Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Imagery, Memory and First Lines

The next time you read a novel, stop after the opening line. What promise is the writer making to the reader? A beautifully crafted novel will begin to work its magic from the first words on the page. Below is a brief excerpt of an interview of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in conversation with Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza in the marvelous book, THE FRAGRANCE OF GUAVA:

Which visual image did you use for One Hundred Years of Solitude?

An old man taking a child to see some ice which was on show as a circus curiosity.

Was it your grandfather, Colonel Marquez?

Yes.

Is it something which really happened?

Not exactly, but it was inspired by something real. I remember when I was a very small boy in Aracataca, my grandfather took me to the circus to see a dromedary. Another day, when I told him I hadn't seen the ice on show, he took me to the banana company's settlement, asked them to open up a crate of frozen mullet and made me put my hand in. The whole of One Hundred Years of Solitude began with that one image.

So you put two memories together and got the first sentence of the book. How does it go exactly?

'Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.'

You usually attach a lot of importance to the first sentence of a book. You told me once that at times it has taken you longer to write the first sentence than all the rest of the book together. Why?

Because the first sentence can be the laboratory for testing the style, the structure and even the length of the book.

Does it take you long to write a novel?

Not to actually write it. That's quite a rapid process. I wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude in less than two years. But I spent fifteen or sixteen years thinking about that book before I sat down at the typewriter.

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