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Original Article

How a literary work becomes a classic:


The case of One Hundred Years of Solitude
Alvaro Santana-Acua
Department of Sociology, Harvard University, William James Hall, 33 Kirkland
Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
E-mail: asantana@fas.harvard.edu

Abstract If meanings are so contested and changeable, how can individuals reach a
collective agreement about what makes some cultural objects meaningful over time and
across space? And how can social scientists construe robust interpretations of cultural
objects whose meanings are shifting and malleable? These questions are pertinent to
literary classics, whose meanings relentlessly change, and yet people living in different
countries and historical periods collectively agree about their significance. This article
argues that a literary work can become a classic when it transcends its original context
of production and its contents are progressively appropriated by actors and organizations that had no share in their production. Using the case of One Hundred Years
of Solitude, this article, first, studies 10 ways in which that novel transcended its
original context and, second, documents the appropriation of some of its contents in
56 countries between 1967 and 2013. To contribute to more robust interpretations of
meaningful cultural objects with shifting meanings, this article offers four patterns
(lived experience, universalization, artistic commensuration and entrenched criticism)
involved in the collective fabrication of the value of One Hundred Years of Solitude as a
literary classic.
American Journal of Cultural Sociology (2014) 2, 97149. doi:10.1057/ajcs.2013.16;
corrected online 4 March 2014
Keywords: classics; literature; transcendence; appropriation; meaningfulness

Introduction
Classics of different sorts constitute an inescapable part of our everyday lives
and imagined history. Numerous paintings, sculptures, movies and of course
literary works are known to us as classics. They are consumed by actors and
reproduced by organizations that had no share in their production decades or
centuries ago (Alexander, 1988; Mukherjee, 2010). To explain the longlasting value of classics, the three main approaches in sociology of art

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(production of culture, art worlds and field) have emphasized the classics
attachment to its original context of production and early diffusion, but they
have paid less attention to how it becomes part of our daily lives and history long
after its original context disappeared. Although these approaches remain vital to
understand organizational embeddedness (especially how an artwork is produced
in the first place), they are less concerned with transcendence and appropriation,
that is, the process by which an artwork transcends its original context and its
contents are appropriated by foreign actors and organizations. Yet analyzing this
process is critical to understand how a literary work can become a classic.
Increasingly aware of this problem, researchers (Hennion, 1993; Witkin, 1997;
DeNora, 2000; Fuente, 2007; Born, 2010; Domnguez Rubio, 2012) insist that
solving it requires the acknowledgement that the artwork is involved in the
drama of its own making (Becker et al, 2006, p. 3). By giving preference to the
artwork rather than to the organizations that produced it, this article seeks to
show how a literary work can attain an independent life and career outside its
original context of production. In order to do so, this article studies an elusive
and yet profoundly sociological cultural object, the literary classic.

The Argument: Transcendence and Appropriation


This article argues that a literary work can become a classic when (a) it transcends
the organizational context in which it was initially produced and consumed,
(b) its contents are appropriated and considered meaningful by actors and
organizations that had no share in their production, and (c) when such contents
outlive both their original context and the foreign actors and organizations that
first appropriated them, and finally are appropriated by new foreign actors and
organizations, which, over time and across national and cultural boundaries,
continue to find the literary work and its contents meaningful.1
Using the Colombian novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (OHYS, 1967),2
this article develops the aforementioned argument by studying two related

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Although the argument is made on the basis of a single case, the analysis will also refer to literary
counterfactuals, namely, literary works contemporary to the case study that have not attained classic
status.

OHYS is chosen for two reasons: (1) it facilitates the study of how a literary work can become a classic
without considering a complex variable: tradition. Accounting for tradition is necessary for French,
Russian and other major literatures, since readers and organizations would judge a new literary work
by positioning it in relation to a well-known tradition. In the case of OHYS, by the time of its
publication, Latin American literature did not exist as a unified tradition (rather there were national
traditions; Mexican, Argentine, and so on) and thus, at first, transnational audiences could not valuate
OHYS in relation to a specific literary tradition. And (2) OHYS was not produced in a dominant
literary center (for example, London or Paris), but rather in the periphery. Thus, the case of OHYS
permits us to understand how a literary work attains its value as a classic after its emergence in a nonhegemonic context of production.

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phenomena: transcendence (or organizational disembeddedness3) and appropriation. Transcendence refers to the process by which a literary work surpasses its
vernacular organizational context of production and early diffusion (hereafter,
VOC). To understand such a process, this article analyzes 10 disembeddings4
that OHYS has experienced since 1967; these disembeddings include aesthetics,
the publishing industry, networks, commodification, space, commensuration,
non-artistic organizations, ideology, the author and materiality. Taken together,
they show how the conventions, actors and organizations belonging to the VOC5
that produced and promoted OHYS no longer exert control over the books life
and career. Instead, the novel has become a disembedded cultural object,
impervious to control by its VOC.
Appropriation refers to the practice by which transnational audiences transform the components of a literary work (for example, events, characters,
sentences, and so on) into meaningful content that they use to frame and make
sense of collective and life-course events. This article studies the practice of
appropriation via literary indexicals. An indexical is an expression that depends
on the larger context in which it is uttered not for the definition of its unequivocal
meaning but for the achievement of effective communication. The indexical, thus,
is a meaningful expression with unstable meanings. For example, in a conversation, this, here or yesterday are indexicals that require a larger context in order to
be understood. In literature, indexicals are particularly pervasive (for example,
Hamlets to be or not to be, Samsas transformation into a monstrous insect,
Sanchos those over there are not giants but windmills, and so on). Although the
meanings of these expressions are contested, readers not only recognize them but
also continue to use them in multiple ways. This article argues that the
production and usage of literary indexicals is at the heart of the classicization of
a literary work. To understand such practice, this article shows how readers of
OHYS in 56 countries between 1967 and 2013 have transformed into meaningful expressions six elements: OHYS, its relation to magical realism, its author
Garca Mrquez, the village Macondo, the novels opening and Remedios the
Beautys ascent to heaven. The study of these indexicals permitted me to isolate four patterns of appropriation (lived experience, universalization, artistic

By organizational I mean the ensemble of forces, resources and conventions involved in the production
of a cultural object. By disembeddedness I mean the progressive autonomy of a cultural object from the
conventions, actors and organizations involved in its creation. Thus, in this article, I am not concerned
with embeddedness understood as a component of economic relations (Granovetter, 1985; Evans,
1995) or disembeddedness as the separation of time and space (Giddens, 1990).

A literary works disembedding from its VOC could also be seen from a different angle, namely, as an
instance of the works progressive embeddedness in foreign contexts or non-VOCs. The study of
appropriation seeks to account for that type of embeddedness.

OHYSs VOC includes the Boom novel movement, the genre of magical realism, the publisher,
contemporary literary magazines and newspapers, the early networks of peer writers, critics and
scholars, the literary agent and the author (Santana-Acua, 2014).
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commensuration and entrenched criticism) that can contribute to a better understanding of how literary content can be collectively regarded as meaningful
despite its shifting meanings.
Along with disembeddings, the study of literary indexicals is central to detail
how non-vernacular organizational contexts (hereafter, non-VOCs), that is,
conventions, actors and organizations with no share in the production and early
diffusion of OHYS, have appropriated its contents. As a result of this transnational appropriation, not only has OHYS become impervious to control by its
VOC but also resistant to control by any non-VOC.
Finally, since this article rejects the view that a literary work becomes a classic
because it embodies universal truths, an additional advantage of focusing on
transcendence and appropriation is to offer diachronic evidence of the collective
fabrication of the value of a literary work as universal. To emphasize this
fabrication, this article uses the notion of conditional universal, which, simply
put, seeks to remind readers about the existence of a historical context inside of
which new generations of actors and organizations can agree that the contents of
a literary work are universal. Being aware of a historical context of conditional
universals is important because other cultural objects not just the classic
experience disembeddings and produce indexicals. But only the classic can
produce indexicals that different audiences can collectively recognize as meaningful for longer periods of time and across national and cultural boundaries.

Exploring Meaningfulness, Rethinking Canonization


The analysis of how a literary work can become a classic poses numerous
challenges. To begin with, few cultural objects have meanings as contested,
unstable and changeable as the classics. That cultural objects possess mobile
meanings has been a widely shared tenet across the social sciences over the past
three decades (Griswold, 1987; Sewell, 2005; Lamont, 2009; Alexander et al,
2012). Yet the liberation of meaning-making practices from the iron-cage of
structuralist approaches (and subsequent research on multifaceted worlds of
meaning) has also led to an analytical challenge (Reed and Alexander, 2009;
Godart and White, 2010): If meanings are so contested and changeable, how
can people from different backgrounds reach a collective agreement about
what makes some cultural objects meaningful in the long run? And how can
social scientists construe robust interpretations of cultural objects whose
meanings are shifting and malleable? These questions are pertinent to literary
classics, whose meanings relentlessly change, and yet actors living in different countries and historical periods continue to agree about their significance (Alexander, 1988). An adequate answer to this challenge how to
reconcile the multiplicity of meanings of a cultural object with the stability of
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its significance could help to develop a more solid analytical ground underneath the shifting sands of meaning.
Rather than reviving arguments about universalism and relativism, this
articles answer is the study of meaningfulness the process by which a cultural
object is collectively imagined as meaningful over time and across national and
cultural boundaries despite its changing meanings. The distinction between
meaning and meaningfulness is not a semantic subterfuge or seeks to downplay
the study of meaning. On the contrary, it tackles a practical problem for cultural
sociologists in particular: How to develop resilient arguments about the content
of cultural objects without either limiting oneself to analyses about their form or
embracing essentialist theories of meaning.
I propose to study meaningfulness in literary works via indexical analysis,
which seeks to demarcate cultural items collectively imagined as meaningful. Not
only does indexical analysis accept that the meanings of artworks are fluid,
contested and contingent, but also acknowledges that they become even more so
as (1) the cultural context widens and (2) time is factored in (Gell, 1998).
Choosing OHYS permitted me to confirm that its cultural context has widened
as years passed, to reconstruct how the meaning of its contents continues to
change, and to document, by identifying four patterns of appropriation, how the
novels meaningfulness is being constructed transnationally, which constitutes a
key part of the process of classicization.
Classicization and canonization are two processes that overlap and influence each other, but also bifurcate at a particular moment, which this article
seeks to locate.6 Whereas a literary classic can also be a canonical7 work, the
opposite is not always the case.8 Unlike classics, canonical works are more
clearly indebted to the evaluative judgments of the organizations in a
particular country or epoch for the production and safeguarding of their
status (Lauter, 1991; Guillory, 1993; Bloom, 1994). Classics, on the contrary,
can attain in the long run transnational transcendence, in particular from
influential organizational worlds (academic communities and the publishing
industry), and outlive lists of canonical works that are born and perish like the
organizations that promoted them (DeVault, 1990; Corse and Griffin, 1997;
Verboord and van Rees, 2009).

Researchers in literary studies acknowledge that the classic is related to canonicity but is not entirely
reducible to it (Mukherjee, 2010, p. 1028). In sociology, sacralization (DiMaggio, 1992) and
consecration (Bourdieu, 1992) are earlier efforts seeking to free cultural objects from the rigidity of
canonization analysis. Yet both overtheorize the organizational embeddedness of cultural objects.

The literary canon is a group of works that historically specific organizations and/or actors consider
and promote as chief examples of the available literature falling under certain and sometimes
overlapping parameters (for example, nation, language, culture, professions and historical period,
among others) (cf. Guillory, 1993, p. 6; Bloom, 1994, p. 15).

In music the distinction between canon and repertory yields similar results (Kerman, 1984).
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Organizational Embeddedness in Sociology of Art


Although the art world, production of culture and field approaches emphasize
different vernacular factors (networks of people and conventions, the cultural
industry, and objective positions/relations, respectively), they are committed to
explanations based on the semi-autonomous production of artworks within
bounded VOCs: art worlds, (sub)systems and fields.
According to the art world approach, art happens through an interactive
network of cooperating people (Becker, 1982, p. 25) and is the result of an
extensive division of labor and prevailing conventions inside a particular VOC.
Yet on the question concerning the long-lasting value of certain artworks, Becker
(1982, p. 365) acknowledges the approachs limitations: What lasting consists of
is not very clear.
More interested in connections between cultural creators and consumers, the
production of culture approach stresses the centrality of material resources
available in a given VOC. Art functions as a cultural industry divided into
subsystems: technical (for example, writers), managerial (for example, publishing
houses) and institutional (for example, the media) (Hirsch, 1972). However, the
approach does not account for the long-lasting value of particular artworks
outside their vernacular cultural industry. For instance, Peterson (1997) examines
the material factors underlying the production and circulation of country music,
yet the long-term and transnational resonance of some country songs is not
specified. White and White (1993 [1965]) show how an organizational context
replaced another in the nineteenth-century French painting world, but it is
unclear how certain artworks from that period outlived their VOC and have
become masterpieces, for example, Manets Olympia (Witkin, 1997).
Bourdieu theorizes the artistic field (a variant of the autonomous network of
objective relations and positions he calls field (1992, p. 321) as a nationally
bounded and homeostatic space. Unlike the previous two, his approach is more
responsive to transnational circulation (Bourdieu, 1990). Yet it does not take into
detailed consideration the space in between fields, namely, the space an artwork
must traverse from one national field to another.9 Rather, the approach
concentrates on actors, organizations and networks that transcend national
fields in order to document how a transnational field is formed (Casanova,
1999). Thus, according to Bourdieu, the task for researchers is to understand
the functioning laws of different national fields (1990, p. 2), which reinforces
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Cf. Eyal (2013). Although we use a similar spatial concept, there is an important analytical difference.
Since Bourdieu treats fields as separate spheres, Eyal argues that the space between fields is a thick
boundary zone. An argument he makes to challenge Bourdieus notion of field autonomy and to show,
building on Latour, that the boundaries between fields are porous. In my case, drawing inspiration
from Godart and White (2010), I argue that national fields are embedded in a larger socio-cultural
formation that renders possible the transnational circulation of artworks and their transformation in
the process of moving from one national field to another.

