The Avon / Bard mass market editions of the first several García Márquez books.

“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.

“On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.”  (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)

From l-r, Cien anos, my Avon/Bard copies, then the 1st Editions, in chronological order.

It would be several years before I would get around to reading any of his other books.  I would get several of them in the old Avon / Bard mass market editions (because, when you have OCD and when you love collecting books, books that look so nice on the shelf together like this just make you giddy).  But outside of those, and my own copy of Cien años in Spanish, I have a very nice collection of his books in First Editions.  Indeed, it’s sad that since I started collecting him, he has only produced two books – the first volume of a planned three-volume autobiography (unlikely to ever be finished) and a very short novel.  But every one of his books in worth reading, even though they can be very different.  They include a few non-fiction works (with considerable political significance), a handful of novels (many of them quite short) and several short-story collections.  He has written two books that have appeared in my Top 100 Novels.  And his short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” was an influence on one of the greatest music videos ever made.  His magical realism has been an enormous influence on some great later writers to come – namely Isabel Allende and Salman Rushdie.  And you might want to head off anyone who starts telling you how great 100 Years or Choleraare, because they will go on for hours.

  • Leaf Storm  [La horarasca]  (1955, tr. 1972)
    • His first novella, an introduction to the kind of magical realism that would become his hallmark.
  • No One Writes to the Colonel  [El coronel no tiene quien le escriba] (1961, tr. 1968)
    • A very sad short novel.  A good example of how concise García Márquez can be.  When it first appeared in English, it was paired with the short stories from Big Mama’s Funeral as No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories.
  • Big Mama’s Funeral  [Los funerales de la mamá grande]  (1962, tr. 1968)
    • A short story sequence.  The first Macondo stories (where 100 Years would later be set).  Published in English with No One Writes to the Colonel.  The title story is a wonderful set-up for the world that so many would discover in the later novel’s pages.
  • In Evil Hour  [La mala hora]  (1962, tr. 1979)
    • A wonderful comic short novel.  These mysterious lampoons start appearing up around the town, detailing brutal secrets.  (An interesting aside – some of the same plot points run through the new Rowling, The Casual Vacancy, which I just finished last night).  This was García Márquez’s first novel, but appeared in English much later.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude  [Cien años de soledad]  (1967, tr. 1970)
    • One of the greatest novels ever written.
  • The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor  [Relato de un náufrago]  (1970, tr. 1986)
    • Originally written in 1955 for El Espectador, the newspaper that García Márquez was writing for at the time.  A true story, published in 14 installments in the newspaper, then put together as a book in 1970, after he had achieved international success as a writer, and then finally translated in 1986.
  • Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories  [La increible y triste historia de la candida Erendira y su abuela desalmada] (1972, tr. 1978)
    • Though they had already appeared years earlier in translation in Leaf Storm and Other Stories, this is the source for two of his most famous stories: “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” and “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” (though they were much older than the actual collection).
  • Eyes of a Blue Dog  [Ojos de perro azul]  (1972, tr. 1984)
    • The appearance of the García Márquez short stories in English is like the appearance of the Beatles albums in the States.  They got separated and jumbled and appeared at different times.  Some of the stories from this collection appeared in English in Leaf Storm and Other Stories while most didn’t appear until Innocent Eréndira.
  • The Autumn of the Patriarch  [El otoño del patriarca]  (1975, tr. 1976)
    • Somewhere between magical realism and stream-of-consciousness, this is the tale of an aging Latin American dictator.
  • Chronicle of a Death Foretold  [Crónica de una muerte anunciada]  (1981, tr. 1983)
    • An absolutely marvelous short novel, his last work before the Nobel Prize.  An incredible story about the way news can travel in a town, about how actions have repercussions, about how we become involved with something as important as death without meaning to or even knowing it.
  • Collected Stories (tr. 1984)
    • Collecting Big Mama’s Funeral, Eyes of a Blue Dog and Innocent Eréndira together in their original sequences.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera  [El amor en los tiempos del cólera] (1985, tr. 1988)
    • One of the great romantic novels of our time.  In some ways, it is the best example in literary history of justifying the Nobel Prize, as this is the only novel on my Top 100 list that was written entirely after the author was award the prize.
  • Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín  [La aventura de Miguel Littín, clandestino en Chile]  (1986, tr. 1987)
    • Going back to his journalistic roots, this is the true story of the filmmaker Miguel Littín, banned from his native Chile, who returned in secret to shoot a documentary on life under Pinochet.  After talking at great length with García Márquez came this first-person account of not only what he saw, but what risks he undertook in order to get this work done.
  • The General in His Labyrinth  [El general en su laberinto]  (1989, tr. 1990)
    • A fictionalized account of the last days of Simon Bolivar, the “George Washington of Columbia”, García Márquez’s home country.
  • Collected Novellas (tr. 1990)
    • Collecting in one volume Leaf Storm, No One Writes to the Colonel and Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
  • Strange Pilgrims  [Doce cuentos peregrinos]  (1992, tr. 1994)
    • His most recent short-story collection, and the only one to make it unbroken in its original story sequence from Spanish to English.
  • Of Love and Other Demons  [Del amor y otros demonios]  (1994, tr. 1995)
    • Magical realism and religion find themselves at odds in this shorter novel.
  • Diatribe of Love Against a Seated Man   [Diatriba de amor contra un hombre sentado monólogo en un acto]  (1994)
    • A short monologue that has never been properly published in English.
  • News of a Kidnapping  [Noticia de un secuestro]  (1996, tr. 1997)
    • Another non-fiction book.  This works in some of the same ways that In Cold Blood and Executioner’s Song as a non-fiction novel.  A devastating story of a kidnapping in Columbia.
  • For the Sake of a Country Within Reach of Its Children (1998, tr. 1998)
    • García Márquez wrote the text to go along with pictures from his native Columbia.  The text functions almost as a prose-poem about his homeland and is among the most difficult to find of his books.
  • Living to Tell the Tale  [Viva la contralla]  (2002, tr. 2003)
    • The first volume of a planned three volume autobiography (it doesn’t look like the other two volumes will ever end up being written).
  • Memories of My Melancholy Whores  [Memoria de mis putas tristes]  (2004, tr. 2005)
    • His first work of fiction in a decade, and likely the last, unless we see a barrage of stuff come out after he eventually dies like we did with Vonnegut.  A short meditation on aging, released around the same time as Philip Roth’s Everyman and which it shares themes and length.

” ‘And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?’ he asked.  Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights.  ‘Forever,’ he said.”  (Love in the Time of Cholera)