades, as other civilizing gods and heroes in diverse cultures–Enki in Mesopotamia, Osiris in Egypt, Prometheus in Greece, Odin in the Nordic area, Bochica in Colombia, Quetzalcoatl in Mexico, Viracocha in Peru...–, frees everyone who enables him to do it, in this case everyone who were pervious to science, experimentation and empirical logic. So, José Arcadio becomes his heir, a hero and founder like Romulus, Theseus, Cadmus, Perseus and many others. He is a visionary, an enlightened who identifies the newly found ice as the great discovery of our time, and he receives the revelation about the founding of Macondo and its name too.
One Hundred Years of Solitude takes us back to the beginning, to a wild garden not yet tamed by man, barely robbed to the jungle. It is a space where the planes intersect each other and realities cross and cut one another, a place where the living and the dead, perhaps the living and their ghosts, coexist. But the origins, as in many creation myths, are overshadowed and influenced by the transgression of a taboo, often sexual in nature, such as incest and the resulting death with which the protagonists are punished, swept by the force of flood and the plague of forgetfulness.
Macondo is the origin of the world but also, at the same time, a world outside the world: Let us remember how José Arcadio, on their own, without being aware of a theory proved in practice for centuries but unknown in Macondo, deduces that the Earth is round like an orange. And his wife Ursula believes he's crazy.
The universe created by García Márquez is full of symbols and signs, of signals. Signals not everyone is able to sense, and even much less to decipher. His universe is full of rituals and traditions as well.
In short, One Hundred Years of Solitude is an epic saga that only a prodigious mind would have been able to concoct. Many other Marquez novels and stories are great, but One Hundred Years of Solitude is ... special–or even more special than his works usually are–and magical. This novel exceeds a literary quality judgment to enter the realm of metaphysics. It confronts us with our deepest fears, questions that mankind has asked itself since its inception, those questions that gave rise to philosophy, but even before the birth of this science, attempted to be resolved, albeit not systematically or scientifically, by religion and myth. Because history, as Ursula suspects, is a recurring circular curse, terribly stubborn.
Excerpt from the interview on narrative given by the writer Salomé Guadalupe Ingelmo (La narrativa es introspección y revelación: Francisco Garzón Céspedes entrevista a Salomé Guadalupe, Colección Contemporáneos en el mundo n. 22, Indagación Sobre la Narrativa, Ediciones COMOARTES, Madrid/México D. F. 2012, p. 26-31).