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the impression that national fields are either standing next to each other or
floating in a vacuum of causal space. Consequently, this approach argues that an
artwork becomes a classic because of organizational struggles inside each field
(Bourdieu, 1992, p. 354), in what constitutes a more sophisticated retelling of the
organizational-embeddedness-of-cultural-objects narrative.
By concentrating on the intricacies of the organizations that produce artworks,
rather than on the trajectory of the artworks themselves, the field approach
(1) cannot clarify whether and how artworks change while crossing from one field
to another and (2) ignores that, upon entering a field and over time, foreign
artworks can transform the receiving field. The transformative power that foreign
cultural objects can have upon the functioning laws of different national fields
remains underexplored in this approach. To address these limitations, this article
offers an approach that understands artworks (and literary classics in particular) as
agents of cultural formation endowed with a sui generis agency (Domnguez
Rubio, 2012). Accordingly, the case of OHYS reveals that the appropriation of
some of its contents over the past four decades by non-vernacular organizations
gradually transformed them and, in return, after appropriating OHYS, the
transformed organizations have modified their rules to valuate old and future
artworks in their national fields.10
In sum, the robust capacity of the three approaches (production of culture, art
worlds and field) for explaining the vernacular production and early diffusion of
artworks has come at a price: they cannot convincingly specify how classic artworks
can attain an independent life and, over time, outlive the VOC that produced them.
Focusing on the trajectory of the artworks themselves (rather than on the
dynamics of vernacular organizations) could show that national artistic fields,
cultural industries and art worlds function in a larger and encompassing space
that structures the conditions for the non-vernacular circulation of artworks. The
transcendence of cultural objects of long-lasting value and their appropriation by
non-VOCs occurs in such a space.

Beyond Organizational Embeddedness: Transcendence and Appropriation


As researchers continue to develop analyses more attentive to non-vernacular
organizational factors, the literature on transcendence and appropriation is
becoming one of the recent moves in sociology of art and literature.
10

For instance, in the American and Chinese contexts, new actors and organizations that had no share
in the production of OHYS have related it to other locally produced artworks (for example,
Faulkners novels of the American south or the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber) as well
as to new circulating artworks (for example, the reception of Roberto Bolaos work in the
United States and the literary genealogy of Mo Yans novels; the 2012 Chinese Nobel laureate who
acknowledged Garca Mrquezs influence on his work).
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Transcendence and appropriation in the arts at large


DeNora (1995) studies how Beethovens early compositions transcended his
small circle of aristocratic patrons in Vienna and shows that the transcendence of
his works bolstered his international reputation. Similarly, the transcendence of
van Goghs artworks (promoted by actors and organizations not involved in their
original production) contributed to the construction of his artistic genius after his
death. Furthermore, the van Gogh phenomenon has become even greater since it
is not controlled by a single organizational context (Heinich, 1991). Not only
specific artworks but also entire genres can transcend their VOC: for example,
etching (Lang and Lang, 2001), the canzone dautore (Santoro, 2002) and Italian
opera (Santoro, 2010).
Although cultural goods are evaluated differently across local and national
contexts (Lamont, 1992), cultural classification systems inserted in transnational
circuits tend towards convergence over time (Janssen et al, 2008). Convergence
is more apparent when focusing on artworks. In comparing the evaluation
of popular music in three countries, van Venrooij and Schmutz (2010) find
contextual similarities in how certain songs are perceived outside their VOC.
Some designs of American quilts circulated as highly valuable artworks once
they transcended their vernacular context of production and were appropriated
by non-vernacular organizations, for example, New York art galleries and
museums (Peterson, 2003). The repertory of 27 major American symphony
orchestras between 1842 and 1969 rested upon a series of artworks whose status
as classic cultural objects transcends the influence of a single organizational
context (Dowd et al, 2002). Witkin (1997) arrives at a similar conclusion after
analyzing Manets Olympia.
Finally, the involvement of vernacular actors and organizations cannot by itself
account for the long-lasting value of cultural objects (Bennett et al, 2009). Critics
enthusiastic (Allen and Lincoln, 2004) or negative (Baumann, 2001) opinion
about a contemporary cultural object does not determine or prevent it from
becoming a classic locally and transnationally. And vice versa, the retrospective
consecration of a cultural object requires the involvement of actors and
organizations that do not belong to the VOC that produced it (Bromberg and
Fine, 2002; Allen and Lincoln, 2004). Unlike previous arguments (Lauter, 1991;
Guillory, 1993; Bloom, 1994), these findings minimize the role critics and other
gatekeepers can have in shaping the long-lasting value of a cultural object.
Transcendence and appropriation in literature
Griswold (1986) argues that revivals of Elizabethan city comedies and revenge
tragedies cannot be understood via local (namely, English) art organizations.
Instead, her cultural diamond model adds a factor beyond vernacular organizational arraignments: the world (or social context). Similarly, Schwartzs (1988)
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study of the making of Faulkners reputation reveals how non-vernacular forces


decisively influenced actors and organizations. In particular, distinctive historical
conditions after World War II enabled the disembedding of Faulkners work as
an emblem of the freedom of the individual under capitalism (ibid, p. 4).
Different non-vernacular organizations in Britain and the United States contributed to the transcendence and appropriation of Orwells works, so that 1984 has
become a literary classic and its components (for example, Big brother) stand as
literary indexicals (Rodden, 2002). Arguments in favor of transcendence and
appropriation are also finding their way in literary studies by interpreting classics
as works that travel to literary systems beyond their cultures of origin
(Mukherjee, 2010, pp. 10351036).
As in other arts, the process of classicization in literature cannot be explained
by focusing on organizational embeddedness. For instance, Tompkinss approach
(1985) can clarify the vernacular (that is, American) success of The House of the
Seven Gables (1851). But it cannot specify how the novel transcended its VOC, so
that more than a century later The House of the Seven Gables influenced the
writing of another novel (OHYS) by an artist (Garca Mrquez) in a foreign
cultural location (Latin American) and embedded in a different organizational
context (the Boom novel movement) (Vargas Llosa, 1971).
Limitations of this sort have convinced researchers about not only concentrating on readers fabrication of meaning the most salient development in
sociology of literature in the 1980s and 1990s (Griswold, 1993) but to consider
the importance of the transcendence and appropriation of cultural objects,
one of the newest developments. Seeking to overcome Bourdieus retelling of the
organizational embeddedness narrative, Casanova (1999) proposes the transnational space known as the world republic of letters, while Heilbron (1999),
Heilbron and Sapiro (2002), and Popa (2010) study the transnational circulation
of book translations. Researchers also question the centrality of vernacular forces
in securing the classic status of a literary work over extended periods of time and
space (for example, nations and cultures). For instance, critics continuous support
secured the canonization of The Awakening but not its classicization in the United
States or abroad (Corse and Westervelt, 2002). Vice versa, critics and writers
negative initial reaction to Their Eyes Were Watching God did not prevent it from
obtaining long-lasting value (Corse and Griffin, 1997). New research also serves as
an antidote to accounts overemphasizing the importance of decisions in scholarly
communities about the inclusion and exclusion of literary works from the
educational curriculum. In Western societies, literature education is becoming
more student- rather than canon-centered and the institution of secondary
education critical in perpetuating the classical value of literary works is hardly
a passive receptacle of decisions taken by scholarly communities (Verboord and
van Rees, 2009). And, despite national boundaries and changes in lists of canonical
works (Guillory, 1993), new research finds that classical literary works and artists
display remarkable spatial and temporal stability (Bevers, 2005).
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These contributions however face two problems: (1) The transnational is often
formulated in terms of a center versus periphery model or alternatively as a bigger
version of the French literary field,11 which assumes that the principles and
parameters governing the domain of literature are produced in a single, dominating center and next diffused to other locations. And (2) meaning is equated to
meaningfulness, which prevents researchers12 from distinguishing between constant changes in the meanings of a literary classic and the stability of its meaningfulness. To tackle the first problem, the next section presents the principles and
parameters operating beyond a single organizational context and underlying the
classical status of a literary work. As for the second problem, the ensuing section
elaborates on literary indexicals, which permit us to distinguish between meaning
and meaningfulness.

Conditional Universals: A Historical Context for Transcendence and


Appropriation13
This section seeks to specify some key principles and parameters involved in
fabricating the universal value of the literary classic. I call them conditional
universals14 to underline the claim that the literary classic is imagined as
universal only conditionally, that is, within a particular spatial and temporal
context.15 Hence if a literary classic is praised as universal, it is because there
is a conditional consensus about what universal means and such a consensus
cannot be reached solely within a single organizational context (for example,
the one in which the classic was originally produced), but it must be shared
across multiple contexts (for example, the ones in which the literary work is
appropriated and praised as a classic).
Recent research (Berkers, 2009; van Venrooij and Schmutz, 2010) finds that,
along with their distinctive features, the VOC of an artwork is woven into a

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11

Presenting the world republic of letters as a world literary field centered in Paris, Casanova (1999)
argues that Latin American writers (including Garca Mrquez) only became successful internationally after coming to Paris. Santana (2000) demonstrates that their coming to Spain was far more
decisive. Contra Casanova, others favor the existence of multiple centers (Janssen et al, 2008) and the
critical intervention of actors and organizations beyond the publishing industry (Mukherjee, 2010).

12

An exception is Tompkins (1985).

13

Readers aware of (or not interested in) the historicity of some of the conditions underlying the
collective valuation of a given literary work as a classic can skip this section.

14

They differ from Bennetts historical universal (2005), which he uses to amend the lack of
diachronicity in field theory.

15

Change of conditional universals is not generational but epochal the redefinition of the parameters
structuring an entire valuation system, what in return affects how people perceive art. This assertion is
indebted to Baxandalls period eye (1972), although his ocular approach says nothing about
parameters applicable to literature.

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larger cultural fabric, and that actors and organizations cannot construct by
themselves the value of a literary classic. Although value is contingent, allusions
to the endurance of certain literary classics serve to hide its contingencies (Smith,
1983; Bourdieu, 1992; Pavel, 2003). Literary classics are imagined as highly
valuable cultural objects because they speak to all people across all periods and
embod[y] universal human truths (Corse, 1997, p. 8). In reality, as Corse argues,
the literary classic has no universal value that makes readers more vulnerable to
the story. Rather, they are vulnerable to the prevailing discourse about the socalled universal that such a story indexes better than competing stories. As Smith
(1983) emphasizes, this discourse underlying the formation of artistic value
(including that of long-lasting cultural objects) descends with remarkable
continuity from Hume and Kant.16
For the sake of analytical clarity, conditional universals are here grouped
in three interrelated and porous levels.17 At the micro level, (1) the literary
classic tends to frame plots as clashes between individuals and/or between
collectivities more than against supernatural forces or because of divine
will18 (Bloom, 1994; Pavel, 2003); (2) upon reading, the literary classic is
supposed to reveal self-evident truths about human life (which were once
the prerogative of religious texts), and its characters and situations are
supposed to provide a moral repository of exogenous experiences that
readers can use to frame and make sense of collective and life-course events
(Williams, 1983); and (3) literary classics contain facts that provide empirical
demonstration or grounded knowledge about human affairs, even if these
facts may allude (but not in ontological terms) to non-earthly realities
(Chartier, 1996).
At the meso level, (1) the literary classic contributes to the development of
literature19 as an autonomous domain of knowledge about human experience
16

Such continuity is not exclusive to literature. In music and painting the exaltation of certain artists
and artworks as classics popularized in the late eighteenth century (Haskell, 1980; Weber, 1986;
Dowd et al, 2002). The notion of classic as an artwork of universal value was formulated then
(Tompkins, 1985).

17

This inventory is not comprehensive. Here it aims to emphasize a plurality of historically situated
processes, representations and practices that (1) can underlie the classicization of a literary work and
(2) are also beyond or not entirely under the control of the VOC that produced the literary work. The
inventory is the result of several rounds of adjustments between the preliminary theoretical
hypothesis, key works on the history of the modern novel and the emergence of the domain of
literature, and the findings related to OHYS.

18

This literary secularization of human experience includes, from the eighteenth century onwards in the
West, (1) the retreat of mystery and mystical narratives (for example, Bunyans The Pilgrims
Progress, Teresa of vilas Interior Castle), (2) the shift from stereotypes (for example, the red fox in
Le Roman de Renard) to characters (for example, Emma Bovary), and (3) the retrospective
secularization of providential forces that played a key role in pre-literature classics (for example,
Homers Odyssey, Sophocles Oedipus the King, Dantes Divine Comedy).

19

Since its introduction in the early nineteenth century, the term literature retains an impressive
semantic stability (Williams, 1983). Fine arts and classical music became popular terms in the same
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(Escarpit, 1986; Schmidt, 1991)20; (2) the domain of literature replaced that of
belles-lettres and claims to generate universal and recognizable analogues of inner
and collective life, while also having become a tool for imposed universalism
(Western Judeo-Christian tradition) and genealogical reinvention, so that preliterature works (for example, the Iliad, Romeo and Juliet) can be imagined as
classics of literature (Escarpit, 1986); and (3) the literary classic reaffirms the
centrality of the auteur, a social character with no precedence before the
emergence of literature (Bourdieu, 1992, p. 115). The auteur occupies a distinguished position in the modern division of labor, which is open to upward
mobility upon display of individual traits (talent, distinctive style, and so on).
At the macro level, (1) the artist not the divine is presented as the secular
Creator of the artwork, which must be the pure expression of her individual
genius (Baxandall, 1972; Tompkins, 1985); (2) the literary classic better indexes
how modern individuals have come to perceive, understand and valuate artworks
mainly via categories of anthropocentric rather than providential thinking
(Foucault, 1980); and (3) the transfer of cultural authority from religious to
secular organizations facilitated the development of an art industry around the
classic based on the capitalist logic of maximizing profit (Chartier, 1996). Thus,
the classic stands as a profitable commodity whose components are reproducible
and marketable in different formats and arenas.
In the domain of literature these conditional universals structure the
vernacular and non-vernacular contexts in which the valuation of literary
works as classics occurs. As this article shows, they are found in the classicization of OHYS. Readers and other actors do not routinely test the conditional
universals that compel them to value a literary work as a classic; instead they
become part of tacit understandings and agreements not to attempt to
explicate what is taken for granted (Collins, 1981, p. 985). Actors read literary
works and imagine some as classics via conditional universals that are not
entirely of their choosing but have internalized over time. To explain how
internalization occurs I turn to indexicals.

On Meaningfulness: To Be or Not To Be as a Literary Indexical


In everyday life, rather than solid structures, actors encounter a vast tapestry of
indexicals. The indexical is a contextually21 dependent reference, the concretization of the functioning of structural forces that remain invisible to the naked
period (Weber, 1986; Heinich, 1990). The three channeled an epochal change in understanding art
(see footnote 15).

108

20

The development of literature is linked to that of the novel a technology of the self, which is capable
of generating secular space-time (Pavel, 2003).

21

Not to be confused with contextualism. By context here I mean context of use by actors.

