Celebrating ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’

A sketch by Colombian artist Pedro Villalba Ospina. Photo: T.J. Lievonen/University of Miami

By Barbara Gutierrez

A sketch by Colombian artist Pedro Villalba Ospina. Photo: T.J. Lievonen/University of Miami

Celebrating ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM Libraries is presenting an extraordinary exhibit that immerses the audience in an emotional journey through the novel.

A man dies and thousands of yellow flowers appear out of nowhere to shower his body. A band of gypsies come into town and gifts its citizens a flying carpet, which does not at all surprise them but amuses them.

Such is the fantastical, magical world of Macondo, the mythical city at the center of the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by Nobel Prize winner Colombian born writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The real and magical mix is a style called magic realism, a genre that has become associated with Latin American literature. The book tells the tale of the multigenerational Buendia family; it is considered one of the best literary works of the 20th century.

Now 175 engravings and sketches illustrating it will be part of a new exhibit at the University of Miami’s Otto Richter Library. Colombian artist Pedro Villalba Ospina, who devoted more than 20 years of his life to its creation, sketched the exquisitely detailed pages of various scenes and characters from the tale. The exhibit commemorates the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book.

“I became intrigued by the possibility of this exhibit when I learned about the subject of the work: the novel by the Nobel-winning author is often considered the premier representation in literature of magical realism,” said Charles D. Eckman. dean of UM Libraries. “The artist’s beautiful evocation of the characters, places, and events from this book is a moving experience for anyone familiar with the novel.”

Eckman added that seeing the etching on the library’s wall creates “a sense of immersion in this marvelous story.”

Villalba Ospina became enamored with the novel when he first read it as a high school student in Colombia. His teacher was a friend of Garcia Marquez and taught the class with real passion and knowledge, he said. Villalba Ospina, worked as an illustrator, taught art and restored antique furniture, but slowly the idea of illustrating his favorite novel took a hold of him.

During his years creating the engravings and drawings, he read the novel at least 25 times, he said. His engravings began to gain popularity and were exhibited in various venues in Colombia. In 2005, Villalba Ospina had the extraordinary honor to meet Garcia Marquez at a cultural event in Cuba. Garcia Marquez spent a long time perusing the etchings and drawings of his literary work. He liked what he saw and recognized in the illustrations the foliage and fauna of his hometown Aracataca, the town that was the basis for Macondo, said Villalba Ospina.

“He asked me several questions about my research and my work,” said Villalba Ospina, and then Garcia Marquez added with humor: “Looking at your work makes me want to read the novel again.”

In 2007, Villalba Ospina’s literary agent Carmen Balcells and the writer commissioned an illustrated book with the drawings and etchings.

The 57-year-old artist never imagined that a love for the poetic sensibilities of a literary work and his passion for reading would lead him to such recognition.

“I always worried while I was working that my work was disciplined and good enough to live up to the novel because the book is so loved by so many worldwide,” he said.

Tuesday, Nov. 20, he will be the guest of honor at the opening of the exhibit at the Richter Library, which will be followed with a reception. .A question and answer session with Villalba Ospina (in Spanish) will be part of the event. The opening remarks will be given by Omar Vargas, of UM’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.