The craft of writing is often associated with solitude; silent contemplation, the reasoning goes, can sprout potent ideas and feelings. Writers find this isolation in many different circumstances, which all translate to the page in striking ways.
Annie Dillard is one of the best-known explorers of the part of human nature that bends toward solitude. In her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she surveys life in a teeming natural ecosystem, where she seems to transcend her suburban surroundings. The poet Dulce María Loynaz is said to have lived alone for decades in a mansion in Havana, producing many rich poems about the treasure and trouble of solitude.
The family in Gabriel García Márquez’s classic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude experiences a collective isolation. They maintain little to no contact with the outside world in their small town for an extended period of time, which serves their clan well for a while. The married couple in Marilynne Robinson’s novel Lila show that internal isolation isn’t necessarily overcome by even the closest of human bonds. But the main character in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot, in spite of the isolation brought on by his severe illness, finds that his singular torment grants him the ability to witness the suffering of all.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
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How One Hundred Years of Solitude became a classic
“Over the course of a century, [the] town of Macondo was the scene of natural catastrophes, civil wars, and magical events; it was ultimately destroyed after the last Buendía was born with a pig’s tail.”