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eye.22 There are multiple types of indexicals (Fontdevila, 2010) and they can form
orders (Silverstein, 2003). At its simplest level, this, here, now and yesterday,
among others, are indexical expressions that depend on the larger context in which
they are uttered not for the definition of their unequivocal meaning but for the
achievement of operational communication (Bar-Hillel, 1954; Silverstein, 1976).23
Similarly, in literature, Sanchos those over there are not giants but windmills,
Odysseuss helpless reaction to the Sirens song, or Hamlets to be or not to be
operate as indexical expressions whose meanings remain contested but whose
meaningfulness enables effective communication about literature and everyday life
(Bange, 1986). Expressions such as these index the conditional universals structuring the domain of literature. Their repeated usage and recognition lead to the
creation of patterns of shared meaningfulness that communities can recognize
across different organizational contexts. As the analysis of OHYS revealed, literary
classics seem to produce at least four of these patterns: lived experience,
universalization, artistic commensuration and entrenched criticism.
In sociology, despite the contribution of ethnomethodologists (Garfinkel,
1967, 2002; Rouncefield and Tolmie, 2011), the analytical potential of indexicals
remains untapped (Fontdevila, 2010). In particular, ethnomethodology bypasses
that the meanings of a text can be detached from local contexts of interpretation
(Smith, 1983, p. 266). Garfinkel (2002, p. 113) claimed that the properties of
indexical expressions are only locally and endogenously witnessable. My
research on literary classics reveals the opposite; the properties of indexical
expressions in literature can be non-locally and externally witnessable.
It is worth emphasizing that the use of an indexical expression does not imply a
fixed meaning for what is indexed (for example, to be or not to be); rather the
indexical expression stabilizes the collective recognition of what is indexed as
meaningful over time and across national and cultural boundaries, namely, it
stabilizes, for instance, to be or not to be as a meaningful expression. Thus, the
distinction between meaningfulness and meaning is crucial because the former
seems to precede the latter. Operational communication is possible without the
hearers complete discovery of the meaning of the utterance but not the opposite.
In other words, actors can admit that to be or not to be is meaningful without
agreeing on its meaning and still communicate among themselves effectively.
The analytical distinction between meaning and meaningfulness has often been
unspecified in sociology of art it was not part of the moves in sociology of
literature in the 1990s (Griswold, 1993). Liebes and Katz (1990) explore how
the meaning of the TV series Dallas was exported to 90 countries. Aware that the
diversity of meanings in foreign contexts of reception was not an obstacle for the
22

The icon represents a similar kind of symbolic condensation (Alexander, 2010, p. 11). Whereas the
analysis of icons seeks to capture how meaning manifests through materiality, the indexical analysis
offered here pays attention to the material and non-material structures of meaningfulness.

23

The linkage between indexicals and meaning remains under debate in linguistics (Giorgi, 2010).
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series transnational success, they have to explain such a success by vaguely


referring to the universality of some of its themes and formulae (ibid, p. 5). In
short, they admit that larger principles and conditions provide the transcending and
appropriated cultural object with stability despite the multiplicity of its local
meanings. Shively (1992) must refer to shared meaningfulness to explicate how
dissimilar audiences found several Western films meaningful for discussion in spite
of the divergent meanings attributed to them. Similarly, in analyzing how literary
elites in the West Indies, United States and Great Britain constructed meaning from
a group of Lammings novels, Griswold (1987) finds that the selected novels retain
coherence despite their multiple meanings. Although she alludes to underlying
shared presuppositions in the three Anglophone societies, she does not specify
how the novels coherence could emerge out of many diverse meanings and why
they were not appropriated by non-literary elites and non-Anglophone societies, so
that Lammings works could become cultural objects of long-lasting value.24
In response to these limitations, the solid ground underneath the shifting sands
of meaning is attracting the attention of sociologists of art (Halsz et al, 2002;
Fuente, 2007; Domnguez Rubio, 2012). In particular, Hennion (1993) and
DeNora (2000, p. 32) have studied processes of stabilization, but they oddly
seek to stabilize meaning instead of meaningfulness. Yet Godart and White
(2010) confirm that the distinction between meaning and meaningfulness exists
and is sociologically important. Not only is meaningfulness prior to meaning
(a given object must be meaningful to render meanings possible) but also meaning
needs to travel (that is, to undergo transcendence) in order to thrive. And what
permits meaning to travel are socio-cultural formations that exist across
contexts, and are not context-dependent (ibid, p. 577). Conditional universals
in literature epitomize this type of socio-cultural formations.
Abduction an untested explanation for an observed phenomenon makes it
possible to better distinguish between meaning and meaningfulness. Reworking
Peirces contribution (1965, 2.2832.291 and 3.4603.463), Eco (1984) and
Holland (cited in Gell, 1998) agree that abduction needs a delimited context of
rules. Within that context, abduction operates as a particular type of synthetic
inference that permits actors to fill the gap between the perceived fact (for example,
Samsas transformation into a monstrous insect) and the inference made by the
actor seeking to grasp the meaning of such a fact (for example, the actors untested
explanation of Samsas transformation). As in other arenas of everyday life,
abduction occurs in art appreciation and is conveyed via indexicals (Gell, 1998).
Why is indexing so pervasive? If we accept that human cognitive capacity is
limited and reality is too complex for [actors] to have to renegotiate all of it (or
even very much of it) all the time (Collins, 1981, pp. 1012 and 996), using
24

110

As of November 2013, Lamming has authored nine books, of which according to the national
library catalogues of France, Spain and Germany - only two, one and two have been translated into
each language, respectively.

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indexical expressions allows actors to cut, negotiate and internalize reality into
more manageable pieces (the act of abduction), without losing sight of larger
structural principles (for example, conditional universals) upon which the activity
they are engaged with relies (for example, their valuation of a literary work as a
classic).
As found in other cultural objects (Witkin, 1997; DeNora, 2000), literary
indexicals based on classics are profoundly embedded in the fabric of our everyday
life and imagined history. Before opening Hamlet, prospective readers might have
encountered indexical expressions referring to the play in multiple formats (advertisements, movies, jokes, and so on), locations (shops, public transportation
systems, bars, and so on) and epochs (Levine, 1984). Thus, readers can continue to
imagine that, for instance, to be or not to be indexes something meaningful about
the way individuals and collectives conduct (or ought to conduct) their lives within
the established context of conditional universals.
Via indexicals the structuring influence of conditional universals becomes
empirically concrete. The production of indexicals is then at the heart of the
classicization of a literary work. And tracing the transformation into literary
indexicals of certain sentences (for example, the opening of OHYS), events (for
example, Remedioss ascent to heaven) or settings (for example, Macondo)
allows us to observe the disembedding of an artwork from its VOC. Unlike other
artworks, classics, in being disembedded from their VOC, produce indexicals
that reach farther geographically and historically.
Finally, indexical analysis could complement phenomenological and cultural
studies of reception. Not only by reaffirming the importance of the contingent
fabrication of meaning (Griswold, 1987) and the implied readers discovery of
the meaning of the text (Iser, 1974), but also by isolating patterns of shared
meaningfulness. The strategy of finding such patterns can serve to construe more
stable interpretations about cultural objects with fluid meanings and to delimit a
bedrock of sociological analysis beneath multiple layers of meaning.

Methods and Data


The empirical research reported here took place at Harvard University (United
States), University of La Laguna (Spain) and Luis ngel Arango (Colombia)
libraries. It relied on primary and secondary sources selected from the catalogs
of these libraries, ProQuest.com, Google.com, LexisNexis.com and the five
bibliographical guides to Garca Mrquez, which contain over 4900 items and
cover the period 19472007 (Fau, 1980; Fau and Gonzlez, 1986; Gonzlez,
1994, 2003, [s.d.]). In addition, I collected data (N = 5476) from readers
comments in nine languages posted on online bookstore websites in 18
countries during an 18-year period (19962013).
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To clarify the pressure towards the disembeddedness of OHYS by non-VOCs,


I divided the analysis into 10 disembeddings. Two are also documented with
figures. Figure 1, reproduced with the permission of Ferrer (2012) and based on
quantitative and qualitative analysis of bibliometric indicators, shows the
transnational success of magical realism the genre that OHYS has come to
epitomize globally (Siskind, 2012). And, by counting the official foreign translations of OHYS between 1968 and 2001, Figure 2 suggests that after 1973 the
novels VOC could no longer control its circulation and meanings.
The data on literary indexicals aim to provide patterned and qualitative evidence
of the classicization of OHYS.25 The data illustrate how different audiences
have agreed on indexing six elements of the novel, making them meaningful
over the years and across national and cultural boundaries, while continuing to
disagree about their precise meanings. Of the six elements, I selected three (author,
OHYS and Macondo) beforehand and the other three indexicals inductively26
as I was researching primary and secondary sources and paying attention to those
whose meaningfulness has stabilized since 1967 across countries and audiences.
Data on indexicals were collected from 56 countries and they were produced by
six audiences (writers, non-literary artists, critics, scholars, public figures and
common readers) in up to 11 different formats (from printed to audiovisual to
digital sources). I selected data on the first five audiences from a sample of primary
and secondary sources included in the abovementioned bibliographical guides. The
sample (N = 822) favored as much as possible the diversity of actors, organizations, countries and formats (for example, books, articles, reviews, news, and so
on). In the same vein, I collected data on common readers from secondary sources,
but especially from an underexploited source: reviews posted between 1996 and 5
January 2013 in eight online bookstores, including the 10 countries27 with
Amazon stores (N = 4910), Barnes & Noble (United States; N = 143 reviews),
Feltrinelli (Italy; N = 31), la Casa del Libro (Spain; N = 207), FNAC (France,
Portugal and Spain; N = 48), Gandhi (Mexico; N = 35), Tematika (Argentina;
N = 11) and Ozun (Russia; N = 91).
The credibility of readers comments posted on online bookstores is
debatable. Yet the selected comments on OHYS come from readers in
18 countries during a two-decade period. Although I ignored doubtful data, it
is important to point out that even ill-intentioned comments and forged book
reviews are also culturally patterned practices, and thus they are analytically

112

25

The full dataset can be found in Online Appendix A at http://www.palgrave-journals.com/ajcs/v2/n1/


index.html.

26

Since I treated literary indexicals as abductive inferences made by different actors participating in the
domain of literature, then, following Peirce (1965, 2.776 and 7.218), induction seemed the most
reliable method to test the validity of abductive reasoning.

27

Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom and United States,
plus Amazon en espaol.

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relevant since they can contribute to make an artwork more or less meaningful
than others.
Rather than a quantitative display of how frequently a particular meaning
appears, the data on literary indexicals (N = 282) are displayed in Online
Appendix A qualitatively and chronologically. The goal is to capture emerging
patterns of appropriation across organizational contexts for the selected literary
indexicals. This yearly qualitative display permitted me to show more forcefully
how multiple audiences have come to consider a book element meaningful while
continuing to disagree upon its meaning.28

A Summary of the Novel and the Analysis


OHYS narrates the story of seven generations of the Buenda family, whose
trajectory parallels the fate of their village: Macondo. Founded by the familys
patriarch in a remote region, Macondo became the scenario of rising violence, a
bloody strike and civil wars. It experienced natural and magical catastrophes and
events. Finally, it underwent rapid modernization, and an apocalyptic decay soon
followed. As prophesized by a manuscript that generations of Buendas tried to
decipher, a hurricane destroyed Macondo after the last Buenda was born with a
pigs tail.
The analysis that follows shows that, since the 1970s, OHYS has transcended
its VOC and has been appropriated by successive non-VOCs, whose multiple
actors and organizations (1) agree on the novels meaningfulness and (2) continue
to discuss the meanings of its contents, contributing to the production of literary
indexicals and the collective fabrication of OHYSs value as a literary classic.

The Background: The VOC of OHYS


The vernacular context in which OHYS emerged encompasses actors, artistic
relations, values and meanings, market forces and organizational practices scattered across Latin America (especially Mexico and Argentina), Spain, United
States and France between the late 1920s and the mid-1960s.29
Between 1948 and 1967, Gabriel Garca Mrquez (Colombia, b. 1927)
worked as a journalist, scriptwriter and adman, which permitted him to internalize critical writing skills. During those years, he also joined six groups of
artists in four countries (Colombia, France, Venezuela and Mexico), which
28

See Online Appendix B, for full information on the primary and secondary sources used as data on
literary indexicals at http://www.palgrave-journals.com/ajcs/v2/n1/index.html.

29

The VOC of OHYS is analyzed in detail in Santana-Acua (2014).


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nurtured his literary skills and granted him privileged access to several art worlds
and their gatekeepers. Of critical importance was a group known as la mafia in
Mexico City (Martin, 2009). This group facilitated Garca Mrquezs transformation into an auteur, for it provided him with a safety net that enabled his
undertaking of literature as a full-time job. OHYS, a novel he started 15 years
before but failed to complete for artistic and organizational reasons, became his
first fully professional literary project (meso #3).30
Garca Mrquez moved to Mexico City in 1961 when it was emerging as a
Latin American cultural center, attracting resources from international artistic,
political and economic establishments. This milieu promoted the artistic movement the so-called Boom31 that catapulted Latin American literature. Boom
novels became trendy and easily marketable, international commodities for the
consumption of specific audiences (Rodrguez Monegal, 1972). By 1967, when
OHYS was published, Garca Mrquezs ties had evolved into robust and
multiple networks (friendship, peers, artistic and organizational) in Latin
America, North America, France and Spain, which contributed to the immediate
visibility and early success of OHYS (Garca Mrquez, 2001; Martin, 2009).
Furthermore, the Boom coincided with the modernization of the book industry
in the Spanish-speaking world. It modernized more rapidly in Spain, where the
number of literary titles published increased by 327 per cent between 1959 and
1976 four times the world average (Santana, 2000). This booming capitalist
industry (macro #3) promoted the production of OHYS, released by Sudamericana press in Buenos Aires when the book industry in Spanish reached its
publishing climax of the decade.
Finally, OHYS appeared at a moment of dislocation of literary styles. Readers
and publishers were looking for alternatives to the decline of social realism in
Spain and French nouveau roman internationally (Vargas Llosa, 1971; Santana,
2000). A transnational audience for the innovative Boom novel emerged throughout the 1960s and OHYS was marketed to such an audience.

Disembeddings: The Transcendence of OHYS


From the early 1970s onwards OHYS progressively became a disembedded literary
work circulating across multiple non-VOCs having no share in its production. This
does not mean that the VOC of OHYS abruptly stopped being instrumental in its
promotion. Rather, the linkage between the book and its VOC has become more
tenuous over the years as non-vernacular actors and organizations have appropriated the book and its contents. This process has occurred as a cumulative series

114

30

Henceforth I will refer to the three levels of conditional universals in parentheses.

