One Hundred Years of Solitude Tops World Lit Survey

Adrian Versteegh

A panel of international writers has chosen Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude as the book that has most influenced world literature over the past twenty-five years. The survey, commissioned by international literary magazine Wasafiri, coincided with the release last Friday of the quarterly’s twenty-fifth anniversary issue.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, originally published in Spanish in 1967 and since translated into nearly thirty languages, garnered votes from three of the twenty-five writers polled. Nii Parkes, in his nomination, said that the Colombian novel had “taught the West how to read a reality alternative to their own, which in turn opened the gates for other non-Western writers,” while Sujata Bhatt called One Hundred Years of Solitude “the last book that has had a significant impact on world literature.”

While One Hundred Years of Solitude was the only title to win multiple votes, authors Salman Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje each appear twice on the list for separate works. Poets are also well represented, with Michael Horovitz choosing Allen Ginsberg’s Collected Poems and Daljit Nagra opting for North by Seamus Heaney. The selections were not entirely limited to creative works: John Haynes picked Ludwig Wittgenstein’s 1953 classic Philosophical Investigations, while Sukhdev Sandhu gave the nod to a memoir, The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr. Li Zhisui.

Writing on the journal’s Web site, Wasafiri editor Susheila Nasta said the list “showcases the true diversity which is international contemporary writing today. Twenty-five years ago ‘international writing’ was considered off-center. This selection shows how much the landscape has changed, with many of these titles now part of our literary canon.”

To mark its anniversary, Wasafiri—which means “travelers” in Swahili—also recently launched a writing competition based around the theme “Twenty-five.”