“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” (One Hundred Years of Solitude)
It was the spring of my junior year of college when I first heard of him. My friend Jake had been taking more Spanish classes and I asked him why. He wanted to read Cien años de soledad, the original Spanish language version of One Hundred Years of Solitude. ”It’s my new barometer for people,” he said. ”If they don’t like it, I can’t listen to them anymore.” As one of my oldest and closest friends, this seemed like a direct challenge. I needed to find this book and read it and like it. Preferably, from the tone of his voice, think it brilliant.
I found an old Avon paperback in Chapter II, the same little used bookstore in Forest Grove (now long gone) where, browsing in the fall, I had found Portnoy’s Complaint and Ragtime and embarked on reading odysseys through Philip Roth and E.L. Doctorow. It took me little more than a day to get it read (why bother reading stuff for school when I can be reading this, I kept thinking).
I called him back the next day. ”It was brilliant,” I told him. ”Especially that last sentence. That was amazing.” And so it began, my odyssey into this, the greatest of all the writers from Latin America, one of the few people who was won the Nobel Prize and absolutely deserved it.