The news that Netflix will be adapting literary legend Gabriel García Márquez’s most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, elicited a mixed range of responses from fans in the United States and the Americas, with some people being incredibly excited and others (like our founder) not as much.
I don't think I want to see #Cienaños on Netflix when it comes out. Have read that book so many times that how I view it my head will always been how I interpret it. But at the same time, what if the series becomes a global phenomenon? What a dilemma.
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) March 7, 2019
In general, though, readers of Gabo, as the Colombian Nobel laureate is commonly referred to in the Spanish-speaking world, agreed on one thing: expectations are not high, they are very high when it comes to seeing their beloved characters from Macondo —the isolated town where the events in the book unfold— being played out on screen. The pressure is on for Netflix to produce a series that measures up to the expectations of a readership that is fervently loyal to the book and to the Buendía family lineage.
— Dany Kino (@Dany_Kino) March 6, 2019
I would love to see it. Netflix has to do this well, otherwise, they will be sorry, I think. This is a universally loved book. And no Banderas or Bardem, please. No Penelope Cruz as Remedios La Bella either. Let´s get primarily Latin Americans to play these characters
— Pilar Marrero (@PilarMarrero) March 7, 2019
Netflix made the announcement that it had acquired the rights to García Márquez’s masterpiece on Wednesday, what would have been the writer’s 92nd birthday. The book that popularized the literature genre of magical realism was first published in 1967, more than 50 years ago, and has been translated into 46 languages. It will be the first time it’s adapted for the screen, something that García Márquez had voiced his aversion to in the past, even though he was a consummate film lover and critic. In a column he wrote in 1982, he explained that his wish was for his readers to communicate directly to his words, “so that they will imagine the characters as they want to, and not with the borrowed face of an actor on screen.” The writer was alluding to a one million dollar offer by Mexican film director and actor to acquire the rights of the work. García Márquez shot him down: “Anthony Quinn, with or without his million dollars, will never be Coronel Aureliano Buendía to me or my readers,” he wrote, according to the BBC.
And, preceding Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse allegations, the film mogul said in 2014 soon after García Márquez died, that the writer had acquiesced to granting the rights of the movie to him and Giuseppe Tornatore if they agreed to film the entire book “but only release one chapter –two minutes long— each year, for 100 years.” An answer befitting to the father of magical realism. He just did not think it was possible to adapt the novel in only one or two movies.
But even though García Márquez said he did not want his seminal work being adapted to the screen, the logic behind film production has changed (see the recent Oscar-nominated Roma) and thus the writer’s family considered the time is ripe to finally do an adaptation of One Hundred Years of Solitude. García Márquez’s two sons negotiated with Netflix and will be executive producers in the upcoming project. The series will be produced entirely in Spanish and parts of it will be filmed in Colombia, two important wishes on the part of the writer’s family, who broke the news of the acquisition in an interview with the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
“Now is a good time for series,” said one of the sons, Rodrigo García Barcha in Spanish, “and with Netflix’s reach —of course— I think the work, the author, Colombia and the world of Macondo will reach a larger audience.”
— Andres Villatoro (@netoduk) March 6, 2019
In the past, other García Márquez book adaptations have been “No One Writes to the Colonel,” directed by Arturo Ripstein in 1999, “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” from 1987, or “Love in the Time of Cholera,” starring Spanish actor Javier Bardem.
The challenge is multifold: to honor the Nobel laureate’s work and legacy, to respect his family’s wishes, and to not let down his fan base. But there is also the question of how Netflix will decide to tackle and depict certain passages from the book, sensitive to U.S. interests abroad.
Although the novel is fictional, its climax is famously based in the 1928 massacre of United Fruit Company plantation workers at the hands of the Colombian military. On that topic, historian Greg Grandin says that although political violence was not new to Latin America, these crackdowns manifested a different type of repression. “The terror was aimed at eliminating not just opponents but also alternatives, targeting the kind of social-democratic solidarity and humanism that powered the postwar Latin American left. Hundreds of thousands of people were disappeared and an equal number tortured. Hundreds of communities were, like Macondo, wiped off the face of the earth.”
No matter what happens with the series, here is a book extract of that scene to entice readers to pick the book up again before the series is released (tentatively in 2020):
“When José Arcadio Segundo came to he was lying face up in the darkness. He realized that he was riding on an endless and silent train and that his head was caked with dry blood and that all his bones ached. He felt an intolerable desire to sleep. Prepared to sleep for many hours, safe from the terror and the horror, he made himself comfortable on the side that pained him less, and only then did he discover that he was lying against dead people. There was no free space in the car except for an aisle in the middle. Several hours must have passed since the massacre because the corpses had the same temperature as a plaster in autumn and the same consistency of petrified foam that it had, and those who had put them in the car had had time to pile them up in the same way in which they transported bunches of bananas. Trying to flee from the nightmare, José Arcadio Segundo dragged himself from one car to another in the direction in which the train was heading, and in the flashes of light that broke through the wooden slats as they went through sleeping towns he saw the man corpses, woman corpses, child corpses who would be thrown into the sea like rejected bananas. ”
Emily Corona is a digital intern at Futuro Media. She is a journalist and translator from Mexico City, pursuing a master’s in journalism and Latin American and Caribbean studies at NYU. She tweets from @daminijo.