Thursday, April 17, 2014


I read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez for the first time on an Israeli kibbutz where I was suffering from a mysterious fever. About midway through the novel I was burning, my fever so intense I had to set down the book and go outside and remind myself that I was still in this world, the one I'd been in before I picked up the book. The moon and stars were close enough to touch, the air smelled of oranges, the turkeys cried, and I wandered, crowned by a wreath of yellow butterflies, just like the young man in the novel. 

García Márquez made me dizzy with the sense of possibility, of how high a writer can aim. Even more he made me realize that his Macondo was no more fantastic or magical than the world that surrounded me—i.e., the Israeli reality, the culmination of centuries of Jewish dreams and fantasies. Jewish history is a primer in understanding magical realism: a small group of wanderers who are persecuted wherever they go because they persist in shooting the clay feet from every idol and in finding God in the imagination rather than in the flesh. Jewish identity, in all its ghetto-mellah-converso-ashkenazi-Sephardic-mizrahi beauty, pain and absurdity, is the essence of magic realism....

I wrote this several years ago when I was asked by Tamara Kaye Sellman, the editor of MARGIN, a journal that focused on magic realism, for a personal definition of what I consider magic realism to be. For me, it was linked with my identity as a writer and a Jew, and I never felt it more powerfully than when I read One Hundred Years of Solitude. 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez died today in Mexico City at age 87. A native of Colombia, he is widely credited with helping to popularize "magical realism," a genre "in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination," as the Nobel committee described it upon awarding him the prize for literature in 1982.

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” 
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Thank you, Gabriel Garcia Marquez for your brilliance, sense of play, and never-ending dreams that provide inspiration for countless writers all over the world. 

Rest in peace. 

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