Oprah picks One Hundred Years of Solitude

Last week Oprah chose Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude as her next book club selection.

“Gabriel Garcia Márquez takes us inside a fantastical world where the lines of magic and reality are blurred. Anything is possible and everything is believable. Open your mind and let your imagination fly!” she said.

I believe Love in the Time of Cholera to be a superior Márquez novel, probably because of its comparatively limited scope, but One Hundred Years is his most widely read book and is the seminal text of Latin American magical realism (characterized by a realist prose style and fantastic elements).

Still adored in the States, magical realist stories have fallen out of vogue with many young Latin American writers. Chilean writer Alberto Fuguet is the most prominent member of a group devoted to overthrowing magical realism and portraying the influence of globalization on Latin American lives and cultures.

Fuguet was born in Chile, spent part of his childhood in California, and returned to his homeland at the age of eleven. According to the New York Times, during a stint at the Iowa Writers Workshop, Fuguet

was told his work wasn’t Latin American enough. In his 1997 novel, “Bad Vibes,” for example, one character looks dumbly at a Che Guevara T-shirt and wonders who the guy in the beret is.

The novel made Mr. Fuguet into an Eminem-like celebrity in Chile — inspiring one high school class to revolt against its literature curriculum. Mr. Fuguet’s boldest move was in 1996, with the publication of “McOndo,” an anthology of fiction by Latin American writers under 35. Mr. Fuguet edited the book and came up with its title, which is a pun on Macondo, the fictional town in Mr. García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” the 1967 novel that famously put magical realism in the literary lexicon.

The point of “McOndo,” which is available only in Spanish, was to unseat magical realism, at least as it relates to Latin America. The McDonald’s and condos alluded to in the McOndo name (along with a whiff of Macintosh), Mr. Fuguet argues, are more representative of his continent than folksy villages where everyone suffers from insomnia.

“I’m a really big fan of Márquez, but what I really hate is the software he created that other people use,” Mr. Fuguet said. “They turn it into more of an aesthetic instead of an ideology. Anybody who begins to copy `One Hundred Years’ turns it into kitsch.”

McCondo and Fuguet also have their detractors. “‘Fuguet makes a caricature out of Latin American literature, which is very rich and complex and which comes from a very painful literary process,'” Ricardo Cuadros, a Chilean novelist and critic, has argued.

I haven’t read any of Fuguet’s work yet, but I will. I’m curious after hearing his recent interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition. He spoke about his latest novel, The Movies of My Life, and the influence of U.S. movies on his childhood.


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