It’s not often Nobel Prize-winning literature gets the cinematic treatment, but Netflix has acquired the rights to adapt One Hundred Years of Solitude (Harper Perennial) by Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, into a series. It will be the first film version of the novel.
Since its publication in Spanish in 1967, the book has been translated into 46 languages selling 50 million copies worldwide. It’s recognized as a classic example of Latin American magical realism, a style that mixes fantasy, myth, and history into a story that’s more than it appears on face value.
Márquez, who died in 2014, turned down numerous bids for his novel’s dramatization. He didn’t think one movie could do it justice, and he wanted any screen version to be in Spanish, a stipulation now more easily agreed to after the success of films like “Roma,” and Netflix viewers’ proven acceptance of subtitles.
No details about the length of the series have been released, but the book covers a lot of ground: seven generations of a Colombian family, the 100-year rise and fall of their town, the entire history of Latin America, and all the foibles of humanity.
No release date has been announced, but in magical realism, time is subjective.
The events of the novel that set García Márquez on the road to a 1982 Nobel Prize date back to the pirate Sir Francis Drake’s attack on a coastal Colombian town. Three hundred years later, José Arcadio Buendía and his wife, Úrsula Iguarán, flee inland, haunted by the ghost of the man José killed to defend his honor. Lost in the wilderness, they settle beside a crystal river and found a town called Macondo. One hundred years later, the town vanishes in a hurricane.
A challenge for Netflix: the similarity of names in multiple generations. The brothers José Arcadio and Aureliano of the second generation echo down to the seventh (including Aureliano José, José Arcadio Segundo, Aureliano Segundo, and 17 sons of one Colonel Aurelianos by 17 different women, each named Aureliano). One hopes that Netflix will provide a family tree diagram, like most of the novel’s editions do out of necessity.
And then there’s the challenge of symbolism: How to dramatize the book’s many metaphors, for example, a baby with a pig’s tail, born of an incestuous relationship, who is devoured by ants after the mother dies in childbirth?
Not all the events carry an undeniable mystic quality though, certain events are based on fact. In 1928, thousands of striking United Fruit Company banana workers demanding better conditions were killed after the government called in the military. In the novel, the only survivor of the massacre can find no evidence that it happened, and no one else believes that it did.
In writing about works that influenced One Hundred Years of Solitude, critics banter about names like Hegel, Borges, Faulkner and Virginia Woolf. As the jacket of the 1995 Alfred A. Knopf Everyman’s Library translation announces, “The mysterious history of the Buendía family of the village of Macondo, which does nothing less than recapitulate the entire history of the human race, has had an influence on world literature unsurpassed by that of any other book of our era.”
Netflix, we are crossing our fingers.
Although highly anticipated, One Hundred Years of Solitude is not the first film adaptaion from the prestigious literary award. A short (and not at all inclusive) list of works by other Nobel Prize winners turned into movies: Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz; Death in Venice by Thomas Mann; The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck; The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway; Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak; Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck; The Lord of the Flies by William Golding; and The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go by Sir Kazuo Ishiguro.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabriel García Márquez (1927 – 2014) was born in Colombia and was a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. His many works include The Autumn of the Patriarch; No One Writes to the Colonel; Love in the Time of Cholera and Memories of My Melancholy Whores; and a memoir, Living to Tell the Tale. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 for One Hundred Years of Solitude.