Netflix’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ adaptation sparks discussion in China about Latin American literature

By Wang Qi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/11 18:18:39

A bookshelf featuring García Márquez's novels on sale at the Beijing Book Building Photo: Wang Qi/GT

A customer reads the Chinese version of One Hundred Years of Solitude at the Beijing Book Building on March 10.  Photo: Wang Qi/GT

"Many years later, as he looked at the low score from a movie review website, the Netflix executive suddenly remembered that distant afternoon when the company purchased the adaptation rights to One Hundred Years of Solitude from García Márquez's family," a Chinese netizen joked in a post on Sina Weibo. 

On Wednesday, Netflix announced that it had successfully purchased the rights to adapt Márquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. This will be the first time the 1967 novel has been adapted to the screen. 

One of the most influential and well-known Latin American writers in the world, Márquez created a window for Chinese people to get to know the culture of the region. However, while many Chinese readers were enthusiastic about the news, some worried that adapting the late Columbian author's novel, a landmark work in the magical realism genre, will prove too challenging for the streaming giant. 

Márquez in China

One Hundred Years of Solitude is extremely popular among Chinese readers and has had a massive impact on numerous Chinese writers, such as 2012 Nobel Literature Prize winner Mo Yan. 

"I first heard of this book at the end of 1984. I was left stunned after reading it. I never knew that a novel could be written like that before," Mo told during an interview in 2011. 

The booming popularity of Latin American literature was a source of inspiration for many Chinese writers, who were further encouraged when they saw Márquez, a writer from a developing country, win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. 

While the popularity of other Latin American works have waned in China over the years, Márquez's books have constantly appeared on bestseller lists in the country. Taking a walk through the capital's Beijing Book Building, one of the largest and most reputable book stores in China, Márquez numbers among the few Latin-American writers that can be found, with a total of 16 Chinese versions of his novels sitting on shelves.  

His popularity can also be seen online. With more than 62,000 reviews and an overall score of 9.2/10 from more than 180,000 readers, One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most popular novels on Chinese media review site Douban.

Considering this popularity, it was not surprising to see Chinese readers become excited at the prospect. The original Sina Entertainment post announcing the news received more than 26,000 likes. From there, the news soon became a hot topic on Sina Weibo, generating more than 6,500 posts and 11,000 reposts. 

However, considering the difficult nature of the work, which mixes fantasy and reality together to tell a story that spans 100 years, some readers worried whether the new adaptation will do the original justice.   

"Come on, even the Chinese version was not able to fully show the essence of the original version, let alone a TV adaptation. How are they going to adapt it?" netizen Liu Rushibushi posted on Sina Weibo.

While some netizens were skeptical, Fan Ye, the translator of One Hundred Years of Solitude's Chinese version, remains positive about the novel's upcoming screen adaption. 

"It will be challenging… but like translation, film and television adaptations are also a means to interpret a work," Fan told the Global Times. "The reason why a classic is a classic is that it can afford a variety of interpretations, and any of them cannot exhaust the work itself."

Strange, fresh and brilliant

While Márquez has a faithful fan base in China, since Latin American literature in general caught on in the country later than British and US literature, many important works and authors have been overlooked. 

"In addition to the late start in the academic field, another challenge is that only a few famous writers and works have been put in the spotlight, so many valuable writers and works have not yet entered Chinese readers' field of vision," noted Gu Jiawei, a translator of some lesser-known works of Latin American literature and a lecturer who teaches Spanish Language and Literature at Nankai University. 

"In recent years, a large number of Latin American writers born in the 1970s and 1980s have made their mark in the international literary arena and won important awards. Therefore, I hope to introduce as many of these writers and works as possible to Chinese readers," Gu told the Global Times. 

According to Gu, the major barrier Latin American literature in China faces has nothing to do with the ideas and artistic messages of the works themselves but rather is related to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the history and current situation of Latin America, a land that seems mysterious and unfamiliar to many Chinese. 

"I think what attracts me the most about Latin American literature is how strange and fresh it feels. Chinese readers are not familiar with that continent either geographically or culturally," said Hou Jialin, a Chinese student who has traveled to six countries in South America after finishing his MA courses at The University of Sheffield in England.  

"Literature was an important reason for my trip. Márquez from Colombia, Mario Vargas Llosa from Peru, Pablo Neruda from Chile… I love them all," said Hou.

"Mystery, passion and trauma are my impressions of South America. It is like a painting, painted in the most brilliant colors and with the most insane expressive techniques."
Newspaper headline: Major challenge

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