In a week that has seen the passing of Colombia’s greatest writer we also see the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth (or three hundred and ninety eight year of his death if you trust the sources). Both men used their creative skills to explore human nature, and while the passing of a Nobel Laureate will be mourned as much as Shakespeare’s birthday will be celebrated this month, it is an opportunity to be grateful that we had such luminaries at all.
In his most critically celebrated work One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez managed to convey the pressure and strain of a whole continent recovering from colonial rule. In the same way that Shakespeare’s Henry V managed to embed a sub text of humanity and compassion into a story about bloody conquest, García Márquez was able to hide the whole world in his dusty village that the Buendia’s called home. There is a literary device known as metonymy, where a thing or group is identified by something associated with it. A common example is ‘crown’ to refer to the monarchy but a more fitting one here maybe the way ‘the stage’ can often refer to the whole of theatre and beyond. Metonymy is not unique to literature, we most often use it in our everyday speech, but it is in the hands of artists like Márquez and Shakespeare that it becomes most potent. Both writers could afford to generalise in the same way an artist like Jack B. Yeats could afford broad knife and brush strokes. They built worlds out of concrete themes like jealousy, love and loneliness and then deftly explored them and in doing that exposed a little of the great mystery of the human soul. Continue reading