When I first began working on The Well-Read Man Project back in 2010, only five authors from the set of fifty project books were still living, with a recent sixth, J. D. Salinger, having died just a few months before the idea for the project came about. In thousands of years of literary history, these relative youths still managed to achieve classic status with their writings, and were recognized for their talents during their lifetimes, and ours. That author count has dropped to four with the passing of Gabriel García Márquez.
Márquez’s literary masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, is one of the strangest books in the reading project. As with Salmon Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Márquez’s book attempts to tell the story of a nation through a technique called “magic realism,” primarily by anthropomorphizing its history in the lives of literary characters. (Read here Rushdie’s ode to the late Colombian author.) In this case, that personification is through the entire Buendía family, a fictional madhouse of conquerors and failures, faithful lovers and prostitutes, rich and poor and poor and poor. To someone not intimately familiar with Colombia’s history, it’s a difficult book, yet never dull.