31

Boom became the most widely used term to refer to the Latin American literary movement that
flourished transnationally in the 1960s (Donoso, 1972).

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Publications per year

35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
1955

1986

Spanish America

General and Theoretical Studies

1996

2006
Rest of the World

Figure 1: References to magical realism in the Modern Language Association Database (1955, 19762007).
Source: Ferrer (2012).

of disembeddings, each possessing its own temporality and none being capable of
accounting for the classicization of OHYS when analyzed in isolation.32
Aesthetic disembedding
As shown for Italian canzone dautore (Santoro, 2002), the construction of an
aesthetic category is crucial to disembed a cultural object from its VOC. Since the
mid-1970s transnational audiences agreed in collectively imagining OHYS as
inaugurating a new literary category: magical realism. As the success and
visibility of OHYS continued, the aesthetic program that magical realism
epitomized became a disembedded transnational genre, an aesthetic form easily
translatable to the most diverse cultural locations (Siskind, 2012, p. 861). The
contents of magical realism (a term coined in the 1920s) were already spreading
in the 1950s throughout Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and the United
States among writers, publishers, scholars and the intelligentsia. But they only
became a novelty for the cultural industry and mass readers after the release of
OHYS.33 By the late 1980s, according to the Modern Language Association
Database, references to magical realism increased and since the mid-1990s
continued to grow (Figure 1). Simultaneously, readers, writers and scholars
located in diverse non-VOCs began to imagine magical realism as a universal
tendency (scholar Seymour Menton cited in Siskind, 2012, p. 859).
32

In addition, the different temporality of each disembedding serves to underscore that the divide
between the pre-classicization and the classicization stages cannot be strictly delimited, and that the
connection between both is not necessarily linear. Rather, both stages overlap for a limited amount of
time. In the case of OHYS, this overlap was evident from the 1970s to the mid-1980s, when OHYSs
VOC was facing progressive pulls for disembeddedness from the 10 arenas analyzed in this section.

33

Clear aesthetic similarities with OHYS are found in Los Sangurimas (1933), a novella by Ecuadorian
writer Jos de la Cuadra (19031941). Like OHYS, the novella uses modernist narrative techniques
and narrates the decline of a family living in a recondite and magic region separated from civilization.
Counterfactually, had Los Sangurimas (still widely unknown in Latin America) been published after
the mid-1950s and become a contemporary of Carpentiers The Lost Steps (1953) or Rulfos Pedro
Pramo (1955), it would be considered a classic work of magic realism (Carrin de Fierro, 1993).
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The intervention of non-VOCs disembedded the genre in three stages:


(1) magical realism became a category applied to most new Latin American
literature, (2) it was connected to Third World literature and (3) First World and
postcolonial writers ended up appropriating it as a vernacular development.
OHYS and magical realism have also been disembedded chronologically, so that
the genre has progressively been presented as a much older aesthetic program in the
arts at large. In North America, Latin America and Europe, textbooks, college
readers and scholarly monographs continue to associate magical realism with nonLatin American writers whose works are considered classics (for example, Tolstoy,
Bulgakov, Kafka, Woolf, Faulkner and Calvino) (Zamora and Faris, 1995; Hart
and Ouyang, 2005). Ensuing debates about the definition and boundaries of
magical realism have contributed to its progressive centrality as a transnational and
transhistorical aesthetic category, reinforcing the supposedly universal value of
OHYS as the literary work that most purely exemplifies it (Siskind, 2012).
Publishing industry disembedding
Conflict among actors in the publishing industry can contribute to the transcendence of a cultural object from its VOC (Tompkins, 1985). In the case of OHYS,
such conflict arose in the early 1970s. In 1971 Seix Barral, the promoter of Boom
novels in Spain, split into two presses and discontinued its influential Biblioteca
Breve Prize, awarded mainly to Latin American writers between 1962 and 1971. In
addition, rival presses in Spain began to publish Latin American writers and
magical realist works, while new presses targeted mass-readers (Santana, 2000). In
Latin America, Francisco Porra, literary director of Sudamericana press during
the Boom years, resigned from his post in 1971, when Sudamericana as it
occurred to Seix Barral in Spain was facing increasing market fragmentation and
competition. Thus, by 1971, no single publisher in Spain and Latin America
monopolized the literary avant-garde as Seix Barral and Sudamericana did
throughout the 1960s. This disembedding also affected the subsequent publication
of Garca Mrquezs works. In Spanish-speaking countries, after OHYS, multiple
Latin American and Spanish presses have competed for the publication of his
works (Fau, 1980; Fau and Gonzlez, 1986; Gonzlez, 1994, 2003, [s.d.]).
To monopolize cultural-industry resources, Garca Mrquezs literary agent
Carmen Balcells, self-interested in the maintenance of reputations (Fine, 1996),
marketed Fuentes, Donoso, Garca Mrquez, Cortzar and Vargas Llosa as the
genuine Boom writers since 1968. Yet the group dissolved in 1971 for political
reasons (Martin, 2009). The agency then attracted new writers (for example,
Isabel Allende) that could imitate OHYS and Boom novels. The agency also
profited from OHYSs success to challenge the balance of power between authors
and publishers. In a movement that detached the novel from its original
publisher, the agency liberated the foreign rights of OHYS and negotiated with
European and American publishers independently from Sudamericana. Thus,
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Retreat of OHYSs VOC
50

Nobel Prize

Numberof translations

40

30

20

10

0
1968

1978

1988

1998

Figure 2: Official foreign translations of OHYS (19682001).


Sources: Fau (1980), Fau and Gonzlez (1986), Gonzlez (1994 and 2003) and UNESCO Index Translationum
(2002).

OHYS became available in multiple formats (from trade paperbacks to scholarly


editions) published by competing presses occasionally in the same country (Fau,
1980; Fau and Gonzlez, 1986; Gonzlez, 1994, 2003, [s.d.]). The adoption of
this capitalist publishing strategy (macro #3) has ensured that, since the early
1980s, OHYS remains more visible and available transnationally than competing Boom novels: for example, La casa grande (1962) by Cepeda Samudio
(Colombia); Los albailes (1964) by Vicente Leero (Mexico); Pas porttil
(1968) by Gonzlez Len (Venezuela).
The increase of translations (Heilbron, 1999) is part of the publishing industry
disembedding. In 1971 foreign translations of OHYS doubled and in 1973
tripled. Figure 2 supports the claim that the process of classicization began in the
early 1970s, precisely when the Boom literary movement came to an end and the
publishers that promoted it faced internal decomposition and external competition. The figure also reveals that Garca Mrquezs Nobel Prize in 1982 did not
significantly increase the amount of foreign translations of OHYS.
Network disembedding
When an artwork is produced by an art movement, the disembedding from its
VOC is more likely to occur (Baumann, 2007). As the Boom movement became
more personality- than group-based (Donoso, 1972), (1) tensions and ruptures
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occurred among leading writers (Garca Mrquez versus Asturias; Garca


Mrquez versus Vargas Llosa); (2) the project of the new literary magazine Libre
to replace the CIA-funded Mundo nuevo,34 discontinued in 1971, provoked deep
conflict across three generations of Latin American writers, which was further
fueled by divisive political events (especially the Padilla affair in Cuba in 1971);
and (3) most Boom writers withdrew from the literary movement, toned down
the impact that it had in their professional trajectory and went onto solo careers.
In 1972 Boom member Donoso published the first official history of the
literary movement and Rodrguez Monegal (1972), Mundo nuevos chief editor
until 1968 and a Yale professor in 1972, authored another history of the Boom,
proclaiming it dead. The dissolution of Boom networks, which forcefully
promoted OHYS and other contemporary works, deprived other Boom writers
from receiving similar support. In fact, after OHYS no other Latin American
novel has benefited from analogous support. Thus, network disembedding
empowered the status of OHYS as the quintessential literary work produced by
the network of Boom writers versus competing novels: for example, The Death of
Artemio Cruz (1962) by Fuentes (Mexico); The Time of the Hero (1963) by
Vargas Llosa (Peru); Hopscotch (1963) by Cortzar (Argentina).
Commodity disembedding (the Boom novel)
In 1972 the influential Latin American literary critic Rama and Vargas Llosa
engaged in a debate, initiated by Ramas criticism of Vargas Llosas 1971
important study of OHYS. Their debate was not limited to OHYS and the Boom
novel, but dealt with questions associated with conditional universals: What is
the novel? (meso #1), What is the dynamic that compels and moves someone to
become a novelist? (meso #3) (Rama and Vargas Llosa, 1974). In 1971 and
especially 1972, the first textbooks and comprehensive studies on the most recent
Latin American literature were published in at least five countries (Fau, 1980;
Santana, 2000). In these publications OHYS started to receive important, yet
disparate attention. Simultaneously, the Boom novel entered academia and
became the subject of scholarly research in the late 1960s. The first chairs of
Latin American literature were created in Spain and the United States, as well as
the first academic journals and periodic international conferences. By 1971 the
Latin American novel became (to use Kuhns terminology) normal literature;
authors and their works were canonized and taught at universities internationally
and their language became classic (Donoso, 1972, p. 153). Simultaneously,
OHYS rose in these circles as the quintessential Boom novel (Siskind, 2012).35

118

34

Launched in Paris in 1966 and with up to a 6000 print run, Mundo nuevo aggressively promoted
Latin American literature in and outside the region (Santana, 2000).

35

As in OHYS, the Spanish writer Juan Benet created in Return to Regin (1967) a fictional,
Faulknerian space called Regin. The novel reads as a story about the survival of archaic structures

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Spatial disembedding
Readings of cultural outsiders expand the possibilities of interpretation
(DeVault, 1990). The transnational circulation of OHYS has indeed empowered the development of non-vernacular interpretative strategies (Corse and
Westervelt, 2002) that have disembedded the novel from its precise spatial
coordinates. In Latin America, audiences have tended to imagine OHYS as
epitomizing not just the history of Colombia but that of the entire continent (Vargas Llosa, 1971). In the United States, OHYS was progressively
seen as a story about a banana republic with similarities to Faulkners
American south (Johnson, 1996). In France, readers have imagined it as the
Rabelaisian alternative versus the Cartesian cogitos (Martin, 2009). In Spain,
since the early 1970s, OHYS is said to appeal to the tradition of holistic
novels from the Golden Age (fifteenth to seventeenth centuries) (Santana,
2000) and, in Italy, it started to be marketed as the new Don Quixote
(Martin, 2009). In revolutionary Cuba, the novel was welcomed as a tale
of redemption and revolutionary struggle (Benedetti, 1969). In China,
among other options (Zeng, 2009), readers have connected OHYS to the
eighteenth-century classic Dream of the Red Chamber due to clear similarities
(for example, ample number of characters some of which with identical
names , members from two clans mixing constantly, a very beautiful woman
that exits the novel mysteriously and the overarching story of a declining
family saga). In the Soviet Union, in the late 1970s, readers started linking
OHYS to the nineteenth-century tradition of total novels, updated by
Pasternak and consciously pursued by Boom writers (Vargas Llosa, 1971;
Shaw, 2010), and, after the 1990s, in post-Communist Russia, they have also
linked OHYS to the works of politically repressed writers, such as Bulgakov.
In the 1980s, readers in the rising Third World found it meaningful to frame
the trajectory of Macondo as a story about the Third World at large, like
similar works from contemporary Nigerian, South African and Caribbean
writers (Hart and Ouyang, 2005; Shaw, 2010). Thus, at different points in
time, actors and organizations that had no share in the production of OHYS
have disembedded it from its vernacular spatial context (the Colombian
coastal region) by making it commensurable to non-vernacular literary
traditions and classics.36
and popular beliefs in a context of increasing modernization. Counterfactually, it could be argued
that, despite clear structural similarities, since Return to Regin was not a Latin American Boom
novel, it did not benefit from the same commodification disembedding as OHYS did.
36

As OHYS, the novel Friday, or, The Other Island (1967) by French writer Michel Tournier became
an immediate success, winning the prestigious Grand Prix du roman of the French Academy. It also
obtained high visibility for it was marketed as an original narrative, different from the experimentalism of nouveau roman works. Despite its vernacular success, Friday, unlike OHYS, circulated little
outside France. In 1967, the international literary industry and mass readers demanded not French
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Commensuration disembedding
Over the last four decades, OHYS has become a literary commensurator
(Espeland and Stevens, 2003), used by non-vernacular writers, readers and
organizations to set the boundaries of literary traditions and access to professional resources. In 1971 Vargas Llosa published his 667-page study on OHYS,
which did not simply connect it to other Boom novels but to many literary
classics. Also, in the early 1970s, Latin American writers who did not belong to
the Boom movement began nonetheless to imitate OHYS (Barcia, 2007). In the
1980s, the previous tendency exacerbated, to the point that emerging Latin
American writers found it difficult to publish their work abroad if it did not adapt
to the image of Latin America promoted by magical realism. Indeed, transnational readers and publishers gravitated towards works that emulated OHYS,
such as The House of the Spirits (1982) and Like Water for Chocolate (1989),
which became international best-selling novels and then movie blockbusters
(Siskind, 2012). Consequently, since the 1980s, actors and institutions in distant
organizational contexts forced Latin American writers seeking a professional
reputation to define their identity in agreement with OHYS (for example,
Skrmeta, Allende, Esquivel, Seplveda) or in opposition to it (for example, Saer,
Vallejo, Fuguet, Bolao). This tendency shows no signs of receding after
four decades. Nowadays, emerging writers in Colombia (for example, Ospina,
Faciolince, J. Franco) are expected to perpetuate Garca Mrquezs legacy, while
subsequent generations of Latin American writers since the mid-1970s continue
to retain in their branding a semantic hint alluding to the Boom and OHYS: for
example, McOndo, Mini-Boom, Crack, the Newest Ones, Baby Boo, the PostBoom and Boomerang. Outside Latin America, since the late 1970s, influential
writers have acknowledged the influence of OHYS and Boom movement on their
work (for instance, Eco, Kundera, Rushdie, Morrison, Gordimer, Mo Yan)
(Johnson, 1996; Martin, 2009; Shaw, 2010; Siskind, 2012).
Non-artistic organizations disembedding
Before 1967 Garca Mrquezs works attracted little academic interest (Figure 3).
If the inclusion of a literary work in educational curricula and history of literature
textbooks seeks to prove that its value is enduring (van Rees, 1983, p. 400), then
non-vernacular organizations such as universities and secondary schools
(Lamont, 1992; Verboord and van Rees, 2009) have actively contributed to
disembed OHYS from its VOC by making it available to new generations in
different countries and cultural regions (Fau, 1980; Fau and Gonzlez, 1986;
Gonzlez, 1994, 2003). In addition, since research on certain topics and works is
but Latin American literature. In a declining and saturated market for nouveau roman works, postnouveau roman novels like Friday failed to undergo spatial disembedding.
120

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250

Publications per year

200
Book reviews of GM's books
Interviews
Short articles
Dissertations & theses
Articles
Chapters & sections
Books

150

100

50

0
1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995

Figure 3: Bibliography on Garca Mrquez and his works (19501997).


