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Isabel Allende (1942–) is, of course, a flesh-and-blood writer, but she is also very much a phenomenon. There are two moments and two books which mark her launch and re-launch as a literary sensation. The first is 1982 and the publication of her first novel La casa de los espíritus [The House of the Spirits]. The novel was an instant and huge success. Though initially circulated clandestinely in Allende's native Chile (then under military rule), it became a massive international bestseller, was translated into around thirty languages and later made into a film with a star-studded cast (1994). Allende came to be seen as the first major woman writer from Latin America to hit the international big time and to challenge the perceived male dominance of Latin American letters in the wake of the so-called Boom of the New Novel. Moreover, her challenge was also seen to be against the supposed elitism of male Boom narrative: her success in academic circles was matched, and indeed overtaken, by her popularity in the mass market amongst ordinary readers. In a sense, she was able to claim a kind of widespread impact that no other Latin American author had ever really achieved. However, though she remained very successful, her follow-up novels did not have quite the impact of La casa de los espíritus. Moreover, her daughter Paula contracted porphyria in Madrid in 1991 and went into a lengthy coma until her tragic death the following year.
The publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad) in Buenos Aires in May 1967 represented, according to the great Latin American writer and critic Mario Vargas Llosa, 'a literary earthquake'. Literariness is a sensitive notion in the criticism of Latin American fiction and is often subordinated to issues of the political impact of texts - be it at the level of authorial stance, interpretation of content or the context of reception and consumption. Yet the literary nature of García Márquez's great work is not a topic that can or should be avoided. Critics who are more consciously politically motivated may feel uncomfortable if we begin with the rather obvious assertion, then, that One Hundred Years of Solitude is a work of fiction. The rise of the Latin American New Novel from, roughly, the 1940s and 1950s onwards and its culmination in the so-called Boom of the 1960s was associated in the minds of many observers with a reaction against traditional realism based on an assumption that reality was observable, understandable and translatable into literature. Equally, many would regard 1967 and the appearance of One Hundred Years of Solitude as the culmination of that process. The novel opens with José Arcadio Buendía, the founding father of Macondo (the imaginary town in which much of the narrative is set), inviting his offspring to read with their imaginations rather than in relation to their knowledge of reality: in a room plastered with unrealistic maps and fabulous drawings, he teaches them to read by telling them of 'the wonders of the world' ('las maravillas del mundo') and 'forcing the limits of his or their imagination to extremes'.
Gabriel García Márquez is Latin America's most internationally famous and successful author, and a winner of the Nobel Prize. His oeuvre of great modern novels includes One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. His name has become closely associated with Magical Realism, a phenomenon that has been immensely influential in world literature. This Companion, first published in 2010, includes new and probing readings of all of García Márquez's works, by leading international specialists. His life in Colombia, the context of Latin American history and culture, key themes in his works and their critical reception are explored in detail. Written for students and readers of García Márquez, the Companion is accessible for non-Spanish speakers and features a chronology and a guide to further reading. This insightful and lively book will provide an invaluable framework for the further study and enjoyment of this major figure in world literature.
Gabriel García Márquez is much more than a writer: he has become something of an icon in his native Colombia and throughout Latin America, as well as a darling of the chattering classes throughout the world. The towering success of his 1967 novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad), the wide popular appeal of his best-selling Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera ), his Nobel Prize triumph in 1982 and his general association with the assiduously promoted Latin American New Novel and the marketing of the related phenomenon of magical realism - all of these factors were key in his national and international projection as the voice of Colombian, Latin American and even 'Third-World' identity alongside his identification with a new type of globally influential tropical, exotic, fantastic literature. By the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century, his status as icon was solidified by a number of big 'events': the fortieth anniversary of the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude and the much-hyped publication by the Real Academia Española and the Asociacin de Academias de la Lengua Española of a special commemorative edition (including a reprinted essay by Mario Vargas Llosa, which helped generate more publicity as it fuelled press speculation of a possible end to the rift between the two writers prompted famously by a bout of fisticuffs outside a Mexican cinema in 1976); the appearance of what has been widely touted as García Márquez's 'last' novel in 2004, coming out in English translation in 2005 under the title of Memories of My Melancholy Whores; and the much anticipated arrival in 2002 (2004 in English) of the first - and, many think, only - volume of the author's memoirs, Living to Tell the Tale (Vivir para contarla).
The New Novel in Latin America did not fade away with the end of the Boom, and there has been a rich and varied pattern of literary production in the region by both experienced and newer writers from the later 1960s up to the beginning of the twenty-first century. However, a perceived critical clarity about the nature of the Boom has not yet been matched by a similar sense of clarity about what came after it. Though there have indeed been many lively debates about the nature of the New Narrative and the Boom in Latin American fiction, there is now something approaching a broad consensus as to their chronology and characteristics. Such a consensus is more elusive when it comes to the rather more slippery category of the so-called Post-Boom, a term that has come to be used to refer to developments from the late 1960s and early 1970s onwards. Indeed, as late as 1990, a leading critic of the work of Argentina’s Manuel Puig (linked by many with the emergence of a Post-Boom) was complaining of the way in which “critics were quick to produce a new category…variously - and infelicitously - designated the 'petit-Boom', the 'Junior Boom', or even the 'post-Boom'.” However, the very currency of such terms does seem to indicate that some perceptible change of sorts was underway from around 1970, even if it was difficult to define clearly what that change really constituted. There are, for example, definite changes in material circumstances around this time which alert us to the possibility of a shift in emphasis. A number of major novelists associated with the Boom noticeably develop in a somewhat different direction during and after the seventies. And a cohort of new writers with a conspicuously different voice or agenda begin to publish around the turn of these key decades.
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