Jamil Jan Kochai Recommends...

I keep a copy of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude near my desk at all times, not just because it’s my favorite novel, but because it’s a book so jam-packed with characters and events and magic and violence that whenever I find myself stuck writing a particular scene or character, there’s usually a passage that can provide guidance. If you need to write an execution or a massacre or a carnival or an eating contest or a dance recital or a philosophical argument or the gradual decline of a legendary matriarch, then One Hundred Years of Solitude has got you covered. Once, when I was having trouble figuring out the development of a character named Dully—a PhD student turned monkey turned insurgent—I went back and reread the character arc of the poet turned rebel leader Colonel Aureliano Buendía, and I began to see that Dully, too, needed to go through a similar process of compromising his ideals, becoming disillusioned, then corrupt, then careless, then ruthless, until, eventually, he becomes imprisoned within the hierarchies of power he himself had constructed. In the end, I realized that I wanted Dully’s heart to rot like Colonel Aureliano Buendía, and García Márquez’s brilliant novel showed me how to accomplish that task.
—Jamil Jan Kochai, author of The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories (Viking, 2022)  

Photo credit: Jalil Kochai