Sources: Fau (1980), Fau and Gonzlez (1986) and Gonzlez (1994).
Note: The Gonzlez ([s.d.]) online Bibliographic Guide to Gabriel Garcia Mrquez was not used for the period
19972013 because it is not comprehensive and has not been updated since 2007.

more prone to attract major funding resources, increase book sales and bolster
academic careers (Lamont, 2009), from the mid-1970s to the present, scholars
continue to find it profitable to work on OHYS (macro #3), thus contributing to
its attainment of long-lasting value. Indeed, after skyrocketing in the 1970s,
academic interest in Garca Mrquez stabilized in the mid-1980s (Figure 3).
In Spanish-speaking countries, prestigious publishers Espasa-Calpe in 1982
and Ctedra in 1984 released critical editions of OHYS. In English-speaking
countries, Garca Mrquez and OHYS became the subject of two refurbished
editions of Harold Blooms influential Modern critical views (1989 and 2007)
and Blooms Modern Critical Interpretations series (2003 and 2009). In addition,
the Modern Language Association published a guide containing different teaching approaches to OHYS, which continues to be in print (Valds and Valds,
1990). New textbooks and anthologies include OHYS in Great Books programs
and in connection to world classics, and international conferences on OHYS take
place regularly (Martin, 2009). These diachronic developments fueled by nonartistic organizations have ensured the emergence of multiple options to imagine
OHYS as an artwork of universal value.37
Ideological disembedding
As Madame Bovary led to Bovarism (Bourdieu, 1992), in the mid-1970s, OHYS
was accused of having created Macondism. Similar to Edward Saids critique of
37

Yet the non-artistic organizations disembedding cannot by itself guarantee that a literary work will be
collectively imagined as a classic. For instance, in his list of Western canonical works, Bloom (1994)
includes Paradiso (1967) by Cuban writer Lezama Lima. Paradiso, like OHYS, became highly visible
upon its publication and continues to attract the attention of world-leading scholars like Bloom. Such
non-artistic organizations disembedding has secured its value as a canonical literary work, but not as
a classic (cf. Corse and Griffin, 1997; Corse and Westervelt, 2002).
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Orientalism, Macondism has become a widespread (and contested) collective


representation of Latin America as an exotic land of antediluvian nature, people
of biblical age and virgins ascending to heaven (Fuguet and Gmez, 1996).
International critics of Macondism argue that OHYS contains no literary facts
but rather ideology (micro #3).38 Yet the enduring impact of Macondism has
influenced the creation of anti-OHYS literary movements in the mid-1980s (for
example, the McOndo Generation) and, in the last 10 years, the development of
popular initiatives such as attempts to rename Garca Mrquezs hometown
Macondo (inspired by the case of Prousts hometown) and transforming his
childhood home (which inspired the one in OHYS) into a national monument
and museum (Martin, 2009).

Authorial disembedding
As detected for van Gogh (Heinich, 1991) and Beethoven (DeNora, 1995), mass
media coverage and scholarly research on Garca Mrquez show signs of
branding since the late 1970s and above all have recently shifted from biography
to hagiography (macro #1).39 By now, although contested, equating Garca
Mrquez to Cervantes has become standard practice (Martin, 2009). Multiple
non-vernacular audiences and organizations have intervened to construct and
perpetuate his reputation as a genius. Since 1967 a deluge of distinctions, honors
and international prizes including the 1982 Nobel Prize in literature have
bolstered authorial disembedding. Garca Mrquez has not simply become
a literary public figure but an individual-organization (cf. Lamont, 1987;
Bartmanski, 2012); not simply an artist but a celebrity, diplomat and broker in
international political conflicts. In 2007 the Spanish Royal Academy of Language
celebrated the 40th anniversary of OHYS by publishing an inexpensive, bestselling edition, with a new text revised by the author. (It was the second title of an
ongoing collection of Spanish classics inaugurated with Don Quixote.) In sum,
the authorial disembedding has institutionalized a reputation (Fine, 1996) that is
not under the control of a particular organizational context.
As analyzed with more detail in the following section, another disembedding
can be labeled as material. As suggested for icons (Alexander, 2010), this kind of
disembedding reveals that meaningfulness can manifest through materiality.
Indeed, references to OHYS have spread across other cultural objects: music
(for example, Banana Co. by Radiohead (United Kingdom, 1996; rock),
Florencia en el Amazonas by Daniel Catn (Mexico-United States, 1996; opera),

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38

Such accusations have also been made against Carpentiers The Kingdom of this World (1949). But
this novella did not undergo ideological disembedding; it is merely presented as a forerunner of
OHYSs magical realism.

39

Contemporary sources (Piazza, 1968) suggest that, at the time, the rising Latin American star in
international literary circles was not Garca Mrquez but Jos Donoso (Martin, 2009).

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Macondo Express by Modena City Rambler (Italy, 1997; folk), Macondo by


Juan Vicente Torrealba (Venezuela, s.d.; merengue)), blockbuster films (Sorcerer
(1977), Pans Labyrinth (2006), Life of Pi (2012)), and plastic arts. These
references to a literary work of long-lasting value like OHYS can attract the
attention of potential customers of such cultural objects and thus lead to a larger
profit for their makers (macro #3). However, makers do not always acknowledge
that OHYS is the original source of inspiration, which contributes to further
disembed the novel from its VOC.
In conclusion, the 10 arenas analyzed in this section have progressively
empowered the disembeddedness of OHYS from its VOC and its circulation
across countries and cultural regions that did not have a share in its production.
Since the mid-1970s, this transnational circulation has weakened (and in some
cases erased) the linkage between OHYS and its VOC. Rather, OHYS now
belongs to a larger socio-cultural formation encompassing multiple non-VOCs.
Although some disembeddings (for example, commodity and network) were
more influential in the 1970s and others have gained force in the following
decade (for example, non-artistic organizations), this section found that (1) no
disembedding, when analyzed in isolation, can determine the process of classicization and (2) OHYS (and the definition of its artistic value) is no longer under
the control of a particular organizational context.

Literary Indexicals: Patterns in the Appropriation of OHYS


By focusing on the text itself, this section details how a cultural object can acquire
meanings that go beyond the ones originally intended by its creator and, more
importantly, beyond the meanings available in the cultural objects VOC (cf.
Santoro, 2002). Hence, this section documents how different book elements in
OHYS despite their contested, shifting and malleable meanings have become
meaningful across national and cultural boundaries after 1967 and how, in the
process, these elements have become indexicals of the literary value of OHYS
as a classic. The six elements under analysis are: Macondo (the novels setting), the
author, the novel as a whole, its opening sentence, its style (magical realism) and
Remedioss ascent to heaven (this last element serves to jointly analyze a character
and an event). To support the analysis, the data presented in this section comprise 56
countries and 47 years (19671973). (For the full dataset, see Online Appendix A).
Rather than a disorderly array of meanings, the data revealed four patterns of
appropriation of the six book elements under analysis. These patterns are lived
experience, universalization, artistic commensuration and entrenched criticism.40
Lived experience refers to transnational audiences use of book elements as
indexicals of current and individual events. Universalization refers to audiences
40

As the analysis shows, these four patterns can overlap in particular book elements.
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transformation of book elements into indexicals that are supposed to have


universal reach. Artistic commensuration is the pattern that equates book
elements to those found in other cultural objects (especially classics). And
entrenched criticism refers to the pattern that, since 1967 to the present, compels
audiences to index OHYS book elements in order to express their negative views
about the novel. This pattern is particularly revealing because it demonstrates
that sustained negative attention can be reputation-building (Collins and
Guilln, 2012, p. 539) and thus it can be pivotal to stabilize the long-lasting
value of a cultural object. In fact, such criticism keeps making the cultural object
more visible decades after its production and also after its VOC might cease to
exist. This is why the indexical analysis presented in this section is primarily
concerned with identifying agreement about meaningfulness (which reveals the
existence of an underlying indexical order), despite the existence of disagreements
about the meanings of the book elements under analysis.
These four patterns show how indexical usage can contribute to the making of
macro-sociological orders (Silverstein, 2003). Precisely, because, as the data
show, OHYS book elements are used to index conditional universals involved in
fabricating the classic value of a literary work. In other words, the six elements
have become not only qualities intrinsic to the text but also extrinsic; namely,
non-vernacular audiences (common readers, literary scholars, critics, writers,
public figures and organizations) use them to make sense of literature and areas
beyond literature. The data on indexicals are, in sum, offered as diachronic and
qualitative evidence on how these audiences have fabricated the value of OHYS
as a literary classic.41
Macondo: A fictional Colombian village becomes universal
Over the past 47 years, actors and organizations in four continents have imagined
the meaning of Macondo in multiple and conflicting ways, while stabilizing its
meaningfulness via lived experience, universalization, artistic commensuration
and entrenched criticism.
Lived experience
Audiences have used Macondo to index current events. Argentine writer
Anderson Imbert (See Online Appendix A, Table 1, Macondo, 1976) and US
scholar Peter Earle (ibid, 1981) indexed Macondo to express their views on the
fate of Latin America in the 1970s, back then immersed in dictatorships and
41

124

Some readers might find puzzling that in this section I placed expert criticism alongside lay criticism.
This analytical strategy seeks to support the findings of recent studies (Baumann, 2001; Bromberg
and Fine, 2002; Allen and Lincoln, 2004; Bennett et al, 2009), which minimize the influence experts
(especially, critics and other gatekeepers) can have in shaping the long-lasting value of a cultural
object. Furthermore, placing together both kinds of criticism invites readers to consider a more
horizontal, interdependent relationship between the two.

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rising violence. Similarly, a Nicaraguan writer reported that a Sandinista guerrilla


leader used Macondo as his war name in the 1980s (ibid, 1992) when the violent
clashes between the Sandinistas and the Contras attracted international attention.
In disembedding Macondos meaning from its VOC, Japanese writer Kb Abe
argued that Macondo is no longer a region but has become a contemporary
question (ibid, 1983). A similar indexical connection between Macondo and
current affairs was established by Durden-Smith, an English filmmaker living in
Russia after the fall of communism. He found it meaningful to rename Moscow
as Moscow-Macondo. For him, the capital of the recently created Russian
Federation was the theater of the absurd on the Moscow river (ibid, 1994). This
pattern linking Macondo to events with global resonance has continued in
recent years. As the media reported widely, the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of
Mexico occurred in the Macondo well (ibid, 2010 and 2013), which was named
as such by a group of engineers in a BP facility in Texas in 2008. In addition, the
meaningfulness of the fictional Macondo has manifested itself through materiality by serving as the name of a Spanish tarot (ibid, 1999), a Latin American
literary movement, McOndo (ibid, 1996), an American foundation (ibid, 1998)
and a soccer ball (currently used by the Colombian National Football Team
during the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches). Finally, other audiences
have preferred to index Macondo itself as a real place: for instance, Spanish
writer Benet (ibid, 1969), French politician Franois Mitterrand (ibid, 1975) or
an Amazon Canada reader (ibid, 2002), while for others it is a space to escape
from reality (as a Ukrainian reader put it (ibid, 2001)). The persistence of the
lived experience pattern has particularly contributed to the spatial and material
disembeddings of OHYS (micro #2), since multiple audiences unrelated to
OHYSs VOC have considered that Macondo is a meaningful way of conveying
information about current affairs and the naming of everyday objects.
Universalization
Another way of disembedding Macondo spatially has been to use it as a
(contentious) indexical of the history of mankind (meso #2). This usage occurs
when audiences disembed references to Macondo from its original literary
context (the novel is set in Colombias Caribbean region) and universalize it.
Already in the early 1970s, rather than a fictional Colombian village, for US critic
Alfred Kazin, Macondo is the place through which all history will pass (ibid,
1972); for English scholar James Higgins, it is a microcosm of a larger world
(ibid, 1990); for Vera Skzcs, a Hungarian translator, Macondo is eternal
(ibid, 1997); and, in 2008, an Amazon Japan reader wrote, it is a microcosm of
human history.42 Similar evidence about the universalization of Macondo was
42

Others, however, oppose universalization and claim that Macondo is just a tiny, fictional Colombian
town as pointed out by a Canadian editor (See Online Appendix A, Table 1, Macondo, 1980),
English writer Angela Carter (ibid, 1982) and German scholar Kutzinski (ibid, 1985).
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found for years 1971, 1978, 2006, 2007 and 2012. Finally, a particular instance
of universalization is the adjective macondiano, which has entered into language
and is spreading (Barcia, 2007). For instance, Colombian politician Bell Lemus
claims that macondiano is a universal adjective, such as quixotic and Kafkaesque (See Online Appendix A, Table 1, Macondo, 2000).
Artistic commensuration
Over the years, the uniqueness of Macondo in literature has emerged as a
meaningful subject of debate. For US scholar, Jos Saldvar, nothing like Macondo
appears in world literature (ibid, 1991) and for Mexican writer Stavans it is a
landmark (ibid, 1993). For others, on the contrary, Macondo presents clear
similarities to modernist classics Ulysses, The Waves or Absalom, Absalom!,
according to US scholar Morton Levitt (ibid, 1986), and to the story of Ancient
Greek heroes the Argonauts, according to Swiss scholar Siebenmann (ibid, 1988).
Furthermore, as early as 1968, audiences started to debate Macondos linkage to
other classic literary settings, such as Prousts Combray, according to a French
journalist (ibid, 2003), the Megalokastro of Greek writer Kazantzakis and the
Kfaryabda of Lebanese writer Maalouf, according to an Australian writer (ibid,
1995), and especially Faulkners Yoknapatawpha County. On this Faulknerian
linkage, for Juan Bosch, a Dominican Republic politician, Macondo has nothing to
do with Yoknapatawpha (ibid, 1968); for Italian scholar Daro Puccini, Macondo
might suggest Faulkners nearby Yoknapatawpha County (ibid, 1989); and for
US writer David Young and scholar Keith Hollaman, the relations between
Faulkners Yoknapatawpha and Garca Mrquezs Macondo are fascinating
to contemplate (ibid, 1984). (On this linkage, see also ibid, 1987 and 2003.)
Thus, over the years and across non-VOCs, a pattern of meaningfulness has
established and made Macondo commensurate to Yoknapatawpha. And this keeps
occurring as the meaning of that commensuration remains contested among
different transnational audiences.43
Entrenched criticism
Paradoxically, since the 1970s, by challenging Macondos reality, universal
reach or literary value, detractors keep contributing to its stability as an indexical.
For instance, Meja Duque, a Colombian critic referred to the plague of
macondism (ibid, 1973) and, three decades, an anonymous Barnes & Noble
reader concluded that Macondo is clearly a world readers fail to directly relate
to (ibid, 2005).
In conclusion, while Macondos meanings remain multiple and shifting, actors
and organizations outside OHYSs VOC have come to agree that indexing
Macondo is a collectively sanctioned way of conveying meaningful information
43

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Macondo also serves as inspiration for peer writers. For instance, literary characters such as Macon
Dead III in Toni Morrisons Song of Solomon (ibid, 1977).

