Ready or not, here comes the “magical” Netflix adaption of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’

Netflix is about to turn that humble, little, almost average-like Gabriel García Márquez novel One Hundred Years of Solitude…into a series. Hey, cool down, relax, worldwide fans of García Márquez. I’m joking about being a little humble whatever book…One Hundred Years of Solitude is like the mothership of all Latin American magical realism/ And although it is hard for many people to believe: I really hate that book. Why? Well, there are many reasons.

But the most important thing is that this book has been labeled Latin American Literature since its publication in 1967, serving as the central axis of what we now know as the “Boom”, with authors such as the pompous Mario Vargas Llosa, Juan Rulfo, Julio Cortázar, among others. Suddenly and for many years, the publishers wanted almost desperately that all Latino writers would write using magical realism. And that, I have no doubt, considerably stagnated Latin literature, closing the doors to many authors who had other types of influences.

There are plenty of books that are practically impossible to adapt to the screen. The first one that jumps into my head is James Joyces’ Ulysses…BUT, this is where everything changes and I have to swallow my words because to my great and pleasant surprise in 2003 it came out as independent Irish film that probably few readers know about and hardly anyone has heard of, much less seen: “Bloom”, directed by Sean Walsh and starring Stephen Rea, Angeline Ball and Hugh O’Connor. This little low-budget movie is none other than the adaptation of the book that monsterpiece ‘Ulysses’.

The result is unexpectedly beautiful. Walsh set aside the thousands upon thousands of thoughts in protagonist Leopold Bloom’s stream of consciousness to focus on the epic journey of an ordinary day in the lives of the characters on that famous June 16, 1904. The film honors the story, to what Joyce wanted to capture in his text and both the performances and the photography and direction are almost poetic. It is enough to see the trailer and know that, at least on that occasion, he accomplished the job.

However, there are books that I can’t imagine seeing on the big or small screen. One of them is The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (one of my favorite novels of all time). It’s a work of utter magical realism that, unless the entire United States Marine Corps protects everyone involved for the rest of their lives, we could never adapt. I don’t think we’ll ever see an adaptation of The Satanic Verses. But we are getting A Hundred Years of Solitude.

Macondo Rising

I don’t like One Hundred Years of Solitude, partly because it is one of the books that you have to read when you are a Latino child and the teachers try to force you to give it not only respect but admiration to the level of not being able to criticize it negatively. I admit it is a masterfully written work. Every word is in its place. It is, yes, a masterpiece. I just never felt close to its plot, since I never grew up in the wild nor have I ever seen flying cows…I don’t even think I’ve ever touched a cow in my life. But, for millions of Latinos, this is not just a book, it is part of their lives: a memorabilia of their culture; a review of the dreams of childhood-youth-old age. And that book, which is so important to so many readers, will now appear on Netflix as a series. And we must say this very clearly: the task seems more difficult than going over Iguazu Falls…naked.

Netflix has provided almost no information about the coming show, except for the teaser from last year, because although the official website talks about the series One Hundred Years of Solitude, the rumor is that it will actually be titled ‘Macondo’, after the mythical and magical town where the story of the seven generations of the Buendía family unfolds. Seven generations, it’s a lot of cloth to cut, with multiple stories, plots, subplots that mix almost all genres: there is a lot of love, death, violence, beauty, incest and above all magic: the magic of life; the magic of the possible and of what seems impossible. And one, if not the biggest problem with adapting this book and turning it into a series or miniseries, is that precisely the nature of magical realism opens the doors for each reader to have a very personal perception and appreciation of the Buendía story.

When I touched on this topic with my ex-girlfriend, who is Colombian, in a few seconds, and with her heart full of emotion and nostalgia, she told me how she–who grew up among farms, plantations and a lot of nature- could associate many real elements; places where she grew up and which represented locations where fragments of the novel’s plot occurred. And this phenomenon is very common among Colombians. Each reader has an image, a physical memory associated with the book. So, how to make an adaptation that can reflect the collective imagination of a country, of a continent? I haven’t the slightest idea. I hope Netflix does.

Another big problem is that there are very few dialogues in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Nearly 90 percent of its hundreds of pages is pure narrative, which doesn’t make a screenwriter’s job any easier.

For several years Netflix’s people worked with the García Márquez family and Rodrigo and Gonzalo García (Gabriel’s sons), who will be the executive producers. It has circulated in different media that those in charge of the series have conducted dozens if not hundreds of interviews with Colombians–not professional actors–to capture the essence and similarity they have with the characters in the book and get a sense of reality to the series, which will be entirely in Spanish.

For a long time, García Márquez rejected all kinds of offers to adapt his novel. And  always supported that decision, considering that at that time (when the author was alive) bringing such a work to the screen was unthinkable. Today there is plenty of technology for magical realism to be encapsulated in a number of episodes. Today, we can recreate and copy any image. The big problem is that here we are not talking about a simple story or how much CGI will be necessary. We are talking about something that seems unnecessary to me: removing the magic of personal illusion, memories, even feelings, smells, colors, to package it in another audiovisual product for mass consumption that breaks the fine line of great literature. Good luck Netflix. You guys will certainly need it!

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Dr. Carlos Flores

Dr. Carlos Flores is a Venezuelan reporter and author of cult classics La moda del suicidio, Temporada Caníbal and Unisex. He's been editor-in-chief of several Venezuelan newspapers and magazines, a former Newsweek En Espanol correspondent, and contributor writer for HuffPost's Voces. Now that he's sick of being a broke reporter hunted by the Chavista regime, he's turned into a screenwriter and is developing a couple of series that will make him rich and even more famous.

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