|Continuing our series, the critic and novelist Jonathan Bate nominates Gabriel García Márquez
THE New York Times described Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) as "the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race." This is the most ludicrous gesture of literary hype I have ever encountered. Required reading? The book is so in love with its own cleverness that it is profoundly unreadable. It is generally credited with inaugurating the genre of "magic realism" novels which combine the matter-of-fact narrative style of conventional realistic fiction with fantastic nonsense such as levitation and alchemy. García Márquez is at his most characteristic when a woman ascends to heaven whilst hanging her washing out on the line. Other ingredients of magic realism include gypsies, tarts with hearts, dwarves, tricksters and a cast so large and confusing that you need a family tree to keep track of the plot. Márquez and his followers are sophisticated urban intellectuals who feign reverence for the simple wisdom of peasants. Myth, fairytale and folklore are wonderful things in themselves, but it is preposterous to imagine that mingling them with domestic mundanity will somehow puncture the bourgeois complacency of our time.
Let us hope that One Hundred Years of Solitude will not generate one hundred years of overwritten, overlong, overrated novels. Enough that it has already inspired such excrescences as Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus and Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children.
1999 © Telegraph Group Limited