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across cultural and national boundaries about lived experiences, themes perceived as universal, and artistic value.
The author: In everybodys mouth
As in the previous case, indexing Garca Mrquez has progressively become a
meaningful way of positioning oneself in relation to current affairs, discussing
universal human nature, formulating judgments about the history of literature
and critically assessing his actions and literary contribution, which contributes to
long-lasting reputation-building.
Lived experience
Since the mid-1970s, some audiences have preferred to index Garca Mrquez for
his political actions, acknowledging that he has not simply become a literary public
figure but an individual-organization. For instance, during the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile in the 1970s and 1980s, US scholar Anne Taylor hailed Garca
Mrquezs leadership in the campaign against the Chilean fascists (See Online
Appendix A, Table 2, Author, 1975); less than a decade later, the Nobel Prize
Committee in Literature acknowledged that his works reflec[t] a continents life
and conflicts (ibid, 1982); reacting to rising violence in Colombia associated to
the activities of FARC guerrillas and drug cartels, Dutch journalist van Vlerken
wrote that he is the personification of a national conscience in an almost
unconscionable country (ibid, 1996); and Chilean writer Bolao marveled at the
fact that he received Pope John II in his historic visit to communist Cuba in 1998
wearing patent leather boots (ibid, 2004) (see also ibid, 1985). Other audiences
have indexed Garca Mrquezs presence in their lives. Trapped at home during the
siege of Sarajevo, Balkan war refugee Irena Marijanovic read his works, along
with those of Dostoyevsky, several novels by Balzac, Tolstoy, some Hesse, Victor
Hugo (ibid, 1993); his complete works were put at the disposal of members of
an international spaceship crew living in isolation in a spaceship outside
Moscow [while] conducting experiments (ibid, 2011); and Chinese writer Mo
Yan, recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in literature, acknowledged in his Nobel
Lecture Garca Mrquezs influence on his own work (ibid, 2012).
Universalization
A widespread practice is to index Garca Mrquez as the author of One Hundred
Years of Solitude (ibid, 1970, 1972 and 1988), giving preference to that novel
over the rest of his oeuvre. This indexical usage can also include qualifying
words: for example, universally consecrated author of [OHYS] (ibid, 1981) (see
also ibid, 1968). More importantly, this usage is associated with the assessment
of Garca Mrquez and his literary contribution. Shortly after the publication of
OHYS, he was considered a young master (ibid, 1967) and a great writer by
peer writers in Spain (ibid, 1971) and Argentina (ibid, 1974), a Romanian
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translator (ibid, 1978) and former US president Bill Clinton (ibid, 2003) (meso #3).
Yet, since the early 1980s, audiences started to index him in more hagiographic,
universalizing terms (Heinich, 1991) (macro #1). For instance, as the absolute
master, according to Spanish critic Garca Posada (See Online Appendix A,
Table 2, Author, 1994) or as the Master, according to an Amazon.com reader
(ibid, 2010); Each book by [him] is a major literary event, wrote Canadian writer
Margaret Atwood (ibid, 1990); he must live forever, commented an Amazon USA
reader (ibid, 1997); for a Barnes & Noble reader, he is a true literary genius (ibid,
2001); His perception into the human condition is amazing, wrote another Barnes
& Noble reader (ibid, 2002); and a Turkish reader commented that Marquez
cannot be described, he must be experienced (ibid, 2007) (see also ibid, 1980).
Artistic commensuration
Audiences have regularly equated Garca Mrquez to literary characters, like
Madame Bovary (ibid, 1984), and classic writers and artists.44 For Greek translator Sotiriadou-Barajas, he is comparable to Cervantes, Chaucer, Faulkner,
Borges, Camus, Joyce and [classic Greek writer] Kazantzakis (ibid, 1992). For
an Amazon Japan reader, he represents the second coming of Cervantes
(ibid, 2008), while Mexican historian Enrique Krauze indexed Garca Mrquez
to argue exactly the opposite: he is not Cervantes (ibid, 2009). A US writer
compared him to English writer Chaucer and French writer Rabelais (ibid, 1969);
an Italian scholar compared him to Boccaccio (ibid, 2000); and for an
anonymous Amazon Germany reader, he does not write books, he paints books.
His paintings are reminiscent of Picasso (ibid, 2005). As the Boccaccio and
Kazantzakis comparisons show, Italian and Greek actors can embed the reference
to Garca Mrquez in their own organizational context by equating him to
recognizable authors of their own national tradition (for example, Italian or
Greek literature). But this has not always been the case. In fact, there can be
disagreement within the same national context and audience. For instance, rather
than comparing him to a French poet, a French scholar asked whether Garca
Mrquez (a Colombian) would be the successor of Nicaraguan poet Rubn Daro
(ibid, 1979), that is, this scholar opted for a Latin American comparison. And a
couple of French scholars referred to how Garca Mrquez broke away from
Faulknerian tragedy (ibid, 1995), that is, an American comparison.
Entrenched criticism
As pointed out for philosophers such as Kant and Hegel (Collins and Guilln, 2012)
and writers such as Faulkner and Orwell (Schwartz, 1988; Rodden, 2002), the
44

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A more predictable ramification is his adscription to different schools of thought. For Argentine
writer Maturo, Garca Mrquez is a Neo-Platonist (See Online Appendix A, Table 2, Author, 1977),
for Cuban writer Bentez (hinting to postmodernism), he manipulates the Western literary discourse
(ibid, 1987) and, for South African writer and Nobel laureate Coetzee, he is a psychological realist
(ibid, 2006).

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affirmation of a producer as a meaningful figure in the history of her profession also


depends on a long-lasting pattern of negative attention, which can have reputation-building results. The meaning of the indexical Garca Mrquez remains open to
debate, due also to hostile and sustained criticism45 from contemporary and new
generations of writers, critics and readers. Although leading Italian publisher
Feltrinelli promoted OHYS as the new Don Quixote (Martin, 2009), the influential
Italian filmmaker Pasolini wrote that he was a worthless writer (See Online
Appendix A, Table 2, Author, 1973). The member of the Boom novel movement,
Cuban writer Cabrera Infante, reacted to Garca Mrquezs growing fame in the
1980s by deriding him as the nouveau riche that rubs elbows with high-society
(ibid, 1983). Three years later, another member of the Boom, Peruvian writer
Vargas Llosa (and a former friend) called Garca Mrquez Castros lackey for his
unrepentant support of Cubas ruler (ibid, 1986). And an Amazon China reader,
commenting on a novel published 47 years ago, brazenly stated that his author is a
madman who wrote about a bunch of lunatics (ibid, 2013). Yet, as in the case of
Macondo, this kind of entrenched criticism keeps contributing to authorial
disembedding. Thus, criticizing Garca Mrquez now constitutes a shared, meaningful way of positioning oneself in relation to the history of literature.46
OHYS: A classic in the making
Inside its VOC, OHYS was yet another Boom novel seeking the success of
previous Boom novels (Santana-Acua, 2014). However, indexical usage of
OHYS after the 1980s shows to what extent (and unlike the Boom novels of the
1960s) audiences have disembedded the literary work from its VOC.
Lived experience
New audiences have embraced the belief that OHYS reveals self-evident truths
about life or can influence agential actions (micro #2). For an Amazon USA
reader, OHYS is a necessary journey for any reader engaged in the human
struggle and the cycle of life (See Online Appendix A, Table 3, OHYS, 1996); for
an Amazon UK reader, it is a mirror of the human soul and of our society (ibid,
1998); after fifty pages, Portuguese writer and Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago
had to stop reading it because of the shock it caused me (ibid, 2009); a Saudi
Arabian reader was dreaming through the pages of this epic story (ibid, 2011);
and US writer Francine Prose declared that OHYS convinced me to drop out of
Harvard graduate school (ibid, 2013). As in the case of Macondo, OHYS has
progressively attained meaningfulness through things (material disembedding).
In Japan, for example, Kuroki Honten Co., Ltd. manufactures an exclusive
45

Authorial criticism has also taken the form of attacks on the book; see below.

46

Like the disembedded macondiano, the adjective Marquezian has entered into language (ibid,
1999) and is spreading (Martin, 2009).
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shch (a national alcoholic drink, like sake) named One Hundred Years of
Solitude.
Universalization
In 1967, OHYS was published to target a specific audience, readers of Boom novels,
and sought to offer a viable alternative to dominant literary styles in the 1960s.
Accordingly, Spanish-speaking audiences celebrated OHYS for its return to
narrative imagination, as Spanish writer Pere Gimferrer put it (ibid, 1967); for
representing a narrative feat, as Spanish journalist Pascual Maisterra wrote (ibid,
1968); and for being an atmospheric purifier, according to Spanish writer Luis
Izquierdo (ibid, 1969). These indexical references occurred within the VOC of
OHYS. But data from the early 1970s show that, when indexing the book, new
audiences were often unaware of its VOC and instead they started fabricating its
universalism. According to US writer William Kennedy, OHYS is the first piece of
literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire
human race (ibid, 1970); another US writer, John Updike, wrote [it] has a texture
all its own (ibid, 1972); for a Colombian critic, the novel is a synthesis of three
thousand years of literature (ibid, 1977); for Argentine writer Borges, it is one of
the great books not only of our time but of all time (ibid, 1980); an Amazon Canada
reader wrote that the book applies to everyone and its themes and characters are
universal (ibid, 2004); and a BBC news reader from Azerbaijan wrote that OHYS is
a hymn to the solitude of each of us (ibid, 2007) (see also ibid, 1991).
Furthermore, non-vernacular actors have contributed to the universalization of
OHYS by using it to index multiple (and often irreconcilable) approaches to
understand the most diverse aspects. For US scholar Gregory Lawrence, OHYS
illustrates the Marxian conception of alienation (ibid, 1974); writing in the
aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis, for US scholar Menton, OHYS marks the end of
capitalist society (ibid, 1976); drawing on postmodernist theory, Peruvian scholar
Julio Ortega argued that OHYS constructs the world as an act of multiple reading
(ibid, 1995) and US journalist Martin Kaplan called it a post-modernist jungle
(ibid, 1978); for US scholar Robert Sims, OHYS reads like Lvi-Strausss structural
analysis of myth (ibid, 1986). Similarly, in the 1990s, scholars in Israel and the
United States pointed out indexical connections between OHYS and Hegelian
philosophy (ibid, 1992) and pragmatism (ibid, 1994). Currently, as environmental
issues gain global prominence, some have started to establish connections between
OHYS and environmentalism: for example, scholar R.L. Williams has indexed it as
a work of ecological wisdom (ibid, 2010), that is, a literary work from which
lessons on human impact on nature can be drawn.
Artistic commensuration
The fabrication OHYSs classic value has included strategies such as its comparison
to other cultural objects of long-lasting value. For instance, a Scottish scholar
compared it to Velzquezs painting Las Meninas (ibid, 1975) and, 25 years later, a
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Barnes & Noble reader commented that if a painting, [it] would certainly be
displayed alongside the Mona Lisa at the Louvre (ibid, 2000). A Soviet translator
(ibid, 1979), an Argentine scholar (ibid, 1981) and a Cuban writer (ibid, 1984)
agreed in comparing OHYS to War and Peace. A Puerto Rican writer (ibid, 1990)
and a Greek theologian (ibid, 1993) preferred to compare it to the Divine Comedy.
For a Colombian scholar, in OHYS, the Bible functions as [a] kind of intertext
(ibid, 1997); for US scholar Harold Bloom, OHYS is the new Don Quixote (ibid,
1989); and for an Ozun Russia reader it is like Bulgakovs The Master and
Margarita in its own way (ibid, 2001). Again, as analyzed above, artistic commensuration can entail the embedding of what is indexed in the organizational
context that it is more familiar to the reader (as the Russian reader did in comparing
OHYS to a twentieth-century Russian classic). But this is not always the case.
A Cuban writer opted for comparing OHYS not to vernacular classics (for example,
Jos Marts poetry) but to non-vernacular classics such as War and Peace, Madame
Bovary, Moby Dick (ibid, 1984) and, for a US scholar, OHYS is comparable to a
Sophoclean tragedy (ibid, 1985), an art form dating from the first millennium BC.
Entrenched criticism
Almost half a century after its publication, vernacular and non-vernacular actors
and organizations continue to value OHYS as a meaningful object of literary
quarrel. In the early 1970s, Guatemalan writer and Nobel Laureate Asturias
considered it a plagiarism of a novel by nineteenth-century French writer Balzac
(ibid, 1971), so did using almost the same words Colombian writer Vallejo
30 years later (ibid, 2002); for Mexican poet and Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz,
OHYS is watery poetry (ibid, 1973); while recognizing its undoubted power,
English writer Anthony Burgess wrote that it cannot be compared with the
genuinely literary explorations of Borges and Nabokov (ibid, 1983); curiously, for
Spanish publisher and promoter of Boom novels, Carlos Barral, OHYS is not the
best novel of its time (ibid, 1988); in The Telegraph an English scholar wrote in a
section about the most overrated books of the past 1000 years, Let us hope that
[OHYS] will not generate one hundred years of overwritten, overlong, overrated
novels (ibid, 1999); an Amazon Germany reader confessed that I had to force
myself not to throw the book out the window (ibid, 2005); and, for an Ozun Russia
reader, it is a nasty book about a family of freaks and perverts (ibid, 2008).
(An opinion similar to that of the Amazon China reader cited above.) In sum, these
data show how the contested meaning of OHYS has contributed to its meaningful
negative reputation over the years and across transnational audiences.
An imitated opening: Many years later, as he faced the firing squad
Lived experience
Rephrasing the opening sentence has become for some the best way of sharing
with other people memorable life experiences: for example, a Canadian critic
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compared his discovery of the totem poles in Stanley Park (Vancouver) to colonel
Buendas discovery of the ice in OHYS (See Online Appendix A, Table 4,
Opening, 1986). Others prefer to index the opening by recalling when they first
read it: for an Amazon UK reader, it became a touchstone in my memory
36 years ago (ibid, 2011). So does US writer Stephen Koch after an editor said
to him: Read the first sentence. Just the first sentence. He did and wrote
I remember it still (ibid, 1976).47 And other readers, in trying to recall it, make
mistakes. For instance, a Philippine businessman for whom the discovery was not
about ice: I look forward already to relive the trip to that mythical village of
Macondo and the first experience of ice cream (ibid, 1999).
Artistic commensuration
Writers seeking a professional reputation (see commensuration disembedding) and
critics have emulated the novels opening sentence, contributing to stabilize its
meaningfulness. Famously, Indian writer Salman Rushdie used it in the first
chapter of Midnights Children (ibid, 1981) as well as Chilean writer Isabel Allende
towards the end of The House of the Spirits (ibid, 1982). If she ever writes a book,
an Iranian BBC News reader confessed that it will start by saying: And a hundred
years later (ibid, 2007). In addition, different audiences across cultural regions
have compared it to the opening of literary and non-literary classics: for US writer
John Barth, it is comparable to the opening sentences of Anna Karenina and
Finnegans Wake (ibid, 1980); Livreria Bertrand in Portugal compares it to the
celebrated opening words of Don Quixote or In Search of Lost Time (ibid,
2013); and for an Amazon UK reader, the opening is almost a Ben Hur effect
(ibid, 1997). As for scholars, one in the United States considers it a Vergilian scene
(ibid, 1987) and another US scholar compares it to Don Quixote (ibid, 1991),
while for Italian scholar Moretti the opening functions as a Wagnerian leitmotif in
Der Ring des Nibelungen or in Joyces Ulysses (ibid, 1996). Finally, commensuration has also transcended the artistic arena: Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas (ibid,
1968) and an English scholar (ibid, 1995) have stressed the openings biblical
connotations.
Universalization
Although the opening remains a meaningful reference, understanding its meaning
has prompted multiple interpretations using different approaches that have
nothing in common with the novels VOC. Some of these approaches are
Freudian (Argentine scholar, ibid, 1972), semiotic (Bulgarian critic, ibid, 1978),
religious (Romanian scholar, ibid, 2003), postmodern (Canadian scholar, ibid,
1985) and cinematic (Italian writer, ibid, 1974). Furthermore, a German writer
(ibid, 1984) and South African writer Andr Brink (ibid, 1998), respectively,
47

