For all his ordinariness, his plebeian perspective, and his insistence that he is still basically one of the eleven offspring of the telegraph operator of Aracataca, García Márquez is a man of wide erudition, literary and otherwise. It is also true that he makes little display of his book learning, owing in part to his healthy suspicion of any pomp or solemnity surrounding literature. A novel for García Márquez is a practical concern, something that the writer writes and readers then read and perhaps enjoy. He has consistently manifested a benign indifference to the process whereby great works of human wit or passion are academicized, monumentalized, and finally devitalized in the form of “masterpieces.” As a result he stands out as perhaps the one great Latin American author of fiction who—his occasional polemics and appreciation pieces aside—has written virtually no literary criticism. What literary reflections have issued from his pen are neither analytical nor theoretical but anecdotal or evaluative, practical comments closely bound up with his task of seeking out the traditions most suitable to his aims as a writer.
This critical silence also grows out of García Márquez’s original situation as an apprentice writer who, from the first, simply lacked a past “canon” of reliable national works from which to learn about the novelist’s trade. While a beginning European or even a United States or Argentine novelist has some heritage of proven texts to pick and choose from, a fledgling Colombian prose writer at mid-twentieth-century was faced with a minimal list of home titles and had to build an inner library without much guidance from past masters or current exegetes.
On the other hand, for an inspired young scribbler such a lack can be a blessing in disguise. Starting out with next to nothing, the writer is less likely to feel weighed down or intimidated by the accumulated works of the past (the unfortunate situation in French and U.S. letters today). Indeed, when not mediated and domesticated by the official cultural authorities, the process of reading and discovering the European “classics” can develop into a vital experience and intellectual adventure. In addition, one becomes highly self-motivated as a budding literary practitioner, dependent in great measure on one’s personal resources and writing projects. Significantly, García