One Hundred Years of Solitude, 50 years on

Gabriel García Márquez’s seminal saga was published two days before Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, heralding the ‘summer of love’

A rural Colombian epic written in Mexico City and published in Buenos Aires, One Hundred Years of Solitude came out 50 years ago, on 30 May 1967. It didn’t inaugurate Latin America’s literary new wave, also including Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa; but once translated Gabriel García Márquez’s seminal saga – a sexy, quasi-anthropological mixture of fabulous tales, lightly disguised history and seven-generation family soap opera – became the novel that gained “el Boom” recognition in the English-speaking world and shaped how it was perceived.

In a fascinating coincidence, the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released just two days later, on 1 June. As it happens, Merseyside and Macondo – the fictional town featured in the novel – were far from being worlds apart: the Fab Four were moving towards a psychedelic surrealism not unlike magic realism in 1967. The film Magical Mystery Tour came later in the year, while A Hard Day’s Night had been one of the LPs that kept García Márquez company as he wrote his novel.

Meanwhile, in the US the so-called “summer of love” was getting under way, with college and high school students heading to California once their vacations began. Joan Didion portrayed the San Francisco hippie scene that awaited them in essay-reports later collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and many of the exodus would go to the open-air Monterey pop festival in mid-June, one of the first of such events. Bob Dylan, still recuperating from a motorcycle accident the previous year, had to say no to appearing, but his devotees at least had the pioneering film profile Don’t Look Back (released the previous month) by way of compensation.

Some authors have argued recently that 1966 (Jon Savage) and 1971 (David Hepworth) gave birth to unparallelled cultural “explosions”, but 1967 has at least equal claims. As well as the pre-eminent and most influential example of magic realist fiction, May and June alone led to the emergence of other phenomena that are still with us: art-pop concept albums, rock festivals, rockumentaries, and a cool, distinctively female take on “new journalism” that’s neither hard-boiled reportage nor self-indulgent autobiography.


John Dugdale

The GuardianTramp

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