Specific Criticism
In Print

Approaches to Teaching García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude

Edited by María Elena de Valdés & Mario J. Valdés.

1. Modern Language Association, 1990, ISBN 0-87352-536-1; Paperback $18.00. [Browse/Purchase]

2. Modern Language Association, 1990, ISBN 0-87352-535-3; Hardcover $37.50. [Browse/Purchase]

A guide designed for a teacher, this book is comprised of a series of essays written by diverse authors as well as commentary by the editors. It is broken down into the following sections:

PART ONE: MATERIALS (by María Elena de Valdés)
Editions and Translations
The Novel and its Author
Historical Background
Critical studies:
Literary Contents
Mythic Contents
Interpretation and Analysis
Women and the Novel
Pedagogical Studies
Audiovisual Materials and Related Criticism

Introduction (by Mario J. Valdés)
One Hundred Years of Solitude in Humanities Courses (by Hanna Geldrich-Leffman)
One Hundred Years of Solitude in Comparative Literature Courses (by Lois Parkinson Zamora)
One Hundred Years of Solitude in History, Politics, and Civilization Courses (by Chester S. Halka)
One Hundred Years of Solitude in Women's Studies Courses (by María Elena de Valdés)
One Hundred Years of Solitude in Interdisciplinary Courses (by Sandra M. Boschetto)
One Hundred Years of Solitude in Latin American Literature Courses (by Walter D. Mignolo)
Interpretive Approaches in the Classroom:
An Approach Using Ideology and History (by Gabriela Moar)
An Approach Using History, Myth, and Metafiction (by Isabel Alvarez Borland)
Archetypal Approaches (by Robert L. Sims)
An Approach from Analytical Psychology (by Gary Eddy)
Hermeneutics: A Phenomenological Approach (by Mario J. Valdés)
A Narratological Approach (by Amaryll Chanady)

Although the book is primarily designed for teachers, it can quite nicely serve as a guide and interpretive aid for anyone interested in García Márquez's rich novel. However, due to its focus on teaching techniques and modern literary criticism, which can sometimes veer into the political waters of severe postcolonialism and occasionally fall prey to "overinterpretation," I would still suggest the Michael Wood book to anyone who wishes to just focus on the novel and author himself.

One Hundred Years of Solitude: Modes of Reading
(Twayne's Masterworks Studies, No. 70)

By Regina Janes.
Twayne Publishing, 1991, ISBN 0805779892; Hardcover $31.00. [

Reviews or comments are welcome. A visitor to has this to say:

Regina Janes offers a comprehensive, engaging analysis of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, taking into account the multiple "modes of reading" and interpreting this masterpiece and Latin American bestseller. Janes approaches this novel through its literary and historical contexts and explains the many ways that readers have understood One Hundred Years of Solitude: politically, biographically, intertextually, and from the angles of myth and magical realism. In the process, Janes provides a convincing examination of the novel itself, observing that "If García Márquez does have a single, modern myth for us, it may be the desirability of preserving, fostering, nurturing our sense of unreality. Neither the real world in which we are mired nor the books we read to remove ourselves, temporarily, to a better world should be entirely believed." I appreciate Janes's work for its recognition and analysis of the multiple ways of interpreting this text, and I recommend it to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the critical discourse surrounding One Hundred Years of Solitude.

A Study Guide to Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude

Read by F. Murray Abraham.
Time Warner Audio Books, 1994, ISBN 1570421129; Audio cassette with booklet; $8.00. [

This cassette contains readings from One Hundred Years of Solitude coupled with a student guide in the form of a small booklet. Reviews or comments are welcome.

Cliff Notes on García Márquez' 100 Years of Solitude

Read by F. Murray Abraham.
John Wiley & Sons, 1997, ISBN 0822009641; Paperback; $5.99. [

The Cliff Notes to One Hundred Years of Solitide -- well, ok, 100 Years of Solitude. Remember, though -- this is a study guide, not a way to avoid reading the book. <cough>

Modern Critical Interpretations: García Márquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Edited by Gabe Welsch
Chelsea House Publications, 2002, ISBN 0791070468; Hardcover; $38.85. [

A student's guide to One Hundred Years of Solitude. Reviews or comments are welcome.

One Hundred Years of Solitude: A Casebook

Edited by Gene H. Bell-Villada.

1. Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-514455-4; Hardcover $35.00. [Browse/Purchase]

2. Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-514455-4; Paperback $15.95. [Browse/Purchase]

Designed for students and "nonspecialist" readers, the Oxford Casebooks are intended to illuminate a selected work of literature with a broad sampling of criticism, both historical and contemporary. As such, they are not limited to the views of any particular school of thought, and often showcase a wide range of critical styles.
With these intentions in mind, editor Gene H. Bell-Villada has done an admirable job in assembling a "Casebook" for One Hundred Years of Solitude. Not only are his selections beyond reproach, but he has discharged his task with the enthusiasm of someone completing a pet project, translating some of the essays into English and writing a very useful and friendly introduction. Even the order of the essays is commendable, forming a sequence that appeals to both developmental logic and internal balance.
The complete table of contents:

Gene H. Bell-Villada

A Conversation with Gabriel García Márquez
Gene H. Bell-Villada

García Márquez: On Second Reading
Carlos Fuentes

Gabriel García Márquez: Cien años de soledad
James Higgins

The Humor of One Hundred Years of Solitude
Clive Griffin

The Sacred Harlots of One Hundred Years of Solitude
Lorraine Elena Roses

Aureliano's Smile
Michael Wood

The Limits of the Liberal Imagination: One Hundred Years of Solitude and Nostromo
Jean Franco

One Hundred Years of Solitude as Chronicle of the Indies
Iris M. Zavala

Banana Strike and Military Massacre: One Hundred Years of Solitude and What Happened in 1928
Gene H. Bell-Villada

The Darl Side of Magical Realism: Science, Oppression, and Apocalypse in One Hundred Years of Solitude
Brian Conniff

Streams Out of Control: The Latin American Plot
Carlos Rincón

After a short "conversation" with García Márquez, conducted by Bell-Villada himself at Gabo's home in 1982, the collection kicks off with Fuentes' seminal "García Márquez: On Second Reading." Written just a few years after One Hundred Years of Solitude was published, Fuentes' essay was instrumental in laying the groundwork for subsequent criticism. By applying three literary modes to García Márquez's tale of Latin America -- the Utopian, the Epic, and the Mythic -- Fuentes concludes that the Mythic serves García Márquez as a wellspring of timeless renewal, permitting the novel to exist in a space free from the constraints of time and place. This is followed by Higgins' general exploration of One Hundred Years of Solitude and its many themes, one of the first essays on the novel published in English. (Although I am not sure why the otherwise conscientious Bell-Villada fails to translates the Spanish excerpts in Higgins' text.) Presenting a brief overview of García Márquez's previous works, Higgins discusses how García Márquez came to write his masterpiece, which Higgins sees as a "pessimistic" work.
The next three essays focus on specific topics, with Griffin's analysis of humor a perfect foil the more somber tones of Higgin's darker perception. Although I find it hard to believe that the novel "does not pose serious questions," Griffin does a credible job in pointing out the possible snares in taking Gabo's characters and situations too seriously. Roses defends the book against charges that it portrays women as merely dutiful wives or illicit whores; by focusing on the more transgressive females of the book, she explores their powers of fertility and their influence upon the utopian imagination. Wood's contribution is a penetrating study of the novel's most intriguing character, Colonel Aureliano Buendía. Wood sees Buendía's enigmatic smile as a metaphor for the many subtle nuances and balanced contradictions residing in this character, perhaps the most human in the book.
The following three essays position the novel in a broader historical perspective, looking at the influence of Western imperialism and possible postcolonial responses. The first of these is by Jean Franco, who compares One Hundred Years of Solitude to Joseph Conrad's Nostromo. Although anyone unfamiliar with Conrad's novel may find this essay somewhat less accessible than its neighbors, it offers the only pointed critique One Hundred Years of Solitude, asking whether or not its fantastic nature robs it of the ability to serve a progressive political purpose. Zavala's essay places the novel in a regional context of "American extravagance," and Bell-Villada's own contribution examines the ways that García Márquez fictionalizes the Banana Strike Massacre of 1928. While one of the more informative pieces in the collection, it is the only one that seems misplaced -- as so many other essays refer to the incident, it might have better served the reader by occupying an earlier position. The last two essays look at One Hundred Years of Solitude as a well-established work, its insights about power and culture containing a universal resonance. Conniff's piece explores the "dark side" of magical realism, a literary trope well-suited to convey the abuse of power and the dynamics of apocalypse. The final essay, by Carlos Rincón, surveys he global popularity of Cien años de soledad and the spread of Latino culture to the United States and across the world. Although its first few sections are bogged down by some heavy-handed jargon, it makes a fitting conclusion to the Casebook, which tracks García Márquez's novel from an unexpected Latin American masterpiece to a much-treasured global phenomenon.


García Márquez: El Coronel No Tiene Quien Le Escriba
(Critical Guides to Spanish Texts, 38)

By J. B. H. Box
Books Britain, 1984, ISBN 0729301745; Hardcover; $19.00. [
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A student's guide to No One Writes to the Colonel. Reviews or comments are welcome.

Landmarks of World Literature: Gabriel García Márquez -- One Hundred Years of Solitude

By Michael Wood.
Cambridge University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-521-31692-8; Hardcover. [
Search for a Copy]

This handy and well-written guide serves as a very nice interpretive aid in understanding both the work it details and the author behind it. It starts off with a chronology that details the life and works of García Márquez and the related political and historical events that surrounded him and help shaped his writings. Following this, Wood launches into a lucid and precise explanation of Latin American traditions and history, from psychological development to literary styles. Included is a nice explanation of "magical realism" and a short history of Columbia. After these introductions to the forces that had a hand in shaping García Márquez's life, Wood begins to discuss the style and meaning of the novel.
I find this guide to be concise and very helpful, and the allusions it makes to outside politics and other literary traditions are always logical and well-supported. It is a book written for the common reader, and it deserves a new printing.

The First García Márquez: A Study of His Journalistic Writing from 1948-1955

By Robert L. Sims

1. University Press of America, 1992, ISBN 0819185779; Hardcover. [Search for a Copy]

2. University Press of America, 1992, ISBN 0819185787; Paperback $35.00. [Search for a Copy]

This volume focuses on Gabo's early career. Reviews or comments are welcome.

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13 February 2003