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Similarly, a Colombian journalist and an Amazon Germany reader agree that it is unforgettable (See
Online Appendix A, Table 4, Opening, 2001 and 2002) (see also ibid, 1990, 2000, 2008 and 2010).

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found connections between the opening and the theory of relativity: the inability
to tell space from time, which is characteristic of relativity [shows] on the first
page of the novel and Just as Einstein invented, from the old Newtonian
categories of time and space, the new concept of spacetime, Mrquez here
establishes his own distinctive language-time. In opposition to such interpretations, scholars, critics and writers in Uruguay, Colombia, United States, Trinidad
and Tobago, England, Belgium, Hungary and former Czechoslovakia (ibid,
1969, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1983, 1988, 1989 and 2009) preferred to stick to more
descriptive meanings of the opening: for example, the narrator involves us in
three aspects of time or performs the simultaneity of three time levels.
More recently, in order to test the efficacy of the Google translator in different
languages, The New York Times (9 March 2010) selected the opening as the
exemplar Spanish text.48 Scholars (Hart and Ouyang, 2005, p. 89) have indexed
it as one of the twentieth-centurys most famous first sentences, and celebrity
Oprah presented it to her book club readers as one of the most fabulous openers
in the history of literature (See Online Appendix A, Table 4, Opening, 2004).
Further contributing to the fabrication of its universal value, US writer Ormsby
appropriated it by asserting, it seems always to have existed, in precisely those
words, in our own English tongue (ibid, 2005).
Magical realism: Universalizing a genre
The trajectory of this indexical confirms that one of the ways in which OHYS has
become a classic is via aesthetic disembedding. The data show that non-VOCs
have disembedded magical realism from its Latin American setting and imagine it
as a universal literary genre.
Lived experience
Across national and cultural boundaries (and at least since the early 1980s),
literary critics and common readers began to find it meaningful to index magical
realism as a genre that provides access to deep reality and universal human nature
(micro #2). For Soviet Union critic V. Andreev, the magical realism of OHYS
reflect[s] exactly the magic of real life (See Online Appendix A, Table 5, Magical
realism, 1983); for US critic Michiko Kakutani, it is an inextricable, ineluctable
element of human existence (ibid, 1995); for an Amazon UK reader, the style of
OHYS is a magic way to summarize the story of humanity (ibid, 1999); and for
a FNAC France reader, it captures a world very similar to ours (ibid, 2004) (see
also ibid, 1996). Nonetheless, for other audiences, like a Costa Rican reader, its
style resembles that of grandmothers, when telling a story to youngsters (ibid,
2003).
48

The selected German text was the opening of Kafkas Metamorphosis and the French text was a
fragment from The Little Prince.
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Universalization
In the early years, critics, scholars, peer writers and journalists only referred to
the fusion of magic and reality in OHYS (ibid, 1968) and the genres precise
geographical location: Latin America (ibid, 1970). This indexical usage remains
stable, as exemplified by the references of journalists, scholars and readers in
Scotland, Netherlands, United States, Argentina, Paraguay and Spain (ibid, 1976,
1982, 1988, 1994, 1996 and 1997). However, since the mid-1970s, there has
also been pressure to disembed Garca Mrquezs writing style from its VOC. In
addition to the instances cited in the previous paragraph, the data show that a
Spanish theologian connected magical realism to previous Latin American writers
such as Carpentier (ibid, 1980), while critic Jos Antonio Castro found elements
of magical realism in modernist European writers Kafka and Virginia Woolf
(ibid, 1972). This indexical usage ignores the VOC that produced OHYS as a
Boom novel. Rather, such usage favors especially aesthetic disembedding. This
deepened in the 1980s, as new audiences were often unaware of the novels VOC
or, simply, did not consider it meaningful. Among scholars and writers from
Canada, England, Nigeria, India and Taiwan, magical realism emerged as the
style that best defined new literature in Canada (ibid, 1986), Africa (ibid, 1992),
the postcolonial world (ibid, 1990) and globally (ibid, 2005). Finally, the data
reveal that transnational audiences in non-vernacular locations such as Austria,
Germany and China continue to index OHYS as the best example of magical
realism four decades after its publication (ibid, 2008, 2011 and 2013). Others do
so by asserting, like Egyptian writer Alaa el Aswany, that Garca Mrquezs style
has given us a model (ibid, 2007) or by explicitly indexing him as the creator of
magical realism (ibid, 2006), despite the fact that the genre was created by other
Latin American writers and no less than 25 years before the publication of
OHYS. This is quite different from the way in which OHYSs magical realism
was indexed inside its VOC: a Mexican critic, after the novel was published,
argued that magical realism found in Garca Mrquez a high exponent (ibid,
1967). In short, four decades later, transnational audiences can agree on
disembedding the authors style from its VOC.
Artistic commensuration
Although its meaningfulness has stabilized, the meaning of the genre remains
contested: for French journalist Regis Debray, it coincides with socialist realism
(ibid, 1977); for English critic, Meckled-Morkos, anti-rationalism [is] one of the
essential contents (ibid, 1985); for a US scholar, it oscillates between superrealism and super-fantasy (ibid, 1993); for a Canadian scholar, it contains
strains of postcolonialism and postmodernism (ibid, 1998); for Polish critic,
Malgorzata Szewczyk, it actually represents a kind of reversal of the literature
understood as magic realist (ibid, 2000); for an Amazon Japan reader, it consists
of an exquisite blend of realism and the indigenous (ibid, 2009); and for an
Amazon France reader, the style of OHYS is science fiction (ibid, 2012).
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Entrenched criticism
Critical voices have been important in stabilizing this indexical, because
challenging OHYS as the best example of magical realism has made more
meaningful the indexical connection between the novel and the genre. An
Amazon Germany reader commented that there is no consolation in Garca
Mrquezs magical realism, but there is in the magical realism of other nonLatin American authors, such as Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison (ibid,
2001). (Notice how, by indexing OHYS, this reader has expanded magical
realism beyond its Latin American context of production to India and the
United States.) A year later, an English editor proclaimed magical realism dead
or at least ready to receive the last rites (ibid, 2002) and, in 2010, an Argentine
critic reacted against Macondism by denying that magical realism has affinities
with the reality of Latin America (ibid, 2010). (Two decades earlier (ibid, 1991),
a US scholar denounced that the genre had progressively colonized Latin
American reality.) These data illustrate how entrenched criticism against
magical realism has contributed to stabilizing the meaningfulness of OHYS.
More broadly, the data reveal the strong indexical association between the
genre and the novel, which confirms that the globalization of magical realism
has been critical in disembedding OHYS from its VOC.
Remedioss ascent to heaven: A literary event as an indexical
That a cultural object can acquire a set of meanings that go beyond the ones
originally produced in its VOC is also exemplified by literary events in OHYS,
such as the ascension of Remedios the Beauty to heaven (ch. 12). The event
occurred when three women were folding sheets in the garden of the Buendas
house and suddenly one of them, Remedios, ascended to heaven and disappeared
forever. Since 1967 the event has become one of the novels most stable indexicals
transnationally. Yet, as is told in the novel, the event due to its supposedly
miraculous and supernatural dimensions seems to contradict the three conditional universals that, as argued earlier, characterize literary classics. Namely,
the nature of the event makes difficult an anthropocentric understanding of it
(macro #2); by ascending a character to heaven, the event fails to secularize a
human experience (micro #1); and an empirical demonstration of the literary fact
(micro #3) is not needed for the event defies an anthropocentric and secular
explanation. In fact, for readers in Catholic countries, such as Spain, Peru
and Italy, Remedioss ascent indexes a clear religious scene: the Virgins ascent
(See Online Appendix A, Table 6, Remedios, 1978, 1984 and 2008). But even in
this case, there is no agreement about its meaning. The reference to the Virgins
ascent is ironic, as argued by Belgian scholar Jacques Joset (ibid, 1980); a
parody, as claimed by the Director of the Spanish Royal Academy of Language
(ibid, 2007); and a literary version of popular depictions of the event in religious
prints, as argued by Cuban scholar Gonzlez Echevarra (ibid, 1982). The event
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can also appeal to non-Christian readers in the eighteenth-century Chinese


classic Dream of the Red Chamber, a beautiful woman exits the novel
mysteriously (Zeng, 2009).
In reality, the event abides by the aforementioned conditional universals. To
confirm this, some contextualization is required here. Writing about Remedioss
ascent permitted Garca Mrquez to offer his solution to a technical literary
problem in the late 1960s. Back then, the novel was accused of excessive realism
(as epitomized by the laconic style of Spanish social realism) and superfluous
formal experimentalism (as practiced by French nouveau roman writers). As a
result, plain stories of everyday life became peripheral to mainstream literature
internationally (Santana, 2000). As mentioned earlier (See Online Appendix A,
Table 3, OHYS, 19671969), critics and writers welcomed OHYS as an original novel precisely for overpowering the perceived shortcoming of both styles.
Along with a commitment to highly adjectivized and poetic language (contra
social realism) and a return to narrative and reader-friendly storytelling (contra
nouveau roman), Garca Mrquezs additional technical solution (in accordance
with the specific aesthetic strategies available at the time for a given artist
(Witkin, 1997, p. 4)) was to punctuate the text from beginning to end with
supernatural events, but presenting them as part of an anthropocentric framework (macro #2), which required empirical demonstration. As he did with other
events,49 Garca Mrquez conceived of Remedioss ascent as a literary fact
(micro #3): a peculiarly real event that occurred when three women were doing
the ordinary task of folding sheets and unexpectedly Remedios ascended to heaven.
To reinforce such a narrative secularization of human experience (micro #1),
Garca Mrquez wrote that the determined wind (a real force) caused the
sheets (a material object) to open up wide, surround Remedios and take her to
heaven. The material foundations of the event were already acknowledged in
the early 1970s; as a Spanish scholar put it, she soars through the air but
clinging to a bed sheet (See Online Appendix A, Table 6, Remedios, 1971).
Furthermore, since 1967 Garca Mrquez has insisted that the event was not
supernatural, but rather it was based upon a real local story: a girl eloped with
her lover (Garca Mrquez and Vargas Llosa, 1968; Garca Mrquez, 2001).
To avoid the mockery of the community, the girls family proclaimed publicly
that she ascended to heaven. For a reader sharing Garca Mrquezs cultural
codes, such is the meaning of Remedioss ascent: she ran away with a lover. The
cultural embeddedness of that meaning became evident when a journalist
interviewed a neighbor from Garca Mrquezs hometown, Aracataca, located
in Colombias Caribbean region (See Online Appendix A, Table 6, Remedios,
1992). The journalist asked her: you believed that Remedios ascended, right?
49

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Other supernatural events indexed by transnational audiences are the priests levitations (ch. 5), the
death of Jos Arcadio, patriarch of the Buenda family (ch. 7), and the four-year, non-stop rainfall on
Macondo (ch. 16).

