Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

‘Required Reading for the Entire Human Race’

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This week’s image and tag is intended as a little bit of a provocation, as I’ve just reread One Hundred Years of Solitude for the first time this decade and I’m hard-pressed to disagree with William Kennedy’s infamous pronouncement that the book is “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race” (except, of course, insofar as I don’t believe that’s even true of Genesis). I’m honestly hard-pressed to think of books with matching claims on the vaunted title of “greatest work of literature ever” (which is funny, because it’s been so long since I’d last read it that I accidentally and shamefully left it off my list of the definitive books of the 20th century back in June).

So, who are the serious challengers? Ulysses? Don Quixote? Karamazov? Homer? The Bhagavad Gita? Arabian Nights? The Book of Psalms? I think García Márquez takes all comers.

Here’s the Nobel Prize lecture from which the tag is taken, an optimistic reworking of the novel’s wonderfully apocalyptic final sentence. If there’s one thing I’m learning from studying all these Nobel Prize winners this semester, it’s that you’ve got to turn your optimism all the way up to 11 in Stockholm, no matter how depressing your novels actually are.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 22, 2007 at 1:56 pm

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