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But the neighbor replied that Garca Mrquez was a liar, denying that the
ascent was the real story.50 Whereas the vernacular meaning of this literary
event has not escaped locals (and some OHYS scholars (ibid, 1990 and 2000)),
it has escaped most readers outside Caribbean Colombia, that is, outside the
vernacular geographical region of OHYS. Since the early 1970s, non-vernacular audiences have indexed Remedioss ascent using multiple disembedded meanings. For a Spanish scholar, she does not ascend but stays on earth (ibid, 1987); for
a Mexican writer, her ascension was necessary for the salvation of the family (ibid,
1997); for a Cuban scholar, the loss of virginity is represented by the opposite (ibid,
1998); and for a US scholar, aware of the importance of alchemy in the novel, her
ascension coincides with the stage of alchemy where metals and the soul begin their
ascent toward gold (ibid, 2004) (see also ibid, 1973, 1981 and 1995).
Lived experience
For some readers, Remedios is meaningful because she reminds them of their
relatives, while a writer claims that tourists will feel her presence when visiting
Aracataca: I always tell my 12-year old daughter that she reminds me of Remedios
the Beauty, commented a Casa del libro reader (Spain, ibid, 2002) and in
Aracataca, the literary ghosts of rsula Iguarn or Remedios the Beauty arise
(Colombian writer, Gamboa, ibid, 2013). In recalling the event, a US knitting
pattern designer has to admit her failing memory: I very distinctly remembered
Remedios the Beauty ascending through a hole in the bathroom roof after her bath,
surrounded and carried off by a cloud of yellow butterflies. I was a little surprised
to read it again and discover how wrong Id gotten it (ibid, 2012). Finally, as
evidence of meaningfulness attained via material disembedding, Remedioss fate
has become an artistic theme that continues to inspire visual artists and musicians
in vernacular and non-vernacular locations: for example, graphic designer Andrs
Marquinezs La ascensin (Colombia, 1999), graphic designer Claire Niebergalls
Remedy V (United States, 2011), illustrator David Mertas Remedios the Beauty
(Slovakia, 2012), guitarist Bill Frisells song Remedios the Beauty (United States,
1988), Modena City Ramblers song Remedios la bella (Italy, 1997).
Universalization
Unlike previous indexicals (and probably due to the unusual characteristics of the
event), data emphasizing the universality of Remedioss ascent are not abundant,
yet they are present across audiences and national boundaries. For US writer Paul
Hedeen, her ascension symbolizes the revolt against the day to day relinquishing
of individuality to the drab commonality of solitude (ibid, 1983); for an
Ecuadorian scholar, even if it represents a parody of the Virgins ascent, the event
can be understood as part of a longer literary tradition that acknowledges
50

Unlike this neighbor, US critic John Leonard wrote I believe [in] Remedios the Beauty, plucked up by
the wind and flown to God (see Online Appendix A, Table 6, Remedios, 1970) (see also ibid, 1999).
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peoples understanding of such kind of events as supposedly having a pseudoprovidential foundation: [Garca Mrquez] is rendering one more version of a
myth intelligible only through faith (ibid, 1985); and for a Peruvian critic, as if it
functioned as a universal principle, her ascent epitomizes the fatality of beauty
(ibid, 2003).
Artistic commensuration
This pattern, on the contrary, yielded more results, ranging from Ancient and
modern literary classics to contemporary painting. For an Argentine journalist,
Remedios is an image alluding to the Sirens in Homers Odyssey (ibid, 1967);
for a US critic, it refers to Eulas abduction in Faulkners The Hamlet (ibid,
1976); for a Canadian scholar, it is a transformation comparable to that
of Samsa in Kafkas Metamorphosis (ibid, 1986); and for a Korean scholar,
the sheets that surround Remedios as she ascended remind us of the flying
carpets in One Thousand and One Nights (ibid, 1989). As for non-literary
commensuration, according to a Uruguayan critic, the event is described as if
we have in front of our eyes a Chagall canvas (ibid, 1969). Forty-two years
later, an emerging Argentine writer also referred to the Chagall comparison
(ibid, 2011).
Entrenched criticism
Critics have highlighted that Remedioss ascent is clearly a proof of Macondism,
which distorts the reality of Latin American (Fuguet and Gmez, 1996). Indeed,
the data confirm how in non-vernacular contexts, audiences have produced
distorted views about the book by transforming a specific event into widespread
behavior. According to US writer Pynchon, folks routinely sail through the air
in OHYS (See Online Appendix A, Table 6, Remedios, 1988). So claims a US
scholar: virgin beauties [ascend] to heaven with the sheets of the house (ibid,
1996). The next step is to generalize from the book to colonize the reality of
Latin America, as critics of magical realism continue to denounce (cf. ibid, 1981).
Entrenched criticism has also taken the form of a debate about whether the event
represents the best of the book (Casa del libro reader, Spain, ibid, 2006) or the
worst: it is not acceptable (Spanish scholar, ibid, 1974), the weakest aspects of
his technique the flying carpets, the sudden ascents to heaven (Greenberg,
writer, USA, ibid, 2009), totally out of place (Amazon reader, England, ibid,
2010) and it would not occur to me to ascend a character [to heaven] (Neuman,
writer, Argentina, ibid, 2011). Furthermore, critics have disapproved of the event
for not being a literary novelty (ibid, 1994 and 2011).
Taken together, these four patterns of appropriation have shown that the
vernacular meaning of Remedioss ascent has escaped non-VOC audiences, for
which the disembedded meaning of the event remains open to debate. Yet in the
last four decades, the event has been used to convey meaningful information
about literary value and lived experience.
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To conclude, the indexical analysis presented in this section was concerned


with identifying agreement about meaningfulness and, in so doing, it has also
shown how disagreement about meaning has not deprived book elements in
OHYS from becoming meaningful over time and across national and cultural
boundaries. The analysis found that the available pool of meanings for the
elements under analysis was tied to a particular context of use, which was
neither controlled by the VOC that produced the cultural object nor by the
non-VOCs that have appropriated these elements. Tracing how, in 56 countries over the past 47 years, different actors and organizations have imagined
these indexicals showed the progressive disembedding of OHYS from its
VOC. Since actors cannot recall all details from OHYS, they invoke some
indexically (a character, a sentence, an episode) and, by using indexical expressions
from OHYS, they have stabilized their meaningfulness and obtained better
(that is, more collectively sanctioned) access to macro-sociological planes that,
via literature, inform human cognition (cf. Silverstein, 2003). Approaches
focused on organizational embeddedness cannot account for the process of
diachronic, transnational meaningfulness that is central to construct the value
of a cultural object as a classic.

Discussion
This article studied how a cultural object transcends its VOC and attains longlasting value in being appropriated by actors and organizations that had no share
in its original production. It argued that dominant approaches in sociology of art
(production of culture, art worlds and field), since they emphasize the cultural
objects organizational embeddedness, cannot fully account for its long-lasting
value, especially once its original context of production ceases to exist. For
literary classics, as in the case of OHYS, lasting is found to be primarily
constructed outside the VOC that produced the cultural object and inside nonVOCs that transform the classics literary contents into indexicals. More
specifically, this article advanced four interrelated arguments:
(1) Studying a cultural objects transcendence and appropriation is critical in
accounting for its long-lasting value. Whereas previous research emphasized
organizational embeddedness, the article confirmed that an artwork, like an
individual, can have a long life and an independent career outside the VOC
that produced it (Becker et al, 2006). This finding can contribute to growing
research in sociology of art concerned, not with the organizations that
produce artworks, but mainly with how artworks do things to people (Gell,
1998; DeNora, 2000, 2006; Born, 2010). The long-lasting value of some
cultural objects, such as literary classics, suggests that, instead of objects of
interpretation, they are agents of cultural formation endowed with a sui
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generis agency (Domnguez Rubio, 2012). The case of OHYS revealed that
over the past four decades and across 56 countries the novel has gathered its
own agency and now informs human cognition. Yet more detailed research is
needed to understand a particular aspect: how literary classics can be
constitutive of human agency and impact upon the world (Griswold, 1986).
(2) The centrality of transcendence and appropriation in the process of classicization does not mean that the cultural object is floating freely in a vacuum of
causal space, but rather that its VOC and non-VOCs are part of a larger
socio-cultural formation that exists across contexts and is not contextdependent (Godart and White, 2010). Similarly, new research in literary
studies posits that classics are a clear instance of works that exist in literary
systems beyond their cultures of origin (Mukherjee, 2010). For that reason,
in this article, the notion of conditional universals sought to specify some key
principles and parameters involved in the valuation of literary classics across
organizational contexts. However, broader and new questions raised about
valuation (Lamont, 2012) cannot be satisfactorily addressed without a more
detailed understanding of the domain of literature as a whole and its striking
similarities with other art domains (Haskell, 1980; Weber, 1986).
(3) The article proposed an indexical analysis as the empirical connection
between the appropriation of a cultural object in a foreign organizational
context and the aforementioned socio-cultural formation. Not only can
indexical analysis throw new light on the articulation between macro and
micro levels (Collins, 1981; Silverstein, 2003). It can also serve as a tool to bring
closer internalist and externalist approaches to literary analysis, for the
indexical refers to (1) an inherent textual attribute (a character, a passage, and
so on) that (2) obtains its meaningfulness in human interaction (via reading
groups, academic discussions, and so on). Thus, indexicals are suitable for
textual analysis as well as for understanding the social processes they index
(for example, the classicization of a literary work). And
(4) using indexical analysis makes more salient the need to distinguish between
meaning and meaningfulness. Such a distinction is necessary to address a key
problem: the tension between the shifting meanings of literary classics and
their remarkable and intriguing stability as meaningful cultural objects. This
distinction can reconcile the multiplicity of meanings of cultural objects with
the presence of stable principles and conditions that render their contents
meaningful. The indexical analysis of OHYS made it possible to study a
literary text and its collective appropriation by different actors and organizations without concentrating on the contingent fabrication of meaning
(Griswold, 1987). This is possible because indexicality is part of a collective
process that sets the boundaries of meaningfulness, not of meaning. For
instance, the article showed how non-vernacular audiences have appropriated Macondo and transformed it into a meaningful expression to convey
information about multiple aspects, while its meaning remains deeply
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contested. In practical terms, the distinction between meaning and meaningfulness allows us to overcome the tension between the shifting meanings of
literary works and the regularity of some of their elements (for example, to
be or not be, Remedioss ascent to heaven). Beyond sociology of literature,
this distinction could expand the boundaries of cultural sociology if the latter is
defined as being not only concerned with the ways [in which] meaning shapes
social life (Alexander et al, 2012, p. 22) but also with meaningfulness: the
more solid ground that supports the multiplicity of meaning. There are
encouraging signs in this direction. Cultural- and postcultural-turn scholarship
has started to investigate the dual nature of systems of meaning (Reed, 2011),
to develop an iconic approach to meaning (Alexander, 2010) and to acknowledge the need for understanding why there are meanings that are more
significant widely, shared than others (Lamont, 1992, p. 178) and why
our grasp of meanings can be selective and incomplete and yet enable the
reproduction of the structures of everyday life (Biernacki, 2012). To move into
that direction, rather than a meaning-centered analysis, this article proposed an
analysis of cultural objects centered in their meaningfulness (1) as they
transcend their original context of production and (2) as their contents are
appropriated by non-vernacular audiences. If taken in that direction, the study
of meaningfulness could help to develop more robust interpretations of
cultural objects, while continue to acknowledge their changing meanings.
Since the argument was made on the basis of a single case, a way of further
supporting it would be to provide a detailed artwork-centered comparison of
some of the 14 literary counterfactuals mentioned in this article, namely, works
that were published before, the same year and after the release of OHYS but did
not attain classic status. Additional counterfactuals cases could be Hell Has No
Limits (1965) by Donoso (Chile), No Laughing Matter (1967) by Angus Wilson
(England), En noviembre llega el arzobispo (1967) by Rojas Herazo (Colombia)
and La Saga/Fuga de J.B. (1972) by Torrente Ballester (Spain). This comparison
could clarify whether the 10 disembeddings of OHYS are all necessary for other
literary works to attain the transcendence leading to classicization, and also the
comparison could reveal differences in the ways these works were appropriated
in non-vernacular contexts.
In addition, researchers could investigate other paths towards classicization,
since OHYS only typifies the standard path: from bestseller to longseller to
classic. Other relevant questions to be approached differently are: how an
artwork comes to be seen as a failure and how lasting negative reputation can
increase visibility (Fine, 1996; Baumann, 2001).
The classicization of OHYS is likely to continue. Peruvian writer Vargas Llosa
in 2010 and Chinese writer Mo Yan in 2012 won the Nobel Prize in literature,
what further disembedded the Boom novel and magical realism as a universal
literary movement and genre respectively, and OHYS as their quintessential
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product. Between 2010 and 2022 most Latin American countries celebrate the
200th anniversary of their colonial independence from Spain. Having transcended its vernacular Colombian context, OHYS stands in the region as a literary
history of Latin American. Preliminary data already suggest that the independence celebrations are deepening such an ideological disembedding by starting to
present OHYS as one of the works that best exemplifies the cultural independence of Latin America and the birth of a continental identity. Most probably,
Garca Mrquez (now in his mid-eighties) would pass away during this
celebratory period. The independence celebrations would then add force to the
customary surge in international media coverage51 and sales increase of an
authors best-known work(s) after his death. Finally, as the indexical connection
between Macondo and the 2010 BP oil spill revealed, further development of a
global environmental ethic could take the appropriation of OHYS into a new
direction: as a parable of mankinds unrestrained destruction of nature, as the
newest scholarship is starting to explore (Williams, 2010).

Acknowledgements
I am indebted to Mario Santana, Filiz Garip, Mariano Siskind and especially
Michle Lamont for their advice on this article. Earlier versions benefited from
helpful comments of anonymous reviewers and participants at the Harvard
Cultural Analysis Workshop, the Evaluation Practices in Art Worlds workshop
at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fr Sozialforschung, the Center for Cultural
Sociology Conference at Yale University, the Eighteenth International Conference of Europeanists-Council for European Studies (Barcelona) and the Sociology
Seminar Series at the University of Edinburgh. For excellent comments on the
latter version I thank Bart Bonikowski, Thomas Medvetz, Christopher Muller
and Catherine Turco. Hsin-Chao Wu, Huan Jin and Wenping Xue provided
assistance with Chinese data, Dong-Kyun Im with Korean and Shiori Yamada
with Japanese. Finally I thank Jean-Marie Le Clzio, Orhan Pamuk and the late
Carlos Fuentes, who kindly shared with me their views on how a literary work
becomes a classic.

About the Author


Alvaro Santana-Acua is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Harvard University
and an affiliate at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. He is
interested in processes and systems of valuation of cultural objects and the
51

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In July 2012, international media amply reported the end of his writing career due to dementia.

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environment. For his work in this area he received in 2011 the Edward ShilsJames Coleman Memorial Award for Theory and the honorable mention for the
Richard A. Peterson Prize for Culture, and in 2013 the honorable mention for the
Edward Shils-James Coleman Memorial Award for Theory, which were awarded
by the American Sociological Association.

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(United States), Feltrinelli (Italy), la Casa del Libro (Spain), FNAC (France and
Spain), Gandhi (Mexico), Tematika (Argentina) and Ozun (Rusia). UNESCO
Index Translationum (2002). For full list, see Online Appendix.

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Correction
The file for Appendix B has been converted to a PDF file, no changes have been
made to the content.
Online Appendixes A and B for this article can be found on the American Journal
